After more than a decade, Pauline Modica still won't drink the tap water in her North Shirley home.
Modica, 52, was among residents who in 1996 sued nearby Brookhaven National Laboratory, charging that air, water and soil pollution from the lab caused elevated cancer rates and depressed property values.
On Dec. 23, state Supreme Court Judge Joseph Farneti ruled the lawsuit can proceed as a class-action suit.
Modica still lives in a one-story house on Glen Drive. She boils water for cooking but refuses to drink the tap water, she said.
She was happy to hear the latest update in the lawsuit, she said. "I'm very optimistic," Modica said. "I do believe they are at fault."
Many of the other plaintiffs, former neighbors of hers, have left the community.
William Ferguson, 49, now of Las Vegas, said the news of the class-action status was long in coming. "Of course it's a good thing to move forward. However, it's taking a long time to get there," he said.
Nancy Wider, 58, moved to Blue Rock, Ohio, after she retired from her job. She was eager to leave the neighborhood. "They're responsible for what they did," she said of the lab.
While the current lawsuit does not cover personal injury or medical claims, some of the plaintiffs still link their health problems with toxins that moved off the lab property. Wider blames the lab for cervical cancer and intestinal problems she had.
Carol Angelora was 12 years old when her father moved her family from Brooklyn to the quiet suburb. Now 62, she said the family struggled to sell her parents' house after the lab's problems began to surface. Angelora said several family members, including herself, have developed cancer over the years.
"My mom had to sell her house for $60,000, back in 1999," she said by phone from her current home in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "I'm sure it was worth a lot more.
"My dad moved us out there thinking it would be the answer to a dream," Angelora added. "It turned out to be a nightmare."