During the past 50 years, five of the largest American private corporations have bought and then sold, the infamous hazardous waste site in Lake Success.
First Sperry purchased the 94-acre property in 1951, then it was owned by Burroughs in 1986, then by Unisys, then by Loral in 1995 and then by Lockheed-Martin, the giant defense contractor in 1996. A sixth corporation, iPark, bought 24 acres of the site recently for a Silicon Valley-type development; with Lockheed-Martin retaining the 9 or 10 acres containing the worst pollution, which they say they will clean up even if it takes many decades.
However, unless Lockheed-Martin agrees to place all profits and monies received from selling 84 acres to iPark for development, and also puts up a substantial performance bond to assure fulfillment of their contractual remediation obligations, there is no reason for DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) or the public to believe them.
Why? -Why did five powerful, billion-dollar corporations run by astute business leaders first buy and then sell this property containing a terrible contamination liability which they would then be responsible for remediating? Was sharp corporate practice involved in acquiring a heavily polluted white elephant to claim a huge tax loss - and later selling at a profit? The anxious public waits fearfully for substantial action to be undertaken to clean up the poisonous mess in the ground, in the water supply acquifers and in the three storm-water recharge basins on the site which contain dangerously high amounts of toxic metals in their sediments. Storm-water basins are called recharge basins because they replenish the acquifers.
Nothing is planned to be done with the existing toxic metals and other pollutants in the three stormwater recharge basins. Incredibly, DEC has allowed Lockheed-Martin to get away with merely putting up fences with warning signs "to discourage trespassers from accessing the basins." (DEC's quoted words). While few of the basin contaminants may have yet been detected by what DEC calls "downgradient" monitoring wells located north of the recharge basins and also north of the main contamination source - not enough monitoring has been done to date south of the recharge basins. Toxic substances similar to Lockheed's have been detected in public water supply wells of the Water Authority of Western Nassau located farther south of the basins.
The Lockheed-Martin hazardous waste site exists practically on top of the subsurface Ground-Water Divide which separates the downgradient acquifer flow to the north from the downgradient acquifer flow to the south. The Divide can shift seasonally, depending on changing pumping rates and patterns on both sides of the divide. In shifting under the main contamination source and recharge basins, the "Downgradient" side changes back and forth from north to south. Thus, Lockheed must do more extensive long-term monitoring on all sides around the basins and main source of contamination in order to get the full picture of off-site contamination migration and of what remediation steps are necessary.
Certainly, bulldozers should remove the toxic sediments from the recharge basins before tremendous amounts of flood waters from a major hurricane or no'easter could pour in turbulently to the three basins and stir up the sediments enough for the toxic waste to be recharged into the public supply acquifers below. We should ask Governor Pataki and other officials to help us get this mess cleaned up expeditiously; before any children are harmed after breaking through the ridiculous DEC/Lockheed fences. Fences can't clean up contaminated sediments, but bulldozers can.
(Julian Kane, a Great Neck resident, is an adjunct professor at Hofstra University and writes an environmental column for Anton newspapers.)