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Hundreds attend Bethpage meeting on contamination

Anthony Sabino, attorney for Bethpage Water District makes

Anthony Sabino, attorney for Bethpage Water District makes a statement at a meeting held by the NY State Dept. of Enviormental Conservation to discuss plan to clean groundwater at the Bethpage Community Park, which was contaminated by Northrup Grumman. (June 12, 2012) Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Hundreds of residents crowded into Bethpage Senior High School Tuesday night to air concerns and comment on a $61.5 million state plan to clean up contamination and treat a deep underground plume threatening public water supplies in the area.

The Department of Environmental Conservation's cleanup plan for Bethpage Community Park proposes excavating 45,000 cubic yards of contaminated shallow soil, and another 25,000 cubic yards of deeper soils that have high levels of polychlorinated biphenyl, a carcinogen. It also calls for the installation of at least one treatment well to extract and treat contaminated groundwater. .

At focus is a 3.75-acre parcel in the 18-acre Oyster Bay Town park that was donated to the town in 1962 by what is now Northrop Grumman. For years, paint, oily waste, chromium-tainted sludge, arsenic, solvents and other compounds were dumped in the area.

Cleanup through various phases has been ongoing for at least 25 years.

Ninety minutes into the three-hour meeting, several water district and water supplier representatives questioned the plan, saying it does not do enough to clean up contamination.

William M. Varley, president of Nassau County's largest water supplier, Long Island American Water, objected to the plan because it had a goal of containing 90 percent of the plume.

"We have a significant amount of resources," Varley said. "One percent containment has to be attainable."

Other districts are seeking the help of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The Massapequa Water District hand-delivered 5,400 petitions last month to Cuomo asking him to intervene and advocate for a more stringent approach to contain the plume.

The governor has not responded, Massapequa Water Commissioner John Caruso said.

Earlier this month, the Massapequa, Bethpage and South Farmingdale water districts also wrote to Cuomo, saying they believed the plume threatened 33 public water supply wells and that the DEC plan was not comprehensive or detailed enough to explain how water supplies would be protected.

The plume's primary contaminant, Trichloroethene, can cause liver, kidney, immunological, endocrine and developmental damage, as well as several types of cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

" must be stopped from entering our water supply and it's your responsibility to do so," Caruso said.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) agrees with the water districts.

"We have consistently said that . . . remediation -- not post-contamination wellhead treatment -- should be the priority," Schumer said in a statement. "It doesn't make sense to simply allow these toxins to continue seeping toward groundwater supplies and then react after the fact."

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