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M-L Water District Recoups $2.75 Million in Settlement to Address Freon Contamination

The Manhasset-Lakeville Water District, which provides water to the communities of Manhasset, Great Neck and New Hyde Park, recently closed on a $2.75 million settlement with North Shore University Hospital to address freon contamination at the district’s Valley Road pumping station in Manhasset. The settlement comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Water District seeking to recoup monies spent on cleaning up traces of Freon 22, a common refrigerant used in large air conditioning units, found in the water supply at the Valley Road facility.

The district’s board of commissioners stated: “We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this lawsuit. Not only is this a win for the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District, but more importantly, it is a win for our taxpayers and ratepayers, as the millions of dollars spent from our capital funds on remediation efforts at Valley Road have now been recouped. As protectors of the water supply in our community, we took all the steps necessary to remediate the Freon problem and assure that all of our residents have continued access to fresh, clean water. Between those efforts and legal fees, we spent a large sum of money in the process. Thanks to our diligent efforts to pursue the source of the contamination, the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District has been reimbursed for the vast majority of our costs associated with this issue. These funds can now be applied to other key capital projects within the district, allowing us to continue to maintain and improve our water delivery system without having to resort to raising taxes or water rates in the near term.”

In 2002, trace amounts of Freon 22 were detected in routine well samples at the Valley Road Station. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Lockheed Martin were notified, as the initial source was thought to be an already existing plume at Sperry, which had previously shown Freon contamination. The M-L Water District pushed the NYSDEC to force Lockheed to investigate further.

In 2004, the M-L Water District hired an engineering services firm for the design of a new aeration plant to treat the well at the Valley Road Station and remove the Freon 22 from the water. With Valley Road being one of the District’s main sources of water, the construction of this plant was a critical project. During the construction of the treatment facility, the Valley Road well was shut down and the District used additional capacity from its system to provide clean water to area residents.

For the next several months, the NYSDEC, Lockheed Martin, and the Water District were in communication regarding possible sources of the Freon 22. In 2005, the consulting and engineering firm CDM, on behalf of Lockheed, issued a report that identified the location of 145 Community Drive, a building owned by North Shore University Hospital, as the probable source of Freon 22 contamination at Valley Road.

In December of 2006, the Water District filed a lawsuit against North Shore for recovery of costs associated with the construction, maintenance and operation of the aeration plant at Valley Road.  The District was represented in the litigation by special environmental counsel Sive, Paget and Riesel P.C., New York, NY, and by the District’s general counsel, Ackerman, Levine, Cullen, Brickman & Limmer, LLP, Great Neck, NY.  The Water District hired engineering consulting firm H2M in Melville, NY, who assisted the District and counsel throughout this process.

The contamination appears to have occurred due to leaks in the building’s air conditioning systems, which allowed Freon 22 to cross over into fresh water being pumped through the systems as part of the normal cooling process.  This now-contaminated water was then discharged directly into the aquifer system through recharge wells.  It appears that the Freon contamination may have predated the acquisition of the property by North Shore University Hospital.

The Manhasset-Lakeville Water District serves approximately 45,000 customers through more than 10,000 individual service connections within a 10.2 square mile service area. The district produces its supply of potable water through the use of 19 separate wells located at 14 different sites throughout the Manhasset-Great Neck-New Hyde Park area.