Friday, 29 June 2012 00:00
On two separate days, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) held public comment sessions in the local community. On June 12, the public meeting held at Bethpage High School drew more than 200 local residents and business owners who may potentially be affected by the clean-up plan proposed for the Northrop Grumman - Bethpage site (Former Grumman Settling Ponds).
Likely because of the overwhelming public turnout during the first meeting, the DEC scheduled a second public session that was held on June 21 at the Bethpage Community Center. More than 20 residents stopped by the June 21 public session for the opportunity to speak one-on-one with representatives from the DEC and the Department of Health (DOH), and have their concerns and comments entered into public record. During this informal session, DEC and DOH staff reviewed the proposal and answered questions.
The following is the DEC’s proposed remedy:
“The goal for the remedial program is to restore the site to pre-disposal conditions to the extent feasible. The remedy proposed for the site includes excavating contaminated soils at Bethpage Community Park, treating some deeper contaminated soils with an underground heating technology, soil vapor extraction and extracting and treating contaminated groundwater both at the park and downgradient of the site.
“For soil on-site, the clean-up levels are based on meeting restricted residential Soil Cleanup Objectives in the top 10 feet of soil and removing deeper soils containing PCBs at levels of 50 parts per million (ppm) or more. For groundwater, the goal is to fully contain contamination within the Operable Unit 3 source area at the Park and to remove 90 percent of the contamination leaving the “hot spot” in the plume downgradient of the site. The Wellhead Contingency Plan that was part of Operable Unit 2 is continued to ensure protection of public health and the environment.
“The proposed remedy represents the alternative preferred by DEC and DOH to address site contamination. The draft cleanup plan has several goals: identify cleanup levels to be achieved; summarize other alternatives considered; explain why NYSDEC and NYSDOH believe the proposed remedy is the best alternative; provide a detailed description of the proposed remedy.
“The proposed remedy was chosen following a detailed investigation of the site and evaluation of alternatives to address contamination.
“The site is listed as a Class 2 site in the State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites (list of State Superfund sites). A Class 2 site represents a significant threat to public health or the environment; action is required.
“The former Grumman Settling Ponds and associated disposal areas are in the 18-acre Bethpage Community Park. This property was used historically for disposal of various wastes generated by industrial operations in the Grumman industrial complex. These wastes included chromium, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds (chlorinated solvents used for cleaning or degreasing machinery or fabricated parts).
“Three significant Interim Remedial Measures (IRMs) have been completed at this site. These include: removing contaminated soil by the Town of Oyster Bay in preparation for constructing the new Ice Skating Center; installing a soil vapor extraction system by Grumman in the Grumman access road to intercept contaminated soil vapor migrating from the Park; and installing a groundwater pump and treat system installed by Grumman in the Grumman access road to intercept contaminated groundwater migrating from the Park.”
On Thursday, June 14, two nights after the first public comment session, Senator Charles Schumer, in a letter to the United States Navy, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called for the proposed DEC plan to be revised to include additional remediation wells in order to remove toxins before they reach more drinking wells on Long Island.
Schumer pointed out that the Navy Optimization Report, which he says he pressed the agency to conduct, recommended additional remediation wells to clean up the plume. Schumer said the draft plan presented to the public on Tuesday, June 12 contains only one well with the explicit purposes of clean up before the plume further contaminates the groundwater supply.
Additionally, Schumer urged the DEC and EPA to require the Navy to develop a contingency plan to construct new drinking water wells to the south of wells near the path of the plume to ensure that an ample supply of clean drinking water is available for water districts that could see more wells in the north impacted by the approaching plume.
“The Navy made this mess and they should be required to clean it up before it contaminates more drinking water wells and not after, and they should do so without burdening Long Island ratepayers with the clean-up costs,” said Schumer, who has secured funds previously from the Navy to repay localities for clean-up costs associated with groundwater contamination. “From both a clean up and health perspective, we should be doing everything humanly possible to remove the toxins from the ground so that existing drinking wells, and ratepayers, are protected,” he stated.
In his letter to the agencies, Schumer called for a more comprehensive clean-up plan to be imposed on the Navy. Frustrated with the pace at which the Navy was moving forward with a clean-up plan, Schumer called on the EPA in September 2011 to take the lead role in coordinating a comprehensive clean-up plan for the plume emanating from the former Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Bethpage. Schumer said the agency agreed that a more comprehensive effort to remediate, delineate and monitor the plume needed to be in place to protect the massive sole-source aquifer water supply that serves hundreds of thousands of residents in Nassau County, as opposed to a wellhead treatment plan preferred by the Navy that simply waits for contamination to occur.
In his letter to the agencies, Schumer noted that wellhead treatment is less than optimal and invited carcinogens into the water supply only to clean them, after the fact. Schumer noted that while the DEC draft plan take a positive step in including one remediation well, it doesn’t go far enough.
Schumer also raised concerns with the pace in which a cost agreement has been established between the Navy and Northrop Grumman. He pointed out that while Northrop-Grumman has spent over $100 million on site clean-up and containment over the years, the Navy has largely been a slow and weak investor and has not adequately compensated local water districts for costs they have already incurred in addressing the contamination.
In the past three years, Schumer has secured millions of dollars in reimbursements for treatment facilities for South Farmingdale Water District and a new groundwater monitoring assessment by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The United States Navy operated a Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Bethpage for several decades beginning in the late 1930s, leaving behind one of the largest areas of contamination in New York State. The old Navy facility was located on 635 acres in Bethpage where former defense manufacturing activities resulted in the contamination of soil and groundwater with industrial solvents including trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, dichloroethylene and vinyl chloride.
In 1976, contamination concerns were first identified when on-site wells were detected to contain volatile organic compounds. Since that time, the plume has spread and is threatening over 20 additional public drinking wells that serve over 250,000 Nassau County residents in the Massapequa, Bethpage, and South Farmingdale Water Districts. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) originally projected that certain wells in the Massapequa Water District would not be impacted for several years, however local water districts have said that groundwater sampling in the vicinity of these supply wells has revealed that the plume could hit within four years.
The DEC has extended the public comment period about a proposal to address contamination related to the Northrop Grumman - Bethpage Facility Site #130003A-Operable Unit 3 (formerly the Grumman Settling Ponds), under New York State Superfund Program through Monday, July 30.
The remedy presented by the NYSDEC includes excavating some of the contaminated soils at Bethpage Community Park, treating some deeper contaminated soils and soil vapor extraction, and extracting and treating contaminated groundwater at both the park and the downgrade of the site.
This site is part of the state’s Superfund Program. For additional information about the proposal to address contamination and how to submit comments, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8431.html
DEC has created a new online listserv to keep the public better informed of project activities. To sign up for the listserv, visit: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/61092.html.
(Editor’s note: This article is part one of two. The second part will appear in next week’s edition with more from the local water districts, several residents and from a one-on-one interview with a representative of the Department of Environmental Conservation.)
— Christy Hinko contributed to this article