The state Department of Health and a federal agency are examining if exposure to contaminated groundwater may have affected the health of people in Bethpage and Calverton, home to two former Navy and Northrop Grumman manufacturing areas that later were listed as Superfund sites.
The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the state confirmed the study but provided few details, saying a report would be issued in the near future.
The study was mentioned briefly at a Navy meeting held in Bethpage last month to talk about Superfund cleanup efforts there. "Toxicologists are looking at data and coming up with estimates of exposure and impacts," public health specialist Steven Karpinski said.
He said preliminary results were not showing any links or ill effects to human health.
Neither agency would make representatives available for interviews, nor would they say if a specific period was being examined. Contaminant data exists back to 1976.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation said Tuesday that levels of volatile organic chemicals, like tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene and their breakdown products, were being evaluated. Those are considered likely to be carcinogenic, according to the National Toxicology Program's 2014 Report on Carcinogens.
Metals, volatile organic chemicals, pesticides and other toxins have been associated with soil and groundwater at both sites.
In Calverton, Northrop Grumman managed a 6,000-acre Naval facility charged with assembly, flight testing, refitting and retrofitting of aircraft between 1954 and 1996. Work at this site supported design and production at a similar Grumman-managed facility in Bethpage.
At that Nassau County site, the Navy and what is now Northrop Grumman conducted research and development, testing and manufacturing operations for the Navy beginning in the late 1930s and later for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Bethpage operations also ceased in 1996.
Federal authorities oversee the Calverton cleanup, while the state Department of Environmental Conservation manages the site in Bethpage.
Between 2004 and 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported groundwater contamination and health-risk exposures at Calverton were under control. Cleanup at Bethpage has been ongoing, and groundwater contamination dates back to the 1940s.
The federal and state health study evaluated data to examine if people may have been exposed to chemicals associated with the two sites by using contaminated groundwater, health department spokesman James O'Hare said in a statement.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said he supported the efforts and has "called for comprehensive cleanup and a cancer study in regards to pollutants, which have contaminated our water supply."
Representatives for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declined to comment. Spokeswomen from both county health departments said their agencies were not contacted as part of the study.
The state health study began after a resident asked it to look into the situation at the facilities, the state health department said.
"I would certainly love to have clear answers on it," said Jeanne O'Connor, a co-founder of the Bethpage Cancer Group, which is recording cancer and autoimmune disease diagnoses of residents in the hamlet. "The public should know what they're doing."
O'Connor helped found the group in 2013 in response to cancer concerns and after the state announced a plan to clean up a toxic plume from the Bethpage Community Park. "My concern has always been that you have these chemicals dumped and sitting there for so long that it could have gotten into the water before federal standards," she said.
Cancer rates studied
A 2013 state study of cancer rates in a section of Bethpage near the former Navy and Northrop Grumman site did not reveal more cases than would normally be expected.
Bethpage Water District Superintendent Michael Boufis said he believes the study was looking at exposure rates from decades ago versus now, but "they've never actually said what they're doing."
National safe drinking water standards took effect in 1977, and states were charged with enforcement responsibility.
"People haven't been exposed since late 1970s," Karpinski said. "That's a good thing."
The federal registry conducts about 1,000 health consultations each year, agency spokeswoman Susan J. McBreairty said. Consultations can lead to restrictions on water use, replacement of water supplies, increased environmental sampling, limiting access to contaminated sites or removal of toxins, she said.
The registry can conduct site visits but did not in this case, she said. More than 150 registry reports have been issued relating to New York sites since 1990. Of those, 39 reports look at contaminated sites on Long Island, according to agency records.
The most recent, issued in May 2014, examined Lawrence Aviation, a Port Jefferson Station superfund site.
Using previously collected EPA data, the report said indoor air samples were not expected to harm people's health. The consultation recommended EPA maintain systems to ensure vapors were removed from the site. It also said future development proposals should evaluate the potential of vapors from volatile organic chemicals seeping into buildings.