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Town approves cleanup of former East Quogue landfill

Chemical levels in water were monitored near a

Chemical levels in water were monitored near a former landfill on Damascus Road in 2018. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Southampton Town is moving forward with a plan to clean up a former East Quogue landfill — where so-called "forever chemicals" were present at some of the highest detected levels on Long Island in 2018 — and potentially redevelop the site as a solar farm.

The town board at its Oct. 13 meeting voted 5-0 to sign a Brownfield Site Cleanup Agreement with the state, after the Damascus Road landfill site was accepted into the state Department of Environmental Conservation program in July. The site is the first on Long Island to join the program — which incentivizes the remediation of contaminated sites — because of elevated levels of perfluorinated chemicals, according to the DEC.

As a participant in the program, the town must investigate the full nature and extent of contamination within the site boundaries as well as the extent of any off-site contamination impacts, according to the DEC. The town will pay for the investigation and cleanup, which the DEC will oversee. Remediation costs have not yet been determined, officials said.

"This is a difficult and challenging process," said Deputy Town Supervisor Frank Zappone. "It’s well worth it if we get a site that’s certified as clear of any contamination at the end. That’s the hope."

The town is proposing to build a 1.75-megawatt community solar farm on the roughly 10-acre property.

The state in July adopted a drinking water standard of no more than 10 parts per trillion for the compounds perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), found in firefighting foams, and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), used in nonstick and stain-resistant products. Tests in 2018 at a well drilled south of the landfill revealed PFOS levels at 11,200 parts per trillion in the groundwater, or more than 1,000 times above the current standard.

The chemicals, which have been linked to certain cancers and other adverse health impacts, were also found in nearby drinking wells. The town and state funded the extension of public water, which unlike private wells is regularly tested and treated for such chemicals, to surrounding residents.

Town officials have expressed doubts the landfill is the source of contamination and said it never authorized hazardous activity there. But the landfill, which was closed to the public in 1973, was unmanned and car parts and household waste is scattered throughout the site, according to the application to the DEC. The application notes that East Quogue Fire Department members interviewed said the department did historically hold training drills on the site, but that they did not recall using firefighting foam.

"There’s no clear historical evidence there was any kind of activity that would indicate there was some event on this site that might have been the source of this contamination," Zappone said.

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