Schumer: Navy should pay for water plant

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer holds a press conference U.S. Senator Charles Schumer holds a press conference at the Motor Head wellhead treatment plant or "Plant 6." (Oct. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

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Sen. Charles Schumer called on the U.S. Navy Thursday to reimburse the Bethpage Water District for the $14 million it spent to build treatment plants to cope with tainted water from the former Northrop Grumman defense site in Bethpage.

"The good news is . . . we do not have a safety issue here; we have a financial issue," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said inside the district's new Plant 6 on Motor Lane in Plainedge. Plant 4 at Sophia Street in Bethpage will also purify the tainted water.

The modern plants use forced air and carbon filtering to remove contaminants such as trichloroethene, or TCE, a chemical that has been associated with kidney and liver disease.

Schumer slapped an open palm against one of the four large treatment tanks inside Plant 6 as he joined district officials and about a dozen of the 8,800 district customers whose bills have been increased about $100 annually to pay for the construction costs because the Navy has not yet reimbursed the district.

"The same thing happened in South Farmingdale [in 2010], but the Navy, after a year of my badgering them, stepped up to the plate and repaid," Schumer said Thursday.

The Navy declined to comment, citing ongoing negotiations with the water district.

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The increase in bills will be "undone" after the Navy pays up, the senator said. Anthony Sabino, counsel to the district, said later that there would be no rebates, and that bills would be reduced or future increases averted after the Navy pays.

Sabino said the average customer pays about $225 annually now, but the bill is linked to water usage.

Chemical pollution seeping from the old Grumman site has been known for years.

The state Department of Health confirmed last month that it is investigating cancer cases in the residential areas south and east of the site.

The department refused to identify the boundaries of the study area or give an estimate of when the study might be completed.

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