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Schumer: USGS Findings Prove Current Mapping Is Inadequate

Says It’s Time for Navy, Grumman to Clean Up Contamination in Bethpage

United States Senator Charles E. Schumer revealed that a study conducted at his request by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirms that current modeling for an off-site toxic groundwater plume, emanating from a former Navy-Grumman manufacturing site, does not adequately assess potential impacts to as many as 25 public wells that supply water to over 160,000 Nassau County residents. The study report states that the Navy’s current modeling ignores public-supply pumping, groundwater discharges from systems remediating volatile organic compound (VOC) plumes, recharge and precipitation rates, and water levels and stream flows.  

In a letter to the heads of the Navy, EPA, and DEC, Schumer also demanded that these findings be incorporated into a simultaneous “optimization review” being conducted by the Navy due to be completed this summer. The goal of the review is to optimize the implementation of the groundwater remedy at the Bethpage site. The final report will evaluate the effectiveness of previous and ongoing treatments and the effectiveness of the current well network in monitoring the progress of the plume.  Schumer said that the optimization review must issue recommendations to improve the modeling and contain and remediate contamination wherever it is technically feasible.

“This report confirms our worst fears that the Navy and Grumman have been mishandling this growing and toxic threat to the drinking water of over 160,000 Long Island residents,” said Schumer. “Now that we have confirmed the Navy’s modeling is off the mark, they need to immediately put in place a plan for how to clean-up this plume and protect Long Island residents from toxins threatening their drinking water.”

This report confirms a preliminary report issued by the EPA in December 2010 that answered the question, “is the groundwater model reliable and appropriate for use to address down gradient impacts,” with a clear and concise “no.”

The draft report also noted that the Navy modeling should, “not be used to attempt to make a reliable prediction of the potential impacts on the public supply wells down gradient of the sources of groundwater contamination.” It goes on to state that, “The groundwater model was not adequately initially designed to address these questions and is not a model that can be simply modified and used for applications of this nature.”

 At a September 2010 meeting Schumer convened with the U.S. Navy, Northrop-Grumman, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New York State Department of Environmental Protection (DEC), and local water districts, the Senator asked state and federal agencies to oversee and help establish an aggressive, proactive plan to contain and clean up the spill before it contaminates drinking water wells. As a result of that meeting, Schumer got agreement from the EPA to allocate $100,000 to commission a USGS study to review the Navy models currently used to determine the accuracy of that model in evaluating the contamination plumes. The report, confirming the existing modeling does not properly reflect the risks faced by Long Island residents, is the first step toward enacting a comprehensive clean-up plan.

“The evidence is in, the findings are clear, now it’s time for the Navy and Grumman, under strict supervision from the EPA and DEC, to come up with a plan to clean up this mess before it contaminates drinking wells,” continued Schumer. “This is their mess and it’s their responsibility to clean it up.”