The cancer metaphor has always been appropriate when it comes to the Navy Grumman Plume and how its spread through Long Island’s main source of drinking water, the Magothy Aquifer.
Now, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has unveiled a plan to stop the spread of toxic elements and fully remediate the present and future threats to the groundwater.
“The ‘No Further Action’ scenario is not acceptable anymore,” said DEC Deputy Commissioner Martin Brand to applause at a June 10 meeting at Bethpage High School.
In front of hundreds in the auditorium, Brand, in charge of remediation at the agency, pledged, “We have a new plan. It’s high in detail and high in science. [Under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo] we’ve taken a new look and…come up with a new approach.”
The plan, according to a press release, “is in the form of an Amended Record of Decision (AROD)— a comprehensive plan to contain and clean up the contamination plume and hold the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman accountable for its implementation. The estimated cost to implement the remedy is $585 million.”
It calls for the installation of 24 groundwater extraction wells, with eight within the confines of the plume and 16 along the southernmost margins of the plume. The wells would withdraw approximately 17.5 million gallons per day of contaminated water from the aquifer, which would be treated at five treatment plants, conveyed by an estimated 23.5 miles of piping.
The water would be treated to drinking standards and then returned to the aquifer.
The release noted that treatment will be included for 1,4-dioxane, an emerging contaminant that has been traced to the Grumman operations and has caused much concern among water district leaders and environmental advocates.
“This is not a plan that’s going to sit on a shelf somewhere up in Albany,” Brand vowed. “Whether it’s the Navy or Grumman or the DEC, this plan will be implemented (applause).”
Decades of industrial activity at both the Grumman-owned and Navy-owned, Grumman-operated facilities in Bethpage resulted in the toxic plume. Its major contaminant is trichloroethene (TCE), used copiously in the manufacturing process to clean metal parts. Officially classed as a carcinogen by the federal government, TCE has a drinking water standard of 5 parts per billion (ppb). It has been found in concentrations as high as 14,000 ppb within the plume.
As responsible parties, the Navy and Grumman signed agreements with the DEC to clean up the contamination, but over the decades, they have been criticized over the pace of remediation. These included the DEC and the Bethpage Water District, the most affected one.
One persistent critic was then-state Assemblyman Joseph Saladino. He and then-Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) introduced bills that were passed and called for a feasibility study on the idea of hydraulically containing the plume. Saladino, now Oyster Bay supervisor, told Anton Media Group that the DEC leadership was skeptical of the idea. But he credited Governor Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos (who took over in 2015) with bringing new energy and commitment to the fight to clean up the plume.
“This is a huge milestone for the residents of Bethpage, ” said Bethpage Water District Superintendent Mike Boufis during public comment on June 10. “As you know, we’ve been on the front lines, fighting this battle since the 1970s. It’s long overdue.”
“We support the plan. We do like it,” Boufis told Anton Media Group. “We will comment accordingly. We want to make sure that future contaminants are addressed. Radium is addressed, and most importantly that money is addressed for Bethpage. Most of the construction, probably 70 percent of it, will be in the Bethpage community. We want to make sure it’s not going to disrupt our neighborhoods and make sure that our residents are taken care of.”
Rich Humann, president of engineering firm H2M, is a consultant with the Bethpage Water District, among many others. He said he’s been involved in the district’s remediation efforts since 1990.
“It’s very comprehensive,” he told Anton Media Group regarding the plan. “I think it demonstrates that we can fully remediate the plume and mitigate the impacts to the wells that have already been impacted. And protect the wells that have not already been impacted.”
Humann said this is the most optimistic he’s been in decades regarding the plume.
“June 10, 2019, is the big day for all of us,” Humann summed up.
Comments on the AROD may be submitted to the DEC until July 7 and should be directed to Jason Pelton at email@example.com.
Documents are available for inspection at the Bethpage Public Library, 47 Powell Ave., Bethpage.
Goals of the Navy Grumman Plume remediation:
• Full hydraulic containment of the plume
• Prevent further expansion of the plume
• Reduce volume and contaminant concentrations, clean up time frame
• Minimize impacts to public water supply wells
• Treat water to meet all standards
• Protect Long Island aquifer by returning majority of treated water back to aquifer system
• Minimize impacts to the environment
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