Cuomo Orders Engineering Investigation Into Groundwater Plumes

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today directed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to undertake an immediate engineering investigation to expedite containment of the groundwater plumes contaminated with industrial solvents at the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman Bethpage site in Nassau County.

This investigation will assess expedited cleanup options, including full containment of the plumes, in order to ensure the contamination does not threaten additional drinking water wells. These new aggressive actions are part of New York’s ongoing efforts to hold the polluters accountable and utilize state Superfund resources to address the movement of groundwater contamination.

“Protecting New York’s drinking water is critical and is a top priority for this state,” Governor Cuomo said. “This new engineering investigation will advance an aggressive and expedited cleanup to ensure Long Islanders have access to clean water resources. Our budget proposal includes a record $2 billion for clean water infrastructure, and the Water Quality Rapid Response team continues to proactively combat potential water contamination in communities across our state.”

“DEC will continue to use all our legal authorities to hold Northrop Grumman and the Navy accountable and ensure they expeditiously advance and pay for the necessary remediation of this groundwater contamination plume,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The new engineering investigation will provide critical insights and actionable recommendation to ensure the cleanup is faster and more protective for the surrounding community.”​

Today’s actions will build on past findings and comments received from water districts and other experts to provide a more robust and detailed assessment of remedial options. Earlier assessments of full hydraulic containment lacked critical details on a number of outstanding issues, including the reuse or recharge of any extracted and treated water.

The new investigation will include field surveys and engineering analyses to fully identify the feasibility of options to contain the contamination plumes. Specifically, this effort will:

  • Identify and evaluate options for disposal, reuse, or recharge of treated groundwater;
    • Perform field surveys, engineering analyses, and aquifer pumping tests, to determine the number, locations, depths, and screened intervals for extraction wells necessary for plume management;
      • Create new localized groundwater modeling and additional sampling to evaluate the:
        • migration of existing contamination ‘hotspots’ and the potential for movement of the freshwater-saltwater interface under different treatment scenarios
        • influence of increased groundwater withdrawal on nearby water supply wells
        • impacts on surface water and marine environments, including Great South Bay
  • Identify new treatment technologies and potential locations for state-of-the-art treatment systems, while considering future needs and the presence of emerging contaminants like 1,4-dioxane.

The details of the state’s new engineering investigation were outlined at a roundtable discussion on Long Island water quality organized by Governor Cuomo at SUNY Farmingdale. The conversation focused on addressing recent threats to local groundwater resources, including trichloroethylene and unregulated contaminants such as 1,4-dioxane. The following individuals participated in the conversation regarding the state’s ongoing actions to address emerging threats to water quality:

  • New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker
    · New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos
    · Senator John Brooks
    · Senator Todd Kaminsky
    · Senator Elaine Phillips
    · Assemblymember Anthony D’Urso
    · Assemblymember David McDonough
    · Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, Town of Oyster Bay
    · Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano
    · Nassau County Commissioner of Health Dr. Lawrence E. Eisenstein
    · Commissioner Shila Shah-Gavnoudias, Nassau County Department of Public Works
    · Joseph Velardi, Legislative Aide to Senator Hannon
    · Carrie Gallagher,Department of Environmental Conservation Region 1 Director
    · Venetia Lannon, Deputy Secretary for the Environment, Governor’s Office
    · Dr. Harold Walker, Co-Director, Stony Brook Center for Clean Water Technology
    · Michael Boufis, Superintendent, Bethpage Water District
    · John Reinhardt, Hempstead Water Department Commissioner
    · Anthony Iannone, Hicksville Water District Superintendent
    · Stan Carey, Massapequa Water District Superintendent and Chairman of Long Island Water Conference
    · Andy Bader, Plainview Water District and President of the Nassau/Suffolk Water Commissioners Association
    · Richard Humann, H2M Water District Consultant
    · Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment

DEC contractors will immediately begin synthesizing current information and reports and identify the necessary field work that will begin in the spring of 2017. DEC expects to release preliminary findings for public review by the end of 2017.

The investigation will also analyze how the alternatives evaluated relate to and supplement remedial actions already underway or proposed at the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman facilities. The cleanup of contamination at this state Superfund site is being conducted by Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy under multiple Consent Orders and agreements with New York State. DEC is requiring the two parties to remediate soil and groundwater contamination found in the contamination plumes nearly three miles long by one mile wide.

DEC will consider the new engineering analysis in accordance with Federal and State Superfund laws, and if the state’s evaluation requires full containment, DEC will require Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy to conduct and pay for all necessary remedial actions. The state has also commenced a Natural Resource Damages Assessment to quantify the impact to groundwater resources and obtain funding from the responsible parties to support critical ecosystem restoration projects.

Today’s roundtable at SUNY Farmingdale builds on the discussion about Long Island water quality held at SUNY Stony Book’s Center for Clean Water Technology held on Feb. 11. Following last weekend’s roundtable, DEC and DOH announced that New York State is formally calling on the U.S. EPA to establish an official drinking water standard for the federally unregulated contaminant 1,4-dioxane. Under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA has primary authority to regulate drinking water quality. The Maximum Contaminant Level is the legal threshold set by the EPA limiting the amount of a given substance in public water systems. In a letter to the EPA, Governor Cuomo made clear that this is a national issue, but if the federal government does not take action to regulate 1,4-dioxane, New York will move to set a state MCL.

Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Access to clean drinking water is one of the defining issues of our time. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership the state will continue its commitment to addressing 1,4-dioxane and other emerging contaminants with robust funding, innovative technologies, and aggressive action by the Water Quality Rapid Response Team.”

To date, the EPA has not only failed to issue an MCL for 1,4-dioxane, but an existing federal loophole exempts public water systems serving less than 10,000 people from even testing for federally unregulated contaminants like 1,4-dioxane. Despite the federal government’s inaction, New York State has stepped up under the leadership of Governor Cuomo to fill the void and ensure access to clean drinking water statewide.

  • Most recently, Governor Cuomo proposed an historic $2 billion investment in his Executive Budget proposal that would rebuild and repair the state’s critical water infrastructure.
  • Last year, the Governor established the Water Quality Rapid Response Team to identify and address critical drinking water contamination concerns throughout the state. The Rapid Response Team has been working to swiftly identify and address drinking water quality issues across the state, and is moving ahead with an aggressive proposal to ensure sampling of all public water systems on Long Island and across the state — no matter their size.
  • In September 2016, the New York State Department of Health also approved a new, full-scale treatment technology using the Advanced Oxidative Process to remove 1,4-dioxane from drinking water. This pilot project is essential as the state leverages new technologies to stay ahead of emerging water quality issues across New York.
  • Governor Cuomo also recently awarded $5 million to the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at SUNY Stony Brook to leverage innovation and promote advances in clean water technology. An emphasis of this work will include the development and advancement of treatment technologies for 1,4-dioxane.
  • The Department of Environmental Conservation is also taking action to prevent the discharge of 1,4-dioxane from laundromats by requiring certain laundromats in Long Island to sample for 1,4-dioxane as a condition of their new State Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or SPDES, permits.
  • DEC will also begin requiring all State Superfund sites to test for 1,4-dioxane. Based on these sampling results, DEC will take appropriate enforcement action under its State Superfund authority to reduce 1,4-dioxane at its source.
Anton Media Staff
In addition to its arts and entertainment publication Long Island Weekly, Anton Media Group publishes 16 community newspapers, several magazines, specialty publications and websites. With brands dating back to 1877, Anton has a commitment to deliver trusted and relevant content to the communities it serves.

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