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Long IslandEnvironment

State DEC lists MacArthur Airport as possible Superfund site

Aerial view of Long Island MacArthur Airport, dating

Aerial view of Long Island MacArthur Airport, dating to 2011. Credit: Charles Eckert

State environmental officials Tuesday listed Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma as a possible Superfund site over concerns that past use and storage of a firefighting foam could have contaminated drinking water supplies.

Samples taken at a nearby well earlier this month detected a compound known as perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, above federal health advisory levels, officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.

The well in question is in Bohemia, about 7,500 feet away from the airport, and is operated as a water supply source by the Suffolk County Water Authority, which already had treatment at the site that removes the contaminant, the water authority’s CEO, Jeff Szabo, said in a statement.

“Since there is an active remedial system in place, there have been no exposures,” said Martin Brand, DEC’s deputy commissioner for remediation and materials management.

DEC was told about one detection of 95 parts per trillion in mid-January and began looking for potential source areas, ending up at the 1,311-acre airport site. The health advisory level is 70 parts per trillion.

MacArthur provides commercial service to some 5,000 passengers a day; Southwest, American and Frontier airlines fly out of the airport.

The potential site designation means Islip Town, which owns MacArthur, needs to investigate the soil, groundwater and other site conditions; if the town fails to do so, the DEC will tap state Superfund money.

The investigation will determine whether the site should be added to the state Superfund list, a designation that would require further investigation and creation of a remediation plan if contamination is found.

Airport Commissioner Shelley LaRose-Arken said in a statement that neither the town nor the airport had been notified in writing of the DEC decision, but she added they would cooperate with the DEC investigation.

Town officials did not respond to other questions.

Szabo said the water authority supported the DEC designation and would continue to test samples for these compounds and other contaminants.

The DEC will work with town and county agencies “to ensure area residents have access to clean drinking water,” Brand said.

Suffolk County health officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Perfluorinated compounds do not break down easily in water and exposure can harm fetal health and development, affect the immune system, cause thyroid problems and lead to liver damage and certain cancers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The compounds are not regulated federally, but the state is expected next month to discuss setting a specific safe level allowed in water.

In early 2016, New York listed PFOS and a related compound known as PFOA as hazardous substances, which allows the state to regulate their use and go after polluters.

MacArthur, which also is home to an Army National Guard unit, is self-sustaining through fees for concessions, leases and other services. Finances have rebounded after years of operating at a loss, ending 2017 with an estimated $3 million surplus.

The East Hampton Airport and a Hampton Bays Fire Department site also are listed as potential Superfund sites because of past use of the firefighting foam and local PFOS or PFOA detections.

In 2016, the DEC named Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach to the state superfund list and in 2017 added a Suffolk County fire-training academy in Yaphank to the list because of contamination from perfluorinated compounds.

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