Peter King: Feds should oversee Superfund site

In a letter to the state Department of In a letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Navy and EPA, Rep. Peter King asked for the appointment of a federal master to force cleanup of a Superfund site. (Feb. 7, 2011) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

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Rep. Peter King wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take over cleanup efforts at a state Superfund site where toxic groundwater is threatening Nassau County water supplies.

In a letter to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Navy and EPA, King (R-Seaford) asked for the appointment of a federal master to force cleanup of the plume.

Contaminants from decades of aviation and aerospace manufacturing have reached drinking wells in Bethpage, requiring the water district to install treatment facilities. Water agencies estimate supplies for 250,000 residents are at risk if the plume is not contained.

The area was once the site of the U.S. Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve plant and what is now Northrop Grumman.

The Navy and Grumman Aerospace Corp. "used this site to make notable contributions to assist the Allies in winning World War II," King wrote. "However, in addition to this remarkable legacy, the Navy and Grumman left behind soil and groundwater contaminants."

In late May, the DEC released a proposed cleanup plan focusing on part of Bethpage Community Park that was once a Grumman dumping ground for paints, arsenic, chromium-tainted sludge, solvents and other compounds. Known carcinogens such as trichloroethylene and polychlorinated biphenyls remain in the soil and groundwater.

The $61.5-million cleanup proposal includes excavating soils and installing at least one well to treat contaminants. Water districts oppose the plan.

"Not only does this policy do nothing to stop the growth of the plume, but it forces local water districts to wait for the pollution to enter clean wells, pay for treatment, and then await reimbursement from the responsible parties," King wrote.

Water districts prefer installing several wells to capture and treat contaminants before they reach public supply wells.

The public comment period for the DEC's plan ended July 30. A final decision is months away.

DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said agency officials "appreciate Congressman King's interest in this project and will continue our efforts to work proactively with all involved parties, including EPA, Grumman, the Navy and the municipalities affected by this plume."

The EPA has not responded to King's letter, but spokesman John Martin said the agency would "evaluate it and take his suggestions into consideration."

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