The New York State budget that passed early Wednesday includes $150,000 for Department of Environmental Conservation to hire an outside engineering firm to study if a toxic groundwater plume spreading out from Bethpage can be stopped and fully contained.
The study was ordered as part of a 2014 bill Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed requiring DEC to report to the legislature options to deal with the contamination, which has been traced back to Navy and Northrop Grumman manufacturing operations in Bethpage from decades ago.
Contamination was first discovered in the late 1940s and the more than 600-acre site was listed on the state Superfund list in 1983. Three cleanup plans, each addressing different components of contamination, have been issued, the latest in 2013.
Assemb. Joseph Saladino sponsored the bill. He supports a plan to set up a string of wells along the Southern State Parkway to capture contaminated water and ship it via pipes along Route 135 to treatment sites to remove toxins. "I don't get a sense that they have the will to do it," Saladino said of DEC. "I think it's very, very expensive and they're not willing to try."
The state plans to contract with a firm that does not have conflicts with Northrop or the Navy and issue a report within the year based on data previously collected, said James Harrington, a DEC remediation bureau director, who spoke at a Navy meeting Wednesday.
A plan similar to Saladino's was considered and rejected in 2001. "It's been done two or three more times since then with a similar conclusion. However, the governor has enacted a law with that requirement," Harrington said. "We'll do what we're told we need to do."
Attention to the plume has intensified since the Navy disclosed last year it found high levels of trichloroethylene, a possible carcinogen, north of Hempstead Turnpike.
Bethpage Water District officials believe the hot spot shows a treatment system at the source of the plume is not fully capturing all of the toxins, allowing them to spread.
But Harrington said clean water near the site shows it is working and the TCE is a legacy contaminant moving through the system.
"It seems like everyone has lost sight of this plume and I think an outside company can help," Bethpage Water District Superintendent Mike Boufis said. "They still don't have a handle on the plume."
The Navy has submitted a plan to the DEC focusing on delineating the plume and developing ways to remove the contaminants, said Lora Fly, a remedial project manager for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command. The plan includes looking at on-site treatment areas and examining if contamination is coming from something other than Navy sources.
It also involves Bethpage Water District running one of its drinking wells continuously for 90 days to see how that affects nearby monitoring wells.