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MacArthur Airport to undergo environmental study

Consultants will research history of firefighting foam use at the airport to determine if it may have led to contamination of nearby well.

A view of Long Island MacArthur Airport in

A view of Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma on March 15, 2018. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

An environmental consultant will study the history of Long Island MacArthur Airport's use of a chemical found in firefighting foam suspected as the source of contamination at a nearby well in Bohemia. 

Islip councilors voted unanimously on Feb. 12 to enter into contract with Arcadis Inc., based in Melville, for $353,500 to determine when and where the chemical in the firefighting foam was used, airport Commissioner Shelley LaRose-Arken said. 

State officials early last year said the Ronkonkoma airport is a possible Superfund site because the compound could have contaminated drinking water supplies after a well on Church Street, about 2 miles from the airport, tested above federal health advisory levels. The well was found unsafe one out of the seven times it was tested by the Suffolk County Water Authority in 2016, officials said.

Islip Town, which owns MacArthur, is complying with a DEC order to investigate the soil, groundwater and other site conditions. The investigation will determine whether the airport should be added to the state Superfund list, a designation that would require further investigation and creation of a remediation plan if contamination is found, officials said.

The firefighting foam hasn’t been used at MacArthur since 2000, officials said. 

“They’ll look at every facility, every square inch of the property,” LaRose-Arken said. “We’re just at step one. … The town and airport feel that it’s important because it’s clearly a federal health concern.”

Islip, state DEC and Arcadis will work together closely, LaRose-Arken said. DEC officials will oversee the investigation, they said.

Representatives of Arcadis could not be reached for comment.

LaRose-Arken said Arcadis will try to answer questions, such as "Are there any hangars on the property that have foam systems? And were those foam systems installed before or after the year 2000, and if they were installed, were those foam systems ever used?”

The contaminant detected at the well is a compound known as perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, state officials said. The test in 2016 detected a level of 95 parts per trillion, higher than the 70 parts per trillion that is considered safe under federal standards, officials said. 

The well was deemed safe after it was treated with carbon, state officials said. The contaminant, which can be especially harmful for unborn and breast-fed babies, has not been found in the public water supply, experts say.

In early 2016, New York listed PFOS and a related compound known as PFOA as hazardous substances, which allows the state to regulate their use and go after polluters.

Arcadis’ contract will be paid for by airport surplus revenue, LaRose-Arken said.

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