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Hearing set in lawsuit over Great Neck North Water Authority claim that Lockheed Martin owes $10M+

A treatment plant on Marcus Avenue near Lake

A treatment plant on Marcus Avenue near Lake Success that Lockheed Martin operates to remediate the Great Neck plume. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A state Supreme Court justice has set a preliminary conference to hear a lawsuit the Water Authority of Great Neck North brought against Lockheed Martin, alleging the defense company failed to pay more than $10 million it owed the agency to clean up a groundwater plume in Great Neck.

Judge Timothy S. Driscoll set the conference for Feb. 24.

In a lawsuit filed Oct. 30, 2020, in state Supreme Court in Mineola, the plaintiff said Lockheed Martin breached the 2013 agreement it signed with the water authority and the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District.

Lockheed Martin, which is responsible for remediating the plume that originated from a Lake Success facility, agreed to reimburse the two water districts for costs incurred to treat the plume that has spread northwestward and affected some of their wells.

The agreement went into effect in 2014 and was to last 30 years.

What led to the contractual dispute was disagreement over whether Lockheed Martin is responsible for the money spent to treat two wells on Watermill Lane. The treated contaminants include likely carcinogens tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE).

"It was a win-win solution for both sides until Lockheed Martin breached the contract by withholding payments in excess of $10 million," the water authority’s superintendent, Gregory Graziano, wrote in an emailed statement.

Officials from the water authority and Lockheed Martin both declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

In court papers, Louis Orbach and Justin Tan, attorneys representing Lockheed Martin, wrote the company is "not obligated under the Agreement" to pay for treatment of a different plume. They pointed to the Stanton Cleaners Area Groundwater Contamination site about three miles northwest of the former Unisys facility on Marcus Avenue.

The Stanton plume stemmed from a shuttered dry-cleaning business on 110 Cutter Mill Rd. that discharged solvent into a grassy area at the back of the building, which led to soil and groundwater contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency placed it on a federal Superfund list in 1999.

"Plaintiff has had treatment systems in place for the Watermill Lane Wells since prior to the effective date of the Agreement due to contamination of those wells by compounds emanating from the Stanton … site," Orbach and Tan wrote in a Nov. 17 court filing.

In a separate statement, Graziano called the Stanton plume "past history."

"The plume has dissipated considerably over 40 years, virtually to levels near or below allowable Maximum Contaminant Levels," he wrote. "… It is unfortunate that Lockheed is using that history as a way to evade their legal obligation to reimburse the Authority for the cost of addressing the impact of their plume on the Authority’s well sites."

The two Great Neck plumes share three volatile organic compounds: PCE, TCE and 1,2- dichloroethylene (DCE), a chemical that can decrease the number of red blood cells and affect the liver.

In 2014, the water authority detected the three contaminants in one Watermill Lane well, according to a presentation Graziano made at a January forum.

Earlier in 2009, a fourth contaminant — Freon 113, a marker of the Unisys plume and a solvent that can cause ozone depletion — was detected in a different Watermill Lane well, the superintendent said.

The water authority said Lockheed Martin also didn’t pay it $250,000 for remediation costs at affected wells on Community Drive.

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