Bethpage Community Park. The town alleges the company's cleanup of toxins has...

Bethpage Community Park. The town alleges the company's cleanup of toxins has been slow and that the state has done a poor job of overseeing it. Credit: Chris Ware

The Town of Oyster Bay sued Northrop Grumman on Tuesday, alleging the company's cleanup of a contaminated community park has been slow and the state's oversight of removal of toxic compounds from the soil has been "inconsistent and inadequate."

Joseph Saladino, town supervisor, said the federal suit seeks to force the aerospace giant to perform a faster and more thorough cleanup of Bethpage Community Park.

Grumman has been "dragging their feet, doing a cleanup that’s substandard because of the costs involved,” Saladino said. “It’s an insult to the Town of Oyster Bay and its residents.” The company did not return calls requesting comment.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said this week it was "committed to ensuring the responsible parties conduct an effective cleanup in as expeditious a manner as possible so that Bethpage residents can once again fully enjoy the park.”

The 18-acre property was once part of a 600-acre site in Bethpage where Grumman conducted aerospace manufacturing, research and testing. Between 1949 and 1962, the site was used as a dump for the company's hazardous waste. 

In 1962 Grumman gave the land to the town under the condition that it be used as a public park.

Forty years later, tests revealed the property was contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals such as chromium, cadmium and arsenic, and VOCs — all probable carcinogens. The park’s ballfield — built over a solvent-soaked rag disposal pit and sludge settling ponds — has been closed ever since. 

The complaint alleges Grumman “has not made meaningful progress” on the cleanup in the 20 years since the land was found to be contaminated even though the town was able to remediate a seven-acre parcel between 2005 and 2007. The company’s “on-going failure to address the PCBs,” the complaint reads, “represent a threat to public health and the environment.”

A report Grumman submitted to the EPA in January shows plans to excavate and rebury contaminated soils rather than remove them, according to the suit. The complaint says this plan essentially makes the park a landfill, which would violate state law that prohibits any new landfills on Long Island.

Reburying soil “is absolutely irresponsible, and that is something we" cannot accept, Saladino said. “Why on earth would you allow these contaminants to stay in the soil and continue to contaminate the Grumman Navy plume?”

Oyster Bay wants Grumman to clean the park to the highest standard of remediation, known as unrestricted use.

The DEC, according to the complaint, is content to allow Grumman to settle for the less exacting standard of “restricted residential use.”

The DEC said in a statement that it used "scientific and engineering analyses" to understand the extent of contamination and "has selected cleanup goals in the park that mirror other cleanups performed at public parks across the State, which protect public health and the environment."

The lawsuit asks the court to force Grumman “to immediately investigate and remediate” the land, reimburse the town for its remediation work 16 years ago and remove all contaminated soil. The town also wants a cleanup schedule and penalties if Grumman fails to meet deadlines.

According to the DEC, Grumman in July began extracting and treating groundwater that has migrated from the area under the park, with the treated water returned to the aquifer. The company also has removed 1,350 pounds of VOCs from beneath the ballfields through a process that heats the soil and extracts the vaporized chemicals, the DEC said. A second phase of work is scheduled to begin this fall.

The DEC said Grumman’s groundwater and soil vapor treatment systems prevent contaminated water and vapor from leaving the site. 

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