Sen. Chuck Schumer pushed bringing clean drinking water to Manorville residents living near the former Calverton naval weapons plant as a top priority for New York during a recent meeting with the U.S. Navy Secretary nominee.
The Democratic Senate majority leader met Friday with Carlos Del Toro, President Joe Biden’s pick to head the military branch, and also stressed the importance of further study in the area where perfluorinated compounds have been detected in private wells.
Advocates have for years urged the Navy to expand testing at the former Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant — which was owned by the federal government and operated by Northrop Grumman Corp. until 1996 — that is larger than a 1-mile radius.
"I urged the Navy to develop a comprehensive plan with local stakeholders to provide public drinking water to the impacted homes and again urged the Navy to expand its own study of drinking water near Grumman’s site in Calverton, as well as conduct its own sampling," Schumer said in a news release. "These are things that will need to remain priorities for the Navy, and they must act."
Schumer made similar requests in letters sent to former Navy secretaries Kenneth J. Braithwaite and Thomas B. Modly, both of whom served under the Trump administration.
A Navy representative would not comment Tuesdayon the conversation, as Del Toro has not been confirmed, but did say the Navy takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.
"We will continue to work in close coordination with our regulatory partners and the public as we determine our future cleanup actions at the former Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant (NWIRP) Calverton property," said Lt. Gabrielle Dimaapi.
Data from the Suffolk County Health Department that was released in December showed that perfluorinated compounds were found in nearly 15% of private drinking wells tested near the former Grumman plant. The chemicals have been linked to reproductive, endocrine and other health impacts.
The Navy has said its own analysis determined the plant did not cause any offsite private well contamination.
"A careful review of the SCDHS [health department] data, in conjunction with other available PFAS and groundwater flow data, indicates that the private drinking water wells sampled by SCDHS have not been impacted by a Navy PFAS release," the Navy said in an April 2021 update on its website.
PFAS refers to perfluoroalkyl substances that include harmful chemicals found in water systems around the country, and also been used in products like Teflon and firefighting foam.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment and a member of the site’s Restoration Advisory Board, has urged the Navy to take responsibility for the pollution and pay to extend public water in the area.
"The Navy loves water, but I guess not clean drinking water," Esposito said.
One proposal from the Suffolk County Water Authority estimated it would cost $12.5 million to extend public water to 128 homes in the area.
Manorville resident Kelly McClinchy, an advocate for further testing and public water connection, said residents appreciate that federal elected officials have made the issue a priority. McClinchy and her neighbors in May began displaying "Clean Water Now" signs in their yards and plan to keep them up until the issue is resolved, she said.
"We would love things to move more quickly than they’re moving; however, we are appreciative that he is on top of the issue," McClinchy said. "We’re not on the back burner."
MINDING YOUR P’s
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manmade chemicals that have been manufactured and used in various industries in the United States and around the globe. PFOA and PFOS have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals. Both are very persistent in the environment and in the human body — meaning they don’t break down and can accumulate over time.
PFAS: Perfluoroalkyl substances. They are found in many consumer products like cookware, food packaging and stain repellents. PFAS manufacturing and processing facilities, airports,and military installations that use firefighting foams are some of the main sources of PFAS.
PFOS: Polyfluoroalkyl substances. Found in a number of drinking water systems due to localized contamination.
PFOA: Perfluorooctanoic acid. Found in several drinking water systems due to localized contamination.
Source. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency