The Town of Oyster Bay plans to reopen on Monday parts of Bethpage Community Park that had been closed off to the public since April after state officials opened an investigation into reports of buried drums on the property.
Supervisor John Venditto ordered fencing removed around tennis courts, a playground, a picnic area and other locations after the state Department of Environmental Conservation said it was likely the drums in question had been removed during an excavation project in 2005.
“Bethpage Community Park will be reopened and we will go forward from this as it if were normal,” Venditto told Newsday in an interview Friday afternoon. “I am certainly very happy that that chapter of the story had a happy ending.”
Fencing around the pool area also will be removed but that part will not open until the end of June, as previously scheduled.
DEC officials confirmed in April that it was investigating a whistleblower’s report that large drums were discovered at the park during excavation work in the 1990s and subsequently reburied.
The agency said it planned to look at the site history and speak with the person who made the claim. The investigation is ongoing.
DEC Director of Environmental Remediation Robert Schick sent a letter to the town Friday saying the agency had consulted with the state Department of Health and no contamination had been identified that would require parts of the park to be closed.
“DEC will continue its efforts to confirm the location of the potential contamination with the individual who made the report,” Schick wrote to Venditto. “If additional credible information comes to light through our investigation, DEC will immediately let you know so that appropriate actions can be taken.”
Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., which is now called Northrop Grumman, donated the park land to the town in 1962. Before that it had been legally used to dispose of paint, oils, chromium-tainted sludge, arsenic and other solvents.
The 18-acre park was once part of a more than 600-acre complex where the Navy and Northrop Grumman developed, tested and manufactured airplanes and space vehicles.
Groundwater contamination was first discovered in the 1940s and the site was added to the state’s Superfund list in 1983. Several cleanup plans are ongoing to remove contaminated soils and remediate groundwater contamination, some of which has moved off-site in a series of plumes.
The park has been closed several times since 2002 to test for contamination, remove contaminated soil or undertake construction projects. Between 2006 and 2007, the town removed 173,000 tons of contaminated soil and nonhazardous debris, according to town environmental consultant John Ellsworth.
The DEC said the town confirmed removing “buried drum remnants and debris” during excavation work in 2005. “It is likely this area is where workers involved in prior excavation reported encountering the drums,” Schick wrote.