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Advocates: Contamination may have spread in Calverton

Testing of private wells continues at the old

Testing of private wells continues at the old Grumman site in Calverton. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Data released by the U.S. Navy indicates that contamination from the former Grumman property in Calverton could be migrating farther off site and into private drinking wells, residents and elected officials said.

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 — larger than a one-mile radius.

A map released last week of test wells and sample results taken near the property’s fence line treatment facility show detections of PFAS chemicals as high as 36 times state drinking water standards. The data from 2016 and 2017 was released to Stan Carey, a Calverton resident and career water systems professional.

Carey said the groundwater flow indicates the contamination could be more than a mile off site.

"Just because the Navy and their consultants identify an area on a map with a big circle of what they're focused on, it doesn't mean that it hasn't traveled over the past 20 or 30 years beyond that circle," he said.

A Navy spokesman said the investigation follows the federally mandated cleanup process.

"The Navy remains committed to its PFAS cleanup responsibilities at NWIRP Calverton and will continue to let the data and the science dictate the scope of the investigation and remediation," David Todd, public affairs officer for Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic, said in a statement.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who earlier this month called on the Navy to develop a plan to connect nearby residents to public water, said he hopes to work on this issue with the Biden Administration’s incoming secretary of defense who had not been named as of Wednesday.

"This map lays bare the failure of the Navy to expand its site investigation of PFAS and PFOA offsite to fully understand where these chemicals are," he said in a statement. "Furthermore, they are failing to abide by state health standards by not immediately connecting nearby homes to public water. I look forward to addressing these failures with the incoming Secretary of Defense."

New York this summer adopted a standard of 10 parts per trillion for PFOS, found in firefighting foams, and PFOA, used in nonstick and stain-resistant products. But at its most recent Restoration Advisory Board meeting on Nov. 12 Navy officials said they would abide the Department of Defense standard of 40 ppt, four times New York’s standard.

The Suffolk County Department of Health is also sampling private wells in the vicinity and as of earlier this month detected at least one well with a PFOS/PFOA reading at 98.5 ppt, said spokesperson Grace Kelly-McGovern. Dozens of other tests and results are still pending.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment and a member of the restoration board, said it’s the Navy’s plan to downplay and delay the cleanup. Newsday published an investigation earlier this year, The Grumman Plume: Decades of Deceit, detailing the history of deceptive statements, missteps and minimization that slowed cleanup at Grumman’s Bethpage plant, which the Navy owned a portion of.

"The Navy needs to prioritize public health over saving money," Esposito said. "They Navy works hard to do nothing to protect our water."

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