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Water District Completes Petition Drive

Criticizes DEC response to groundwater situation

For months, the Massapequa Water District has been in the forefront of the pressing issue of clean water on the South Shore of Long Island and especially as it relates to what it fears what water district officials call “highly toxic contaminated groundwater plume,” which they claim is emanating from the Navy Grumman site in Bethpage.

Recently, the water district completed its extensive petition drive, one that netted over 5,400 petitions. The petitions will be taken to Albany. The purpose, water district officials said, is to demand action by Governor Andrew Cuomo to take the necessary steps to have the polluters stop such plume.

“The Massapequa Water District has made its position clear and simple: the responsible parties must stop the plume from migrating further because the public does not want the toxic plume entering the districts’ water supply wells or impacting the Great South Bay,” water district officials stated in a release.

The plume, water district officials said, is primarily composed of the chemicals tetrachloroethene, also known as PCE, and trichloroethylene, also known as TCE. Both of these toxic chemical compounds are known cancer-causing agents, and have been indicated as a possible causative agent in Parkinson’s disease, water district officials claimed.

“Under the care, custody and control of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) this toxic cocktail has been allowed to spread and contaminate perfectly good water supplies and the drinking water supply designated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as the Sole Source Aquifer for Long Island,” the release added.

Water district officials further said that they have “consistently” put the regulatory agencies on notice that the mitigation practices being conducted by both the DEC at the Grumman Bethpage site are “ineffective and inconsistent with the legal responsibilities of the polluters.”

Water district officials remain critical of the DEC’s response to the situation, claiming that the district “has been forced to spend over $500,000, reviewing over 25 years of the DEC, Navy and Grumman records necessary to prepare engineering feasibility studies and estimated costs for full hydraulic containment and cleanup of this toxic plume in answer to the regulatory agencies ineffective practices.”

The water district, officials added, “has…provided the regulatory agencies with significantly more effective and less costly alternatives to stop the plume’s migration and to achieve cleanup of the toxic plume. Instead, the DEC, Navy and Grumman have allowed the plume to spread, relying upon the hope that ‘dilution will be the solution to pollution,’ a position that the DEC has rejected in all other areas of the state. The policy in New York State has always been that the polluter pays for the cleanup of their pollution. We ask that Governor Andrew Cuomo enforce this policy immediately instead of causing the Massapequa Water District to continue to do the work required of the DEC at our taxpayers’ expense.”

“It is time for Governor Cuomo to take the leadership position to demand that his Department of Environmental Conservation follow the laws of the state and federal government and to order the polluter to stop the plume,” the release concluded. “The governor must not allow our sole source aquifer, our perfectly good water supply, to continue to be contaminated by the Navy/Grumman plume. The water district, and the residents that it serves, looks to the governor to show the environmental stewardship and public health leadership to have the polluters stop, contain and eventually remove the contamination from our sole source aquifer.”

Meanwhile, the actions of the water district have received praise from other quarters on the South Shore. Claudia Borecky, president of the North and Central Merrick Civic Association, hailed the petitions as “beautiful” and “wonderful,” an example of “government in action as it should be.”

The DEC Response

At the request of The Massapequan Observer, the DEC issued its own response to the situation at the Navy Grumman site.

“[The] DEC has not seen justification to change its remedy at this point,” read a statement from the DEC. “Any remedial operations conducted on this project will have all necessary air pollution control equipment and will be protective of human health and the environment.”