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Northrop Grumman sets public meeting on well project

Northrop Grumman wants to use drill rigs, support trucks, portable water containers, pumps and other heavy equipment to dig groundwater wells and take soil samples in a Bethpage neighborhood this July as part of a plan to clean up a toxic hot spot of contamination.

Work is expected to run through early 2017 and the series of borings and wells will be installed on Town of Oyster Bay rights of way in mostly residential areas, according to a letter sent last week on behalf of Northrop Grumman to select property owners in Bethpage.

The work will be discussed during a public meeting for affected residents from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Bethpage Senior/Community Center at 103 Grumman Rd. West in Bethpage.

Northrop Grumman spokesman Vic Beck would not say where those affected areas are. Sources said along Broadway south of Central Avenue was among the locations where drilling and sampling would occur.

It is unclear if road closures could also happen, but the town said a permit request has not been filed. “We don’t have a formal application,” town spokeswoman Marta Kane said.

A fact sheet announcing the meeting said work would take place between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and will take up to eight weeks to complete.

“Temporary borings will be drilled to collect soil and groundwater samples so that the permanent wells can be properly designed,” said the fact sheet — bearing an outdated state Department of Environmental Conservation logo.

“I’m happy they’re doing this but it hits too close to home,” said Bethpage resident Michele Rastelli, who received one of the letters.

In 2015, Northrop Grumman spent five months drilling in front her house on Broadway, sometimes shaking the house. “They should give a huge letter saying why they’re doing it, where they’re doing it and what is going on,” she said. “I feel like it is all so secretive.”

The well project is part of an overall cleanup plan to remediate a groundwater plume emanating from Bethpage Community Park, which is about 1.5 miles north of the proposed work site.

In March, the DEC ordered Northrop Grumman to speed up treatment of the contaminated hot spot or risk legal action after a monitoring well near Seaman Avenue detected 14,700 parts per billion of a mix of volatile organic chemicals. A solvent called trichloroethylene, or TCE, which is considered a likely carcinogen, was the most abundant chemical in the mix. Concentrations of more than 5 parts per billion of TCE violate safe drinking water standards.

Bethpage Water District Superintendent Mike Boufis said he appreciated the DEC and governor pushing for action. “They’re taking a proactive approach to this plume,” he said. “It’s going to inconvenience people’s summer but it’s necessary to remediate the plume and protect the rest of the wells.”

Northrop’s Beck could not provide additional information about possible road closures, the size of drill equipment or the number of wells expected.

“The meeting on Tuesday is for residents who live, and businesses who work, close to where contractors will be performing work to address groundwater,” he said.

Northrop Grumman’s consulting firm Arcadis said representatives from the DEC, the state Department of Health and the county health department will be attending as well, according to the letter.

“This is not DEC’s meeting, and we were not involved in the review or creation of any materials provided to residents in the impacted area,” the DEC said in a statement. “DEC staff will be on hand to ensure the accuracy of the information presented and answer any questions from the community.”

The Navy and what is now Northrop Grumman operated wartime aviation and space exploration testing, manufacturing and development operations on a more than 600-acre site in Bethpage from the late 1930s until 1996.

Groundwater contamination was first detected in the late 1940s and for decades the DEC, Navy, Northrop Grumman and water districts have tussled over how to treat and remove a series of groundwater plumes and soil contamination.

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