Area Water Customers to be Reimbursed by Navy

Settlement offered to Bethpage Water District for money spent on purifying drinking water contaminated by a plume that is drifting toward Wantagh-Seaford area.

The U.S. Navy has offered a settlement that would reimburse the Bethpage Water District (BWD) for all the money it has spent on equipment and treatment plants to purify drinking water contaminated by an area plume that has been drifting toward the Wantagh-Seaford area. 

The agreement also calls for the Navy to pay for 30 years of operating costs, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer announced Thursday. 

Area water districts expressed concerns at a public meeting held in Seaford last summer that their water supplies could be affected within four years. 

In October, Schumer urged the Navy to reimburse BWD after the district had to issue bonds of almost $14 million for the construction and operation of the equipment to treat the drinking water. Repaying those bonds would have cost about $3,000 per household if the district was not reimbursed.

Schumer said Thursday the Navy will reimburse BWD 100 percent of the costs, saving ratepayers thousands of dollars.

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Schumer joined community leaders Thursday in Bethpage to announce that the Navy has offered a settlement which clears the largest remaining hurdle in the fight for reimbursement, and now only requires final signoff from the Department of Justice. 

“This agreement will help get toxins out of the ground while keeping the dollars in Bethpage rate-payers’ pockets,” said Schumer. “The Navy has now recognized that this mess was not caused by local taxpayers and they should not shoulder the cleanup costs."

“It’s been a long road and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, said Bethpage Water Chairman William Ellinger.  "The Navy’s settlement offer ensures that Bethpage ratepayers will not be on the hook for the cost to clean up their mess."

The U.S. Navy operated a Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve in Bethpage for many years, beginning in the late 1930s, which has resulted in at least two plumes containing chemicals classified as carcinogens. Since 1976, when contamination concerns were first identified, the plume has spread and is currently threatening more than 20 additional public drinking wells that serve over 250,000 Nassau County residents in Bethpage, Massapequa, South Farmingdale and Wantagh Districts.

There are at least two plumes currently within the Bethpage community, and contaminants were detected in five of the eight wells operated by Bethpage Water District. The first plume originates from the Grumman Aerospace Corporation and Navy manufacturing facilities, and the smaller plume is associated with the Bethpage Community Park where Grumman and the Navy disposed of wastes. The Bethpage Water District currently has 8,800 customers.

As a remediation effort, Bethpage Water District recently built a wellhead treatment facility, known as Plant 6, to purify the drinking water. Because of the plume, the water contains volatile organic compounds (VOC), and Plant 6 will provide a two-step process to provide drinking water free of any VOCs, such as tetrachloroethylene (TCE). 

In October, Schumer called on the Navy to immediately reimburse BWD for the cost and operation of Plant 6. The district had to issue bonds of almost $14 million for the construction and operation of equipment to treat the drinking water.

On Friday, Schumer announced that the Navy will reimburse BWD for the costs of Plant 6. The Navy has agreed to pay 100 percent of construction costs, engineering costs, reconstruction costs, and 100 percent of the prior two years of operation and maintenance. In the settlement, the Navy requested BWD add an additional pump so it could pump water from the plume during winter which will help with remediation.

Schumer explained that this settlement will save ratepayers from having to pay $95 per year, which would have amounted to $2,850 over the course of the loan.  The agreement will be formalized in the coming months, he said. 


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