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Suozzi: Navy should take over treatment at closed Bethpage wells

Rep. Thomas Suozzi, seen in April, said the

Rep. Thomas Suozzi, seen in April, said the Navy could continue to treat water at the three well sites once they close, saving money and time. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Rep. Thomas Suozzi on Thursday urged the secretary of the Navy to buy three well sites from the Bethpage Water District, a move that could provide financial resources to the district and continue treatment of contaminated groundwater in the area.

Earlier this week, the water district told residents about a $17 million plan to phase out use of five drinking-water wells at the three sites and build new supply facilities outside the boundaries of plumes emanating from a site that the Navy and what is now Northrop Grumman operated from the 1930s to the 1990s.

The Navy and Northrop Grumman researched, tested and manufactured airplanes and space-exploration equipment at a 600-acre site in the hamlet. But their operations also led to lingering soil and groundwater contamination.

Several state cleanup plans are in place to treat the contamination, which was found and documented back in the late 1940s.

The water district has spent an estimated $17 million to treat and remove contaminants before water is distributed to customers.

In a letter to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Thursday, Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said the Navy could continue to treat water at the sites once they close, saving money and time.

“We want to get to this work quickly and the infrastructure exists at these locations,” Suozzi told Newsday. “This is a practical way to get this thing moving.”

Bethpage Water District Superintendent Mike Boufis said the district would like the wells to be used for remediation if they are successful in finding and building replacement facilities outside of the plumes.

“We would like someone else to take over our sites and use them for remediation,” he said. “We have the bulk of the equipment there. It makes sense to us.”

The Navy could not immediately be reached for comment.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said the district cannot close the wells until new wells are operating, but it is assisting Bethpage in the search for replacement facilities.

A study commissioned by the state last year to evaluate how to fully contain the plume includes assessing all treatment and drinking-water facilities in the area, including the sites the water district wants to phase out.

“The feasibility study incorporates flexibility in the use of these drinking-water plants as remedial systems in the future, whether or not they are needed to provide drinking water,” DEC said in a statement.

Last week Suozzi had a roundtable discussion with water suppliers, government officials at all levels, politicians and environmentalists to discuss the plumes and how to ramp up remediation efforts.

Suozzi’s letter to Spencer, who toured the site last year at the request of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), cited the challenges of finding and buying suitable property.

“With the Bethpage Water District’s decision to cease operations at these three wells, I request the Navy to immediately consider acquiring these wells from the water district in order to perform extraction and treatment on site . . .,” the letter said. “After 40 years, we cannot miss any chance to streamline the process and expedite remediation of the Navy/Grumman plume.”

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