State to treat pollution plume in Bethpage

The state has announced a $60 million final

The state has announced a $60 million final cleanup plan to treat chemical pollutants in an underground plume at Bethpage Community Park. This is the park's ballfield, which has been abandoned because of the contaminants. (Credit: Steve Pfost, 2012)

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The State Department of Environmental Conservation Monday announced a $60 million final cleanup plan to treat chemical pollutants in groundwater and clean up soil contamination at Bethpage Community Park.

The plan mirrors one proposed last May that calls for containing 90 percent of the contaminants seeping from the state Superfund site at former manufacturing sites. It also orders the excavation of soil in residential yards on nearby Sycamore Avenue, at the park and along a road.

The park plume was officially identified in 2009. It combined with a larger plume found in 1986 and has been traced to aircraft manufacturing sites operated by the Navy and Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., now Northrop Grumman.

The plumes have reached or are moving toward drinking water wells that serve 250,000 residents in south Nassau County, forcing Bethpage Water District to spend millions of dollars to treat the water.

The smaller park plume has higher levels of contaminants, known as "hot spots," than the larger one.

"What we're doing . . . is attacking a very small, more concentrated plume in a bigger one," said Bob Schick, director of the DEC's division of environmental remediation. "By doing that, it will really help the eventual remedy of the bigger plume."

The plan calls for installing at least one treatment well to extract water and treat the contamination. The number of wells will not be determined until crews start designing the treatment plan, Schick said.

Additional wells will be drilled to define the leading edge of the plume to see where it is moving.

Some elected officials who had pushed for more aggressive cleanup said they wanted time to study the plan.

"On first read, this plan is disappointing because it still may permit treating pollution after it contaminates drinking wells instead of . . . before it hits," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "We should be doing everything we can to get the toxins out before they hit the wells, and this document doesn't seem to require that."

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, a Bethpage resident, said his administration is reviewing the plan. "However, I remain concerned that it is not far-reaching enough," he said in a statement.

From 1949 to 1962, Grumman used the 13-acre park site to legally dump cadmium, arsenic, chromium-tainted sludge, solvents, paints and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The land was transferred to the Town of Oyster Bay and became a park in the mid-1960s.

The site was closed briefly in 2002 when elevated levels of PCBs were found in its soil. A skate park, ice rink and pool are open on the park land, but the ballfields -- the site of the heaviest dumping -- have not reopened.

"We think the [planned] remedy pretty much does what a lot of the entities were looking for," Schick said. "It contains the source of the contamination."

"At first glance, it seems to address some of the Bethpage issues," Bethpage Water District superintendent Mike Boufis said. "I don't think one extraction well is going to be enough to protect downgradient water suppliers."

Massapequa Water District's then-Commissioner John Caruso last year pushed for a ring of extraction wells at the edge of the plume to take out contaminated water, treat it and reinject it into the water supply.

Massapequa superintendent Stanley Carey declined to comment until the district meets later this week with the DEC.

The plan lists Northrop Grumman, the Navy and Oyster Bay as potentially responsible parties that can be held liable for the cleanup because they were responsible for the contamination or own the land.

The state and the three entities will have to negotiate how the cleanup will be undertaken and who will cover costs, Schick said.

Oyster Bay and Navy officials did not respond to requests for comment. Northrop Grumman representatives declined to comment until they review the documents.

The plan also calls for exploring potential hot spot areas on the western side of the larger plume, south of Hempstead Turnpike and west of Hicksville. "The devil is in the details -- and the implementation," Schumer said. "And we will continue to press the DEC to take the strongest possible action to protect the wells from this migrating toxic plume."

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