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Comment Period For Bethpage Plume Remediation Ends July 30

Local residents weigh in at public sessions

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has indicated that cleanup of the Bethpage area plume is predicted to take more than 30 years before “groundwater” standards are achieved.

“This is one of the largest plumes I have ever seen,” and one of the most vocal communities, said Jim Harrington. Harrington is currently the director of the remedial bureau in the Division of Environmental Remediation at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). He was on-hand for the June 21 public session that was held at the Bethpage Community Center.

“The contamination is really the result of normal operations, back 20 years ago,” Harrington explained. He said the contamination is not growing, the source of contamination has not existed in years, so every effort to clean up and remediate is lessening the contaminants.

There is a plume associated with original Grumman plant site, a plume associated with the “rag pit” at the park that was used to dispose of solvent-soaked rags and other waste, and several others that intermingle, all at varying depths and contamination degrees. “The goal for the cleanup is 90 percent removal,” said Harrington. “You can pump as hard as you can and you won’t get it all; it’s not possible.”

Esther DeStefano, a resident of Bethpage, said she understands that the cleanup plan will primarily serve to remove 90 percent of the third plume, but asked, “Will that help? I don’t know.” She said she has known about the contamination for years, especially because she lives so close to the park.

DeStefano said she thinks the public sessions have been helpful recently, but remembers that there were public sessions years ago, and doesn’t understand why it seemed like nothing came out of those talks for so long.

“They [Grumman] sold us this property years ago,” DeStefano said. “We can’t just go arrest them.” She doesn’t understand why it has taken the Navy and Grumman so long to act responsibly.

Harrington said that Massapequa Water District has requested 12 extraction wells be installed, with the capacity of about 20 million gallons of water per day, costing approximately $300 million. Extraction wells have a screen radius of about 20 feet. The wells are installed where the plume is predicted to migrate to and Harrington said, “If you are wrong, you’ve spent all of this money for no reason and are sucking up clean groundwater.”

Harrington explained that the contamination that appears on the maps as if it would reach Massapequa is at 125 feet deep. He said the water below 150 feet is clean. “My personal opinion is that Massapequa’s wells are not going to be hit; their wells are at 725 and 735 feet; they are too deep,” Harrington added.

Corinne Gervino, of Massapequa, was in attendance at the Bethpage Community Center on June 21, as a resident and as a representative for her local civic group. She asked Harrington, despite any previous attempts to clean up and reduce the plume’s impact, “This [the plume] continues to move south, am I, in Massapequa, going to be facing another one of these coming my way in another 20 years?” Harrington said, “My straight answer is, ‘No.’” He said the plume continues to get smaller. There are other sources of contamination locally, possibly from a local gas station, or a dry cleaner.  

Another plume is at 350 feet. Gervino also noted that a plume appears to be heading in the direction of several natural water sources and preserves, and the bay. Harrington said, “I don’t think this will have any impact on the surface waters or the wetlands; there is a clean layer of water over the plume.”

The DEC predicts that the groundwater from any of the Bethpage area plumes could reach the boundaries of Massapequa in 12 to 15 years, although the Massapequa Water District’s predictions are much shorter.

The DEC has released a statement within its Frequently Asked Questions page about the safety of the water supply. In response to “Is the public water supply safe?” The DEC says, “Yes. The public water suppliers are required to frequently test the water that they put into the public distribution systems to ensure that it is not contaminated. The responsible parties have installed, and are continuing to install additional, monitoring wells just upgradient of the public supply wells which are intended to act as an early warning system should sampling identify elevating levels of contaminants. If a water supply well is threatened actions to treat the water are initiated in advance of any impact, to assure the public continues to receive clean water.”

Northrup Grumman with the DEC and Department of Health (DOH) oversight have completed the remedial investigation (sampling soil, groundwater, and vapors).

Harrington explained the timeline that the DEC is expecting. Once the public comment period closes on July 30, the comments will all be reviewed and compiled into a report. He said a record of decision would be issued by the DEC and “the lawyers will begin their talks; then we will talk to all responsible parties, Grumman, the Navy, Bethpage” to issue the official order to be implemented. It will take approximately nine months to negotiate the order with the responsible parties. Harrington said he expects the decision on the remedy to be released in about three months.  

The negotiated order will include the design and construction of the remedy. The order will also require reimbursement of the DEC’s oversight costs.

This plan is directly related to Bethpage Community Park and the offsite plume that has resulted from the contamination at the park.

The Bethpage Park plume, an area of contaminated groundwater, is presently a mile long. It narrows and goes deeper as it gets further away from the source. It is much smaller than a second plume, also within the Bethpage area.

“In some of the residential backyards there are some really low levels of material that are above the unrestricted objectives,” Harrington said. The settling ponds and residential backyards are the first in the DEC’s plan to remediate. Harrington said the DEC has been actively trying to sample from as many residential yards adjacent to the Grumman property, but only three residents on Sycamore Avenue have allowed the DEC access to their private yards to conduct sampling. He said he has no idea why homeowners would not want the testing done but he said, “We’re going to ask again and if the levels are above the unrestricted, we’ll dig it up.”

The costs associated with cleanup are predicted by the DEC to cost about $61.5 million in capital costs, with an annual operation cost of $1.25 million.

The Northrop Grumman—Bethpage Facility is a part of the former Grumman Aerospace complex. It is located on Hicksville Road in Bethpage. Operable Unit 3 (OU3) is off-site from the Northrop Grumman-Bethpage facility site and includes the former Grumman settling ponds and adjacent areas. The settling ponds represent approximately 3.75 acres located within the 12-acre Bethpage community park. The park is located at the intersection of Stewart Avenue and Cherry Avenue, in Bethpage.

Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation donated the park to the Town of Oyster Bay in October 1962. The baseball field area of the park is built over the location of the former settling ponds. Northrop Grumman retains ownership of the Grumman Access Road which is a closed private road associated with the former plant. The remainder of the park contains an active storm water recharge basin, a parking area, the Town Ice Skating Rink, and the pool. The surrounding land use is a combination of industrial, commercial, residential, a school and recreational use.

From circa 1949 to 1962, the settling ponds area was used for dewatering of sludge, including neutralized chromic acid waste, from the wastewater treatment facility, which was located within the Grumman Aerospace Bethpage complex. This complex included both Grumman owned and operated plants, and the United States Navy. Grumman’s operations started in 1930 and the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant (NWIRP) operations started in 1933. All manufacturing ceased at the Grumman and NWIRP facilities in 1996.

DEC has created a new online listserv to keep the public better informed of project activities. To sign up for the listserv, visit: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/61092.html. Harrington said more than 3,000 people are presently signed up for the Bethpage site information.  

The remedy presented by the NYSDEC includes excavating some of the contaminated soils at Bethpage Community Park, treating some deeper contaminated soils and soil vapor extraction, and extracting and treating contaminated groundwater at both the park and the downgrade of the site.

This site is part of the state’s Superfund Program. For additional information about the proposal to address contamination and how to submit comments, visit http:// www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8431.html.

The NYSDEC will accept written comments from the public through Monday, July 30. Send correspondence for this site to: Steven Scharf, NYSDEC, Division of Environmental Remediation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233. Scharf can be reached by email also, at: sxscharf@gw. dec.state.ny.us

(Editor’s note: This article is part two of two. The first part appeared in last week’s editions of Anton Community Newspapers.)