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Water Districts Warn of Toxic Plume at Seaford Meeting

Nassau officials seek action as Grumman plume threatens South Shore groundwater.

Grumman's toxic plume has South Shore residents eager for a solution.

Officials and residents gathered at the Thursday night to once again from the former Grumman site in Bethpage that's drifting toward South Shore water supplies.

Commissioner John Caruso gave a presentation at the meeting of the Nassau County Coalition of Civic Associations and called out the state Department of Environmental Conservation, saying the organization has not done enough to stop the environmental threat.

"What the DEC has done is allow the plume to travel over two miles from its origin and double in size, while all of their attempts to treat the contaminated water have been completely ineffective,” Caruso said. “In addition, when you have volatile compounds in the ground and you treat them, you release them into the air. So, now we have two problems that need to be addressed...both created by the way the DEC is attacking this.”

Grumman owned an aircraft manufacturing plant in Bethpage until its closure in 1996. The company reportedly buried industrial waste on the grounds which eventually seeped into groundwater. These waste plumes have been slowly migrating southward ever since, according to the DEC, threatening the ground-based water supplies of multiple towns in its path, including Bethpage, Farmingdale, Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa, Bellmore and Merrick.

Up to 32 water wells serving 255,000 South Shore residents are threatened by the plume. Caruso estimates that local water supplies could be affected by the plume in as few as five years if something isn’t done soon.

Anthony Sabino, attorney for the Bethpage Water District, has been combating against the Grumman plume ever since Bethpage discovered its first contaminated water well over 20 years ago.

“Everything you’ve heard tonight from Commissioner Caruso is correct...we must stop the plume before it reaches a public supply well,” Sabino said. “Unfortunately, since Grumman and Bethpage are in the same place, we didn’t have that luxury.”

Nassau County Legis. David Denenberg, D-Merrick, and Phillip Franco, president of the Seaford Harbor Civic Association, were also on hand.

Denenberg, whose background is in engineering and environmental law, said that the DEC's handling of the plume involves far too much guesswork for such a serious problem.

"One thing I know will not work is the current DEC plan, where they're guessing where the plume is, and saying they'll get 90 percent of it," Denenberg said. "No. 1, we want 100 percent. No. 2, they need to put in enough treatment wells to get the job done, and they're not doing that. Part of the reason the plume has migrated so far is because the DEC doesn't know what they're doing."

Caruso laid out a clean-up plan proposed by Long Island water districts that he claimed would not only eliminate the threat of the plume, but do so at half the cost of the DEC’s current failed efforts.

“On the Grumman site, build one hydraulic treatment facility,” Caruso said. “Take out all of the contaminants up there, and when the water’s treated, inject it back into the ground. That’s what you do with something like this.”

Caruso pleaded with local residents to make their voices heard by writing and emailing Gov. Andrew Cuomo in support of the plan. A letter was sent to Cuomo several months ago by the Massapequa, Bethpage, and South Farmingdale water districts, which protested the DEC's handling of the plume.

As for the costs of any clean-up, Assemb. Joseph Saladino, R-Massapequa, argued that the bill should be sent to the U.S. Navy, who Grumman was contracted to at the time of the waste dumping.

“It’s the DEC’s responsibility to make sure the Navy pays for the clean-up,” Saladino said. “Not the taxpayers, not the water districts and not the governments of the towns affected.”

Claudia Borecky July 21, 2012 at 02:52 PM
The deadline for public comment is July 30. We need the DEC to accurately delineate, contain and treat the plume. The proposed remediation action plan is not good enough and will not stop the plume. Please visit the Nassau County Coalition of Civic Associations website: http://www.nccca.us/index.php/toxic-plume to download a form letter to send to the DEC. Please act quickly as the deadline is just a few days away. Thank you.
Eddie Muro July 22, 2012 at 02:54 PM
So, is this suee similar and as serrious as the Love Canal Distaster? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Canal
Ron Padula July 22, 2012 at 06:07 PM
My recommendation for all of you who reside in these affected areas, is to get Homeland Security Chairman, Peter King (aka. your congressman), involved. Since he and his family are drinking this same water, you might get a quicker response from the DEC before it's to late. Remember that the deadline is the 30th. GET INVOLVED! Good luck.
Phillip Franco July 23, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Rep. Peter T. King's statement sent to NCCCA - " Complete containment should be the priority of the NYSDEC, as it is in the best interest ot the health of not only our families, but of generations of Long Island families to come. The Navy should take full financial responsibility for all costs incurred."
Chris Wendt July 23, 2012 at 05:48 PM
To whom did Pete King send that statement, other than to the NCCCA? NCCCA has no real authority over this, other than an intense legitimate interest. NYSDEC is the controlling authority respective of the means and schdeuling of the containment and remediation, but they are a state agency and Pete King is a U.S. Congressman. Saying that the Navy should take full financial responsibility is a nice sound bite, but NYSDEC, a state agency, does not dictate to the U.S. Navy and cannot hold them financially liable for NYSDEC's costs for the cleanup. Did Pete King communicate his position to the U.S. Navy? To the EPA, which is the Federal counterpart to the NYSDEC? Or was he just letting the Civic Associations know how he feels about this situation? I think the first and primary order of business is to contain the plume and remediate the area affected by it. Figuring out who pays and how to get the money out of them is for later, and will probably involve federal court, numerous lawyers and several years' time. Besides, you cannot ask for money until you know how much money, in dollars and cents, to ask for. Asking the Navy to pay for Grumman's bad behavior is certainly a leap of judgement far beyond normal due process. I would expect the Navy to have indemnification, defense, and save-harmless agreements in effect over Grumman for this sort of thing.


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