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Bethpage Water District Drills New Well

In an effort to continue to provide Bethpage Water District customers with safe drinking water, the district is drilling a new well in the Bethpage State Park, outside of the Bethpage Plume.

The well, located at South Park Drive, in the planning since 2005 and under construction since July 2013, will be the District’s ninth well. It is expected to pump up to nearly three million gallons of water per day to the Bethpage Water District’s 33,000 customers. Established in 1923, the Bethpage Water District serves an area of five square miles, including portions of Plainview and Old Bethpage, north of Haypath Road and east of the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway. It is anticipated that this will be completed and operational by the summer of 2014.

The problems with the groundwater in the Bethpage area are not new. The Grumman Corporation occupied approximately 635 acres in the Bethpage Water District beginning in the early 1930s. For decades, this site was used for manufacturing, and in the 1970s, the water supply wells used by Grumman became contaminated.  

In the 1970s and 1980s, pollution of the groundwater generated by Northrop Grumman was confined to the company’s site. However, in the decades since then, this has changed dramatically and the toxic groundwater plume is significantly larger than the community was led to believe.

At present, the contamination of groundwater has dramatically migrated from the Northrop Grumman site to pollute other wells.  There is evidence that three well sites in Bethpage have been affected and the toxicity of the groundwater is a major concern. The Water District has installed advanced treatment systems at the three well sites to remove all plume contaminants from the groundwater before it becomes drinking water and is delivered to the community. In addition to affecting the Bethpage district and the residents of the community, this problem is currently impacting a South Farmingdale well site as well as a well site of Long Island American Water and is extremely close to beginning to impact water in Massapequa, south of the Southern State Parkway.

Approximately two years ago, the Bethpage Water District leased a four-acre piece of property in the Bethpage State Park for a 99-year term from New York State as part of its strategic plan to provide drinking water as cost effectively as possible and develop new sources outside the plume left by Grumman. This new well is almost two miles from the district’s other eight wells. While the Navy has worked with the water district in addressing its needs, Grumman has not and is doing little to accept responsibility and remediate the plume.

To date, the Bethpage Water District has spent more than $20 million to provide clean drinking water originating from contaminated groundwater under manufacturing sites previously occupied by Northrop Grumman and the United States Navy. The agency has opted to open up this new well as a cost effective alternative to using the more costly advanced treatment systems to produce clean water from existing wells.

“Ensuring water quality and public health is of course our number one priority, but the number two priority is doing so in the most cost effective way possible,” said Bethpage Water District Commissioner John R. Sullivan.

The funding for the South Park Drive well project, an approximately $4 million expense, has become the responsibility of the residents of the Bethpage Water District, which has floated a 20-year bond from the Town of Oyster Bay to fund this work.

Rather than continuing to purify the water from existing wells, the district has decided it would be more cost effective in the long term to create new sources of water outside of the plume, including the new well under construction at the Bethpage State Park. At present, there are eight production wells throughout the district and there is evidence of groundwater contamination from the Grumman plume at the source of five of them.  

The water district plans to shut down some of the existing wells, or turn them over to the Navy or Grumman to remediate once these new sources are operational. Bethpage Water Commissioner, Gary S. Bretton added, “For years, we have been forced to spend additional money purifying ground water from existing sources. This new well will allow us to provide water to the community without the need for advanced treatment and guarantee Bethpage’s water safety going into the future.”

Bethpage Water District Superintendent, Mike Boufis, commented that the structure to be built on the site of the new well in late 2013 to early 2014 will blend into the ambience of the Trail View State Park. He described this six-month construction project as a “low profile ski chalet type of solar unit that will be environmentally sensitive and result in a low impact on the newly constructed bike path extension and multi-use trails.” He assured residents that the drinking water in the Bethpage Water District is “absolutely safe to drink and is completely free of any contaminants found in the groundwater affected by the Grumman plume.”