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New York State adds Hampton Bays fire station to Superfund registry

The 2-acre site on West Montauk Highway becomes the third Suffolk County site listed for hazardous waste cleanup since 2016 because of links to firefighting foam.

New York State added a Hampton Bays fire

New York State added a Hampton Bays fire station to its Superfund registry on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Newsday/Megan Miller

New York State added a Hampton Bays fire station to its Superfund registry on Wednesday, the third Suffolk site listed for hazardous waste cleanup since 2016 because of links to firefighting foam.

The 2-acre site at 69 W. Montauk Hwy. “presents a significant threat to public health and/or the environment,” according to a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation notice. The move will lead to further investigation and an eventual plan to clean up the site, state DEC officials said.

The man-made chemicals perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) had been detected at drinking water supply wells in 2014, 600 feet from the fire station. The levels of PFOS had been 82 parts per trillion, above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's lifetime health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

Investigators last year sampled groundwater at the Hampton Bays Fire Department site and found PFOS contamination at 2,400 parts per trillion.

"Based on initial sampling at the Hampton Bays Fire Department, it appears a source of this contamination is located at the Fire Department," according to the state notice.

Hampton Bays Fire District commissioners did not return calls for comment Wednesday.

The EPA has linked exposure to PFOS and PFOA to testicular and kidney cancers, developmental effects to fetuses and breast-fed infants, liver tissue damage, and negative effects on the immune system and thyroids, among others.

The chemicals have been getting increased attention from scientists and regulators as the widespread contamination from the chemicals, which are also used to make water-resistant and nonstick materials, has been studied. New York State health officials said they plan to set a state drinking water standard this year for the chemicals PFOS, PFAS and a separate chemical, 1,4-dioxane, which is often found in industrial solvents and in trace amounts in household products.

PFOS had been used in firefighting foams until about 15 years ago, when it began to be phased out, according to the EPA.

Local and state regulators, meanwhile, are trying to determine how widespread the contamination from PFOS and PFAS is.

In May 2017, the DEC added the 28-acre Suffolk County fire academy in Yaphank — known as Firematics — to the Superfund list. In September 2016, Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach also was added because of PFOS contamination, detected through a federal survey of water supplies nationwide. PFOA and PFOS also were found in more than 150 private wells in Wainscott, near the East Hampton Airport. PFOS also has been found at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. 

Sarah Meyland, director for the Center for Water Resources Management at New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, noted the new Superfund sites associated with PFOS are not at traditional manufacturing and defense industry locations.

"We’re discovering that it’s there once we go look for it at sites that weren’t suspected of being Superfund sites," Meyland said.

The Hampton Bays Water District shut down a supply well in May 2016. In 2017, the other two supply wells were shut down.

The water district last year constructed a carbon treatment system at the well field to treat the water before distribution at a cost of just over $1 million, according to Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, whose position also serves as a water commissioner. He declined to comment further.

The state DEC said Hampton Bays Fire Department has entered into a consent order with the DEC to fully investigate and clean up the site, and has submitted a work plan to perform a more comprehensive study. The remedial investigation likely will begin in March 2019.

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