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State formalizes agreement with Northrop Grumman to clean up pollution

The Bethpage Water District has been upgrading treatment

The Bethpage Water District has been upgrading treatment plants to deal with groundwater pollution coming from the former Northrop Grumman and Navy-owned facilities. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The state said Wednesday it has formalized an agreement with Northrop Grumman to clean up pollution coming from the company’s former Bethpage operations, Long Island’s largest mass of groundwater pollution.

The state will over the next 30 days accept public comments on the plan, which includes $60 million for the state and local water districts.

The plan, first agreed to in principle in December, includes $23.5 million for Bethpage Water District, the local drinking water provider most impacted by the plume created by the former Grumman Aerospace’s decades of waste dumping. Some of those funds will pay for the drilling of public supply wells outside the Grumman Plume. It also includes $4 million to pay for the state's investigation and $12.5 million for the South Farmingdale Water District, which has drinking water wells in the path of the pollution’s continued spread of a foot per day.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, in a statement, said the agreement will "help make this community whole." He said Northrop Grumman, Grumman’s corporate successor, and the U.S. Navy, which owned a portion of the land, have agreed to monitor the efforts to make sure the plume is contained.

Bethpage Water District Superintendent Mike Boufis said while it’s good progress that the agreement is moving forward, the district still has technical issues about the placement of cleanup wells to ensure all the pollution is eventually cleaned up.

"A lot more work needs to be done," he said. "The bottom line is I don’t think all the pollution has been accounted for. Bethpage Water District is not going to stand down until it’s all accounted for."

Newsday published an investigation last year, The Grumman Plume: Decades of Deceit, detailing the history of false and misleading statements, missteps and minimization that aided the pollution’s steady spread. The stories prompted state, federal and local officials to pledge renewed focus on securing the comprehensive measures that were historically brushed off.

As detailed in the proposed consent decree, Northrop Grumman will install a network of extraction wells to pump contaminated water, containing and cleaning up the eastern half of the groundwater plume.

In December, Northrop Grumman committed to the state’s cleanup plan, which had reversed what local water districts said was years of inaction by Northrop Grumman and the Navy, the other legally responsible party for the pollution, as well as state and federal regulators. Work to install these wells have started.

The state also said the Navy will implement elements of the comprehensive remedy in areas of the plume it is responsible for cleaning up.

Vic Beck, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman, said: "The agreement builds on the company’s long-standing partnership with the state and exhaustive work over the past 25 years to understand and remediate contamination. We look forward to obtaining final court approval of the agreement and proceeding with the work."

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) called the agreement "a big victory for the people of Bethpage and for all of the people south of Bethpage that have been threatened by this plume for decades."

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