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Schumer asks Navy to expand study of drinking water near Grumman site in Calverton 

The former Grumman airport at Calverton in 2011.

The former Grumman airport at Calverton in 2011. Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

Sen. Chuck Schumer is asking federal officials to take a deeper look into whether potentially harmful chemicals from the former Grumman naval weapons site at Calverton have seeped into drinking water.

Last week, Navy officials unveiled the results of groundwater testing and sampling taken from the Calverton site and certain private drinking wells at a public meeting. But some neighbors want the testing area expanded.

In a letter to acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly sent on Saturday, Schumer (D-N.Y.) pointed out some of the chemicals found in foam once used at the plant in fire training exercises can have adverse health effects on humans and animals.

“The recent decision by the Navy not to further investigate the potential contamination of additional private drinking water sources near ... [the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant] is shortsighted and not in the interest of protecting public health and the environment,” Schumer wrote.

While much of the groundwater and private drinking well samples discussed at the public meeting were found to have levels of chemicals at or below state and federal standards, 14 of 80 samples taken near an area where the fire training took place exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-recommended levels.

Foam used in fire training at the time contained perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

The Calverton plant opened in 1954 to develop, assemble, test, refit and retrofit naval combat aircraft. The site was owned by the government but operated by Northrop Grumman Corp. under a contract. It closed in 1996.

Testing for contamination has been conducted over the years.

On its website, the Navy said testing conducted last year has shown there is no evidence a PFOS/PFOA plume is affecting private drinking water wells.

“Had the Navy detected high concentrations of PFOS/PFOA in the nearby drinking water wells, the Navy would have reevaluated the scope of private drinking water wells that it would seek to test,” the agency wrote on its website. “These detections of low (or no) concentrations mean that the Navy will not expand the scope of its private drinking water well sampling footprint.”

But Schumer said the Navy has not convinced local residents that their water is safe for use and consumption.

“To that end, the Navy must complete a full and comprehensive investigation in the near term into all nearby private drinking water sources and where appropriate, provide access to alternate drinking water sources,” he wrote.

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