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North Hempstead plume cleanup projected to take at least until 2044

A groundwater plume spanning 900 acres in North

A groundwater plume spanning 900 acres in North Hempstead has been 70% cleaned up by Lockheed Martin, but remediation will continue for at least two more decades. Newsday's Cecilia Dowd and Dandan Zou have the story. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Lockheed Martin has cleaned up 70% of the contaminant mass in a groundwater plume spanning 900 acres in North Hempstead but said remediation will continue for at least two more decades.

The groundwater plume originated from a 94-acre Lake Success facility on Marcus Avenue where chemicals used for manufacturing were dumped in dry wells for decades. It has spread northwestward to affect some wells in the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District and the Water Authority of Great Neck North.

"In 2044, we will still be remediating this plume," Glenda Clark, project lead of environmental remediation at Lockheed Martin, said last week in an interview, referring to the 30-year cleanup projection in a 2014 record of decision issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"There will still be groundwater plume — much smaller, of course, at that point in time," Clark said. "Lockheed Martin is in this for the long haul. We are committed to cleaning up this plume."

Lockheed Martin would not specify the breakdown of cleanup costs but did say that the price tag of remediation over the lifetimeof the project is estimated to be several hundred million dollars.

Contaminants include volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene (TCE), commonly found in solvents and some degreasers; tetrachloroethylene (PCE), often found in dry cleaning chemicals; and 1,2- dichloroethylene (DCE), used in the manufacture of perfumes and lacquers.

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, TCE can cause cancer, affect fetal development and lead to problems with the liver, kidney and immune and central nervous systems. PCE can cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction and impaired coordination. DCE has been linked to depression of the central nervous system.

Lockheed Martin inherited the cleanup responsibility after the company bought the former Unisys site in 1996. Since 1993, more than 10 billion gallons of groundwater have been treated through its two pump-and-treat systems, Clark said.

The cleanup plan that will go on beyond 2044 was deemed "unacceptable" by Laura Weinberg, president of Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, one of the community groups that organized a virtual forum Jan. 14.

"Frankly, I just think that’s a long time to wait for clean water," Weinberg said. "We’ve got an ongoing legacy for future decades here."

Clark said the public has no risk of exposure to the contaminated groundwater that is 100 to 400 feet underground.

The area has no private wells, and public drinking water delivered to households has already been treated by the two water purveyors, Clark said. Lockheed Martin reimburses both water districts for plume treatment costs under a 2013 agreement, she added.

Even so, water advocates said groundwater is the public’s water and needs to be protected so the public can use it as drinking water.

"They are saying the public has no exposure today. But we don’t know when new wells will be drilled in the future," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Also, "the groundwater moves. … The contaminant travels."

Esposito also urged more testing for emerging contaminants like 1,4-dioxane, which needs a specialized treatment technology for remediation.

"The sampling is the key to having a successful remediation plan," she said. "If these chemicals are not specially treated for, they would be then pumped back into the aquifer, re-polluting it."

Lockheed Martin last sampled for 1,4-dioxane in the third quarter of 2020, Clark said. Of the 25 wells, one had a concentrated level of 1.8 parts per billion, above the 1 parts per billion set by the state. Three out of 11 wells sampled for PFOA and PFOS in 2017 showed concentrations from 12 to 21 parts per trillion, higher than the 10 parts per trillion maximum level the state adopted last summer.

After the public forum earlier this month, DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren wrote in a statement that the department has directed Lockheed Martin to "monitor for 1,4-dioxane" and "provide a workplan for review and approval in order to further evaluate PFOA and PFOS."

PFOS — found in firefighting foams — and PFOA — used in nonstick and stain-resistant products — are part of a class of chemicals known as perfluorinated compounds that have been linked to reproductive, endocrine and other health impacts.

PLUME TIMELINE

  • 1941: The federal government builds the facility on Marcus Avenue.
  • 1947-1952: The site was used by the United Nations.
  • 1951: Sperry Gyroscope Co. bought the property.
  • 1986: Sperry merged with the Burroughs Corporation to become Unisys Corporation.
  • 1993: Unisys built the first groundwater treatment system.
  • 1996: Lockheed Martin bought the electronics and systems integration businesses of Loral, which acquired the assets of Unisys Defense Systems in 1995.
  • 2000: Lockheed Martin sold the property but retained the cleanup responsibility.

Source: Lockheed Martin

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