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After its 15-year investigation of the Hooker Chemical/Ruco Polymer Superfund site in Hicksville, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will clean up contaminated groundwater and soil beneath the facility. The Hooker/Ruco site is located on New South Road, just north of the LIRR line.

Using an innovative method known as biosparging, EPA officials will treat an underground plume of groundwater contaminated with vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), a known carcinogen used in a former production at the plant between the 1940s and mid-1970s.

Groundwater will be flushed with oxygen to expedite the breakdown of VCM to its natural components, ethane and ethene. According to Lynch, the process will begin next year and is safe, efficient, cost effective and is expected to take about 12 years to complete.

The EPA intends to pursue private parties responsible for the contamination to carry out and pay for the $3.8 million cleanup plan, sparing the public of any expense. The underground plume is estimated to be over 12,000 feet long, 9,600 feet wide, and 580 feet deep.

The latest cleanup effort is certainly not the first at the Hooker/Ruco site. More than 3,000 tons of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated soils had been excavated from the area in 1992 while two smaller procedures had been undertaken in 1994.

EPA representatives said at a public meeting at Town Hall back in August that although the contamination had moved south of the site, the plume poses no immediate threat to the public because it is not anywhere near a public water supply.

Edward Lynch, chief, Western New York Remediation Section, EPA, told residents there is, however, "a potential that it could cause more of a problem if it spreads."

Hooker/Ruco's contamination was found to have "commingled" with other groundwater contamination at the Northrop/Grumman site and Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant (NWIRP), both located directly south of Hooker/Ruco. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) deemed both areas hazardous and officials said they are currently under remediation as well.

Contamination from the three sites had reached several public water supply wells in the Bethpage Water District. Since then, Grumman and NWIRP have provided chemical treatment systems for the affected wells. As a result, the local system continues to meet all New York State and federal safe drinking water standards.

In 1988, a study was conducted to determine the nature and extent of site contamination and recommended alternatives for final cleanup. Based on the study's results, in 1994 the EPA issued a Record of Decision for the Ruco facility, including additional soil sampling, possible excavation of shallow soils in limited areas, soil flushing in one or two sumps, and control of contaminated groundwater beneath the facility.

In June of that year, the EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order, requiring the Remedial Design and Remedial Action (RD/RA) be performed. Actions at the Hooker/Ruco site are coordinated with actions taken on the Northrop/Grumman and Naval Weapons Industrial Weapons Reserve Plant sites.

The Hooker/Ruco site was placed on the EPA's National Priorities List in 1984, making it eligible for cleanup under Superfund. It had been used for the production of various polymers since 1946 and is currently manufacturing products like polyester, powder coating resins and polyols. During site operations through the years, industrial wastewater, containing VCM, trichloroethylene, barium and cadium soap and vinyl acetate among other things, had been discharged to six on-site recharge basins or sumps, according to the EPA. Still active, the site is now called Sybron Chemicals, Inc.


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