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DEC head, other officials tour Wantagh plume site

The state's top environmental official, local politicians and water district representatives on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, visited a Wantagh site where a well is being drilled as part of a study examining how to clean up a series of groundwater plumes that began in Bethpage and have now migrated more than 3 miles south. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware)

The state’s top environmental official, local politicians and water district representatives on Thursday visited a Wantagh site where a deep exploratory well is being drilled as part of a study examining how to clean up a series of groundwater plumes that began in Bethpage but have now migrated nearly 4 miles south.

The $2 million engineering analysis — ordered by the governor and announced in February in Farmingdale — includes water sampling, fieldwork and 3-D modeling, as well as examining how to reuse or dispose of treated water, Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Basil Seggos said.

Soil and groundwater contamination has been traced back to research, testing and manufacturing operations conducted at a 600-acre Bethpage site from the 1930s through the 1990s by the U.S. Navy and what is now Northrop Grumman.

The site was added to the state Superfund list in 1983 and is subject to several cleanup plans and investigations, including one examining the handling of radioactive substances at the properties.

The Wantagh well is on Seamans Neck Road on state Department of Transportation property, and a second well will be installed on Oyster Bay Town property near North Park Drive.

“We’re drilling deep into the aquifer nearly 800 feet down at two locations to characterize the soil . . . characterize the water and the pace of the water underground . . .,” Seggos said. “The water travels from north to south, from the Bethpage area down to the Great South Bay, and we need to fully understand exactly how this water is traveling and how far it’s bringing its contamination.”

The wells will be at the leading edge of the plume and while DEC does not believe contamination has made it there, samples will be taken at regular intervals to be sure.

“Today is about — and this study is about — stopping new areas from being contaminated,” Seggos said.

In August 2016, the DEC released a report by the engineering firm HDR Inc. estimating the costs of fully containing and removing the contamination at between $268 million and $587 million. The study was the result of legislation filed by Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and then Assemb. Joseph Saladino, who is now supervisor in the Town of Oyster Bay.

“I’m very pleased we’re taking the offensive here,” Saladino said.

HDR, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, with offices in New York, is also doing this second study.

The site visit followed a closed-door meeting in Bethpage with DEC officials and representatives of the Bethpage, Massapequa and South Farmingdale water districts to discuss the groundwater contamination, which officials say could threatens the water supply of 250,000 people.

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