Contaminants were found in private wells near the old Grumman...

Contaminants were found in private wells near the old Grumman site in Calverton. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Sen. Chuck Schumer is urging the U.S. Navy to develop a plan to connect residents living near a former Calverton naval weapons site to public water as contaminants have been detected in private wells.

The senator is also asking the Navy to expand its investigation into toxic chemicals flowing from the facility, which was owned by the federal government and operated by Northrop Grumman Corp. until 1996.

In a letter to Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite sent on Oct. 28, Schumer (D-N.Y.) noted that the levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) detected in nearby drinking wells exceed state standards adopted for those compounds in July.

"This new reality requires immediate attention and action from the Navy, specifically, to provide public drinking water to the impacted homes and an expanded investigation into other potentially impacted water supplies further downgradient of the known release sites," Schumer wrote in the letter.

Representatives in the Navy public affairs office did not respond to request for comment.

New York on July 30 adopted a standard of 10 parts per trillion for PFOS, found in firefighting foams, and PFOA, used in nonstick and stain-resistant products. It also adopted the nation’s first standard for 1,4-dioxane, an industrial solvent and likely carcinogen, at 1 part per billion.

Eighteen of the 25 samples taken from test wells detected 1,4-dioxane with seven times above the state standard, but no private wells have been sampled by the Navy for the compound to date, Schumer said. Four private wells sampled by the Navy in 2018 showed detections of PFOS/PFOA ranging from 4.61 ppt to 16.83 ppt. The Navy at the time said that none of the samples exceeded the federal health advisory level of 70 ppt.

The Suffolk County Department of Health is also sampling private wells in the vicinity. Spokeswoman Grace Kelly-McGovern said of the 22 samples analyzed to date, one detected PFOS/PFOA at 98.5 ppt and three others showed detections below the state standard. Dozens of other tests and results are still pending.

The senator said less than a mile of water main would probably need to be extended to connect residents in the area. Public water, unlike private wells, is regularly tested and treated for contaminants.

"When you live that close to a Superfund site, private wells need to be tested," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "The Navy is really failing the public."

Ultimately, the Navy and the state would work together to determine if the federal government must adhere to the state’s standards, according to Schumer’s office. The Navy is scheduled to hold its next virtual Restoration Advisory Board meeting on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.

"We have been dealing with this issue for many years," said Kelly McClinchy, a Manorville resident who lives south of the property and has spoken out on the issue. "Our ultimate goal is to get public water extended to us, so we know we are getting safe clean water every time we turn on the tap."

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