Feds won't manage Bethpage toxic waste site

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The Environmental Protection Agency will not take over management of a toxic waste site in Bethpage, despite a request from Rep. Peter King.

The Seaford Republican last month asked EPA officials to appoint a federal master to speed up efforts to clean a plume of chemical waste moving in groundwater under Bethpage Community Park, which for years had been a Grumman Aerospace Corp. dumping site.

Federal officials said this week that appointing a federal master to mediate differences among entities involved in the cleanup isn't necessary because the agency already is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Navy, Northrop Grumman and water districts. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had requested EPA's involvement in 2010.

"We are involved and will continue to be involved," EPA Deputy Regional Administrator George Pavlou said.

In a statement, King said he was disappointed in the decision and would discuss "what additional steps need to be taken." He had sought the agency's assistance because "an EPA master would cut through the red tape and ensure that a containment plan is enacted expeditiously," King wrote in his request.

His letter was in response to the DEC's $61.5 million proposal to excavate soil and install at least one treatment well to contain 90 percent of the park plume, including a "hot spot" of high contamination. Water districts and some elected officials oppose the plan, saying it would allow contaminants to get into public water supplies, which would then have to be treated.

The park plume is one of two in the area that have combined. The merged plume has reached wells in the Bethpage Water District and threatens supplies of more than 250,000 residents.

EPA supports the plan to treat the hot spot but said more work is needed to address overall contamination. "This plan was not meant to deal with the entire plume but only a small fraction of contamination in that area," Pavlou said. The water districts prefer installing treatment wells near the Southern State Parkway to remove toxins before the water gets to public wells.

"Where do we go from here?" Massapequa Water District Commissioner John Caruso said. "There is no avenue, other than having a master on this job." Caruso said he's asked Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to overrule the DEC's plan. "Is he going to be the governor who has Great South Bay turned into a polluted part of Grumman?" he said.

Cuomo's office referred questions to DEC. A final cleanup plan should be released by year's end, DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said in a statement.

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