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Residents near MacArthur Airport assured water is safe

Tim Hopkins, general counsel for the Suffolk County

Tim Hopkins, general counsel for the Suffolk County Water Authority, makes a presentation during a meeting on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 in the Connetquot Public Library. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

State and county officials sought to reassure concerned residents Monday night their drinking water was safe following the recent revelation that Long Island MacArthur Airport was a possible Superfund site.

News broke Jan. 30 that past use and storage of a firefighting foam at the airport could have contaminated drinking water supplies. Airport officials said Monday they have not used the foam at the airport since at least 2000.

Water samples taken at a nearby well in January detected a compound known as perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, above federal health advisory levels, officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation have said.

“I’m very concerned,” Ronkonkoma resident Jeff Brown said at the meeting, held at the Connetquot Public Library. “I obviously don’t want my family or anyone else’s family consuming water that is contaminated.”

Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) said officials called the meeting because many worried residents living near the airport had been contacting his office by phone, email and Facebook about potential water contamination.

“We’re all concerned when we hear about chemicals in the ground that may potentially have an impact on our quality of life or our lives,” Cilmi said.

The well with the contaminated sample is in Bohemia, about 7,500 feet from the airport. The Suffolk County Water Authority operates it as a water supply source.

Suffolk County Water Authority CEO Jeff Szabo said officials had already used a treatment at the site that removes the contaminant.

“We want to reassure the public that the drinking water in the community meets all federal and state guidelines,” Szabo said. “The wells in that area are treated with granular activated carbon and that carbon removes any PFOS that could be detected. We’ve taken several different samples and there was one sample detected that exceeded the advisory. It did not get into the drinking system. It was removed.”

Some residents said they were reassured by the efforts in place but want transparency going forward on all testing, including a preliminary investigation that the state Department of Environmental Conservation will be overseeing in the next several months.

“It’s a proactive approach to findings, I hope that something is going to be done,” Bohemia resident Jean Hengge said after the meeting. “I just hope that they collaborate with the town and the [Suffolk County] health department and all the other necessary intermediaries to make sure we’re safe.”

Some residents said they were frustrated that the testing identifying PFOS in the water was not shared with the DEC when it was found in July 2016.

Officials said the Authority is not legally required to hand over test results to the DEC, but provided the information when asked last month.

The DEC was told about one detection of 95 parts per trillion in mid-January and began looking for potential source areas, ending up at the 1,311-acre airport site. The health advisory level is 70 parts per trillion.

The potential site designation means Islip Town, which owns MacArthur, needs to investigate the soil, groundwater and other site conditions; if the town fails to do so, the DEC will tap state Superfund money.

The investigation will determine whether the site 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.

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