I live near a superfund hazardous waste site in South Farmingdale, known as Liberty Industrial Finishing Corp. It ranks third or fourth in New York state with a hazardous ranking score of 50.65, a high ranking considering Love Canal had a ranking of 52.23. I am seriously concerned about the environmental impact of this pollution on the surrounding community, and am urging that it be cleaned up to the fullest extent. I have been following the issue for years, and wish to explain the many reasons for my concern.
Each year the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issues a report on "Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites in New York State, -- Nassau and Suffolk counties." In their appendix they describe this report as follows:
"Included in this volume are the site report forms for all inactive waste disposal sites located in the Department of Environmental conservation (DEC) Region 1."
Each of the site reports includes information currently known about the site. It also indicates the priority classification which has been assigned to the site, according to the following code:
"1. - Causing or presenting an imminent danger of causing irreversible or irreparable damage to the public health or environment - immediate action required;
2. - Significant threat to the public health or environment - action required;"
There are four more classifications for sites, but most are given a class 2 priority rating. DEC claims that we have no hazardous waste sites in Nassau or Suffolk counties that answer to the description of a classification 1 code. According to them, we have no hazardous waste sites in Nassau or Suffolk counties "causing or presenting an imminent danger of causing irreversible or irreparable damage to the public health or environment - with immediate action required."
For more than 50 years, dangerous wastes, some carcinogenic, have been dumped onto the land and into basins at Liberty. And although the South Farmingdale Water District says public drinking water is taken from several hundred feet below the contamination and is therefore currently safe, I believe the carcinogens are leaching into the underground aquifers which supply our drinking water. PCBs have leaked from transformers onto the soil and Volatile Organic Contaminants have run rampant.
Back in the late '70s, some of the public supply wells that gave us our drinking water were closed because of organic chemical contamination, not only in South Farmingdale, but also in Bethpage, Hicksville, Jericho and Glen Cove. This is only a partial list of the closings, and many were reopened within a few months. Just what was done to remove the contamination, or if it indeed was removed, is not quite clear. In addition, it cannot be determined how long these wells were contaminated before discovery. So, there is no way of knowing how long we were drinking water from contaminated wells.
In May of 1977, the NY State Assembly, Committee on Health, held hearings on carcinogenic agents in public drinking water, and the then-Nassau County Health Commissioner testified. His testimony was ridiculed. The following are some excerpts from the conclusion of the formal report:
"It is incredible that the Nassau County Health Commissioner could conclude that there was no real danger because these carcinogens were dangerous only if eaten or inhaled but not drunk."
The report went on to state that:
"At the hearing each agency attempted to pass the buck. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency claimed they were never invited to participate. The state agency claimed to be unaware of the problem. The county claimed, with the concurrence of the state, that adequate testing facilities were not available."
The committee went on to conclude:
"There exists a real potential for very serious problems with our state's drinking water supply. A combination of bureaucratic apathy and negligence has led to the real possibility that known carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, have contaminated the drinking water consumed by many thousands of citizens through the state."
According to public documents I have collected over the years, such as various remedial investigation reports, in front of Liberty, along the curb runs a public storm drain connected to a pipe which runs all the horrible toxins from one of the most contaminated basins on the property into that curbside drain. From there these wastes are piped to a local creek which runs through our neighborhoods, in which our children play, past a school, a preserve and wetlands. This creek, known as Massapequa Creek, is then stocked with fish every year, but advisories are posted about restrictions against eating because of contamination.
There is also a cigar-shaped plume emanating from Liberty containing all the contaminants found at Liberty, which has doubled in length since 1962. It extends from Motor Ave. to beyond the Southern State Parkway, and its width extends on a slant from approximately a little beyond Kent St. to a little beyond Woodward Parkway. It flows under the surface and in the path of Woodward Parkway School. There are many who believe it is also in our backyards. This plume also seeps into Massapequa Creek, where it joins the flow of the piped Liberty toxins.
Hazardous waste sites have been known to dump their toxic waste into local creeks, storm drains and sewers. To name a few: Spectrum Finishing in W. Babylon into storm drains, Vinyl Masters-Deer Park into Sampawams Creek, Kenmark Textile Corp., Farmingdale into a municipal sewer, and Genzale Plating Co., Franklin Square reportedly to the Nassau County sewer lines. Much of this contamination winds up a good distance from its origination, and as noted conservationist and author Rachel Carson said. "Water polluted anywhere is water polluted everywhere."
The New York State Health Department from 1980 to 1989 did a Hodgkins study in four zip codes and found disquieting numbers in two adjoining ones, 11735 (Farmingdale) and 11758 (Massapequa). Their report states that, "Increased risk of Hodgkin's disease has also been observed among persons employed in woodworking occupations, farmers or those exposed to herbicides or farm animals; persons with heavy exposure to organic chemicals: and metal machinists or welders." Both metals and chemical contamination can be found at Liberty. The Health Department reports "No concentration of cases near any identified hazardous waste site and no spatial clustering of cases," but won't reveal the location of these Hodgkin cases. In another part of their report they seem to contradict themselves in their reference to clusters by saying, "There is also a good possibility that this apparent clustering may simply have arisen due to chance fluctuations in numbers of diagnosed cases." Liberty Industrial is located in zip code 11735.
The Town of Oyster Bay in 1996 did a soil testing program in the neighborhood surrounding the Liberty site which concluded, "There is no evidence that there has been widespread dispersal of soil-borne metals contamination from the Liberty site to the surrounding neighborhood." But the report went on to state that three areas needed further study, to determine whether there is a consistent pattern of metals contamination in soils directly adjacent to the Liberty site; 1 - the ballfield at Allen Park, 100 ft. north of Motor Ave. near the fence along the Liberty property line, 2 - along the sidewalk in front of Liberty, on the north side of Motor Ave., opposite Vandewater St. 3 - adjacent to the sidewalk at Allen Park, on the east side of Heisser Lane opposite Garfield. This area was filled in a long time ago and is part of Massapequa Creek. The concentrations of cadmium, zinc and chromium "recorded at this station were the highest values of these metals measured during the study." I and others in the local community believe we have a right to know from where the fill came that was used to fill in Massapequa Creek through the years. We also believe those filled in areas should be tested. After spending thousands of taxpayers dollars to do the study, the town chose to ignore the recommendations put forth by their contractor and went no further with the project.
Why do I feel so compelled to write all this and more? Because I am angry: I live on a block of 14 houses and cancer has been a co-resident in 9. This is the story of too many of our communities. I believe there is a connection, which desperately needs investigating, between cancer running amok in our neighborhoods and how we deal with:
- the disposal of toxic waste
- frogs, our canary of the mines, being born deformed.
- having been allowed to drink water from contaminated wells.
- fishkills, because of lack of oxygen
- shellfish beds closed because of coliform contamination
- contaminated plumes emanating from waste sites.
- permitting hazardous waste into our public storm drains, municipal sewers, creeks, bays, harbors, sewer treatment plants and all waterways.
I am sorely distressed, for I feel we need so much more of our resources directed toward prevention. Most independent experts tell us that the overwhelming majority of all human cancers are environmentally induced or related and preventable.
I believe an informed public is our best defense. My hope is that you shall all rise up and say, "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. We don't want to leave our children the legacy of a land which cannot support life."