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NCCCA Holds Grumman Plume Meeting

Public comment period expires July 30

On Thursday, July 19, Nassau County Coalition of Civic Associations (NCCCA) hosted “Stop the Grumman/Navy Toxic Plume” presentation with the Seaford Harbor Civic Association and Massapequa Water district at the Seaford Fire Department headquarters.

Massapequa Water District Commissioner John Caruso gave a detailed presentation to approximately 100 community members and residents.  He said, “Most people, especially the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), really don’t get it when it comes to our sole source aquifer; what’s below us is our drinking water supply, broken up into three distinct aquifers.” Long Island mostly draws from middle, the Magothy aquifer, from a range of 50 to 900 feet below the earth’s surface; Massapequa water is screened from about 850 feet below the surface.

“This aquifer [Magothy] was under attack about 50 years ago from nitrates and cesspools; the sewer systems weren’t [designed] so cesspools and septic tanks wouldn’t overflow, they were built to protect the groundwater and drinking water supply from nitrate pollution.” Caruso said the system has been contaminated before and was successfully cleaned up.

Caruso said the Magothy is the most studied water supply because of the previous nitrate contamination. He referenced the bus garage in East Meadow, saying that in the 1980s, it was listed as one of the top 10 superfund sites by the DEC and EPA. Caruso said the county’s public works department has had noted success with contamination cleanup; over the past 27 years, the bus garage site has been cleared by the EPA as “cleaned up” and de-listed from the superfund listings. He also mentioned the county’s successful cleanup at the firefighting training facility in Bethpage.

Caruso said, “The way they [Grumman] disposed of their waste and toxins was not against the law; that was the best we could do in those days, it was acceptable.” Most of the chemical waste was barreled and buried by the tenant agencies, including Grumman, the U.S. Navy, and NASA. “No one did anything wrong there, the disposal was perfectly legal,” Caruso reminded.

Caruso said two things are happening with the Bethpage plume, with all of the surveying and sampling that is being done by the agencies involved, “The more they drill, the more they find.” Caruso said the DEC has a wider projection about when the plume could possibly hit Massapequa’s wells: “We [Massapequa Water District] think it’s less than five [years].” Several residents gasped when they heard the estimate from Caruso.

He said there are over 30 years of studies on this plume. “There is no definition of the plume, just that when it hits the supply wells, then they will address it,” Caruso said. “Everyone [Grumman/Navy/DEC] is pulling every which way and there is no comprehensive plan about how to clean this up.”

Caruso suggested that the plume “needs a master.” He believes that if one person is appointed to lead the project, the cleanup will begin to move along. Massapequa Water District has made the suggestion for a line of recovery wells to be drilled along the Southern State Parkway. Caruso explained that the wells would collect the contamination and pump it back to Bethpage for treatment. He suggested that on the Navy/Grumman site, to build one treatment facility, instead of building more than 25 recovery wellhead treatment sites at each point of contamination impact.

“Our proposal will cost $250 million; the estimated costs of continued wellhead treatment the way the Navy and Grumman and the DEC are going about it would be closer to $600 million, on top of the $230 that has been spent,” Caruso said.

Assemblyman Joseph Saladino was in attendance. He thanked the coalitions, the water districts, and everyone who has been fighting for the plume cleanup for years. “We realize the importance of clean water for ourselves and for future generations,” Saladino said. “We drink this water, we eat the fish; we are calling for full cleanup, hydraulic containment, pumping water into the ground to surround this plume and keep it in place,” while the contamination is removed and the water is replaced into the ground.

He encouraged all residents to make sure they make their comments public and said, “We must be heard.”

Anthony Sabino, attorney for Bethpage Water District and Legislator David Denenberg also addressed the crowd. Sabino explained some of the history that Bethpage Water District has had with the contamination and the effects it has had on their water facilities and treatment.

In 1976 Bethpage closed one of its public supply wells for other reasons. Before the water district brought the well back on line, they were advised to check for additional contaminates before bringing their well back on line. The well tested positive and was left offline for more than 12 years. The contamination was eventually traced back to the Grumman site. This well contamination continued throughout the years. He warned, “This contamination is coming toward South Farmingdale, Seaford, Massapequa.”

At the June 27, 2012, NCCCA meeting in Glen Head, Caruso spoke about the highly toxic groundwater plume emanating and migrating southward from the Grumman Aerospace Corporation / Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant (Grumman) site in Bethpage.   

The following is a statement from NCCCA issued on July 10:

“The plume has closed down wells in Bethpage and last summer, caused Aqua Water to close one of its wells at the Levittown/Seaford border. The U.S. Navy is paying for and installing a massive filtration system at the Levittown/Seaford site to clean contaminants that have reached American Water’s wells. However, this action will not stop the migration of the plume. The contaminated water will continue to migrate south.  Local water districts want the cancer-causing toxins to be removed before contaminants enter more drinking water supply wells or affect the Great South Bay.  If not stopped, the plume will soon contaminate the water supply wells serving all of Seaford, Wantagh, Levittown, Massapequa, Bellmore and Merrick.  

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed cleaning a playground in Bethpage, which is a very small area that has been contaminated by the plume. This would be the same as using a piece of gum to stop a leak in the Hoover Dam. It will not stop the migration of the plume.  The DEC is accepting comments up until July 30, 2012.

“The NCCCA believes this plume has created a severe and urgent problem that requires immediate attention. If the plume is not stopped now, it will reach Long Island’s aquifers and affect the drinking water of 250,000 people. There are solutions, and the governor can help address the issue, but public participation is needed.

“Please visit the Massapequa Water District website [www.massapequawater.com] to learn more about the Grumman Plume and information about how to contact Governor Andrew Cuomo. The governor needs to hear from us.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) 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.

For additional information about the DEC’s proposal to address contamination and how to submit comments, visit http:// www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8431.html. Permalink: http://readme.readmedia .com/Proposed-Remediation-Plan-for-the-Grumman-Aerospace-Site-Released-for-Public-Comment/4118049.

For information, petition samples and letter formats for submission to the DEC visit: www.nccca.us or email contact @nccca.us.

The NYSDEC will accept written comments from the public through Monday, July 30. Send correspondence for this site to: Steven Scharf, NYSDEC, Division of Environmental Remediation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233. Scharf can be reached by email also, at: sxscharf@ gw.dec.state.ny.us.