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Contamination Fears at Local Water District

Federal Intervention Is Required, Massapequa Officials Claim

You may wonder why the Massapequa Water District is upset over a site in Bethpage. The answer, according to water district officials, is that “massive highly contaminated plume” might enter the water district supply wells.

The site is located at the Northrop-Grumman facility in Bethpage. The contamination that water district officials allude to is more commonly known as Perchloroethylene (PCE), a cleaning fluid deficiency. Water district officials contend that “massive amounts” of such PCE exist and are headed to the Massapequa’s from the Northrop-Grumman plume. They claim that the same problem has already affected the South Farmingdale water district, which also serves customers in the Massapequa area. The Massapequa Water District has up to 45,000 customers.

For health reasons, water district officials don’t want plume drinking water to infiltrate the Massapequa supply. In addition, such an infiltration is costly. If it occurs, then the water district will have to treat and clean up its own water supply.

“Without federal intervention the Massapequa Water District’s supply wells will be impacted requiring costly cleanup in compliance with ever changing EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) drinking water standards,” said John Caruso, commissioner of the water district.

Since the late 1990s, water district officials have been in contact with federal officials, Caruso added.

“The district demands the simple answer,” Caruso said. “Clean up the contaminated plume to what is required under federal laws. The district is making these demands to the Federal government because the problems created at the Northrop-Grumman site were the result of activities by the United States Navy and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration and must be cleaned up by the United States government and Grumman.

“Although the Massapequa Water District is small in comparison to the massive plume emanating from the Northrop-Grumman site the rights to a clean water supply are governed by the policies, procedures of the federal Environmental Protection Agency that have been funded through the years by taxpayers,” Caruso noted. “In the spirit of community involvement, local civic associations have begun the petitioning process to let our federally elected officials know that this is a matter of deep concern that will not be alleviated by political posturing or rhetoric.”

To buttress their point, water district officials contend that under federal law, the sole source aquifer that supplies water to the residents of Nassau and Suffolk County can only fall under the jurisdiction of the federal Environmental Protection Agency regarding cleanups of such sites.

In the meantime, water district officials appeal to the public for groundswell of support that might impact the situation.

“This serious matter to the health and safety of all water consumers that have either been affected or will be affected by this contaminated plume needs to be addressed immediately by the residents of the Massapequa’s by direct contact with their federally elected officials with the demand that they enforce the legal requirements granted to the EPA by Congress and thus effect a proper and environmentally sound clean up of this site,” Caruso said.

The EPA’s Response

Recently, The Massapequan Observer obtained an update from the Region 2 division of the EPA on the Northrop Grumman site. In 1986, a Nassau County Health Department investigation of the groundwater resources at the site area began. The study found that groundwater plume was emanating from the facility and was commingled with a plume from an adjacent site.

The report added that a “groundwater pump and treat system was implemented on-site to contain the plume and reduce contaminant concentrations in the groundwater.” The study admitted that, “off site groundwater contamination has affected several public water supply wells and may threaten others.” In response, the report stated that both Grumman and the U.S. Navy installed wellhead treatment systems at affected public water supply wells to “remove contaminants prior to distribution in the public water supply system.”

In 1990, both Grumman and the U.S. Navy conducted separate studies on the contamination situation. In 1996, as a result of the Grumman study, contamination remediation took place. As a result of the Navy investigation, remedial alternatives were implemented for groundwater contamination. By the mid-1990s, “the on-site portion of the large groundwater plume emanating” from such facilities “appears to have been contained by the implementation of an interim remedial measure,” one called On-site Containment System (ONCT.)

A 2001 study, the report continued, called for “the continuation of ongoing corrective measures; continuation of volatile organic compound removal at three off-site public water supply wells; long term operation, maintenance and monitoring of remediation systems; vinyl chloride treatment; off site groundwater extraction and treatment; and continuation of a ‘non-detect’ policy for affected public water supplies.” The report also cites a wellhead treatment contingency plan, one that will go along with a long-term monitoring program.

In all, the report claims that certain programs for both the Northrop Grumman and Navy sites have “removed contaminated soils in many areas of the facility.” Nonetheless, the Massapequa Water District has made its concerns clear.