New York State on Monday added Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach to its Superfund list, saying the facility poses a significant threat to human health after a hazardous chemical not regulated by drinking water rules was recently found there.
The announcement came during a water quality hearing in Smithtown hosted by the state’s Senate and Assembly health and environmental conservation committees to examine groundwater contamination issues and whether current policy and regulations adequately protect public health.
The state listed Gabreski as a potential Superfund site in July after sampling detected the chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, which can potentially cause blood, immune system, thyroid and fetal growth issues.
State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said the state would pay for Suffolk County to connect 66 nearby homes with private wells to municipal drinking water supplies.
“The Air National Guard has committed to addressing the contamination, but they cannot move quickly enough,” Seggos said. “Until they step up, the state will fill that void and assist the community.”
More than 30 speakers addressed the committees Monday, discussing infrastructure funding, nitrogen pollution, Superfund sites, unregulated contaminants, water conservation, algal blooms, fracking waste, state drinking rules and other concerns locally and elsewhere in the state.
Seggos also said the state had committed to giving $5 million for Stony Brook University’s Center for Clean Water Technology to develop new technologies to treat emerging contaminants.
The money will pay for grants to water suppliers to conduct pilot projects on new ways to remove and filter contaminants. It will also fund research to develop removal systems and commercialize the technologies as an economic development component.
“This is an investment the whole state will benefit from,” said Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “Perhaps one day our modern technologies will be able to remove contaminants before we even know about them.”
Zucker said the state will approve a pilot project to test a new treatment method to remove the chemical 1,4-Dioxane, a solvent that is a potential carcinogen and was found as part of an EPA survey of drinking water supplies nationwide.
During a similar hearing Wednesday in Albany, state officials pushed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to expand its program that surveys public water supplies to those serving populations of less than 10,000 people.
“Working together with environmental experts, elected officials and community stakeholders, we are holding polluters accountable, investing in water treatment technologies to keep our natural resources safe, and laying the groundwork for a cleaner, brighter future for the state of New York,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a news release.
Seggos also discussed the 1-mile-wide and 3-mile-long groundwater contamination emanating from a former Navy and Northrop Grumman manufacturing site in Bethpage.
Contamination was first discovered in the 1940s and the site was added to the Superfund program in the early 1980s but the contamination is still spreading.
“Whether it’s foot-dragging or inertia the pace of the cleanup has gone on for too long,” Seggos said.