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Contaminants found in 15% of private wells near former naval weapons plant in Calverton

An aerial view of the site of the

An aerial view of the site of the former Grumman airport in Calverton. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Perfluorinated compounds were detected in nearly 15% of private drinking wells tested near a former naval weapons plant in Calverton, a finding advocates say underscores their calls to connect residents there to the public water supply.

The Suffolk County Health Department announced in February that it would sample the private wells near the property formerly owned by the federal government and operated by Northrop Grumman Corp. until 1996.

The data was released Wednesday and shared during a virtual stakeholder meeting hosted by the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

"There is grave reason to be concerned," said Adrienne Esposito, the group’s executive director, adding the next step would be to connect residents to public water. "There’s no greater holiday gift than clean water for the public."

New York State adopted a standard this past summer of 10 parts per trillion for PFOS, found in firefighting foams, and PFOA, used in nonstick and stain-resistant products. Four of the 95 wells tested by the Suffolk County Health Department in 2020 showed results above that standard, with the highest reading of PFOS at 98.5 parts per trillion. Ten wells had some detections of the compounds, but below the state standard.

PFOS and PFOA are part of a class of chemicals known as perfluorinated compounds that have been linked to reproductive, endocrine and other health impacts.

One well also exceeded the standard for toluene, a volatile organic compound that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, can disrupt the central nervous system.

David Todd, Public Affairs Officer for NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic, said initial investigations did not indicate the contamination flowed from the Calverton site, a statement Esposito called "wishful thinking."

"We look forward to receiving the data so that we can incorporate it into the Navy’s ongoing, comprehensive investigation of PFAS releases at the former NWIRP Calverton to continue to protect human health and the environment," Todd said in an email..

Environmental advocates, elected officials and residents have recommended bringing public water to the area. Public water, unlike private wells, is regularly tested and must meet standards.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in a letter to U.S. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite last month, urged the Navy to develop a plan to bring public water to the area and expand its investigation into toxic chemicals flowing from the facility.

Even the Navy’s own data indicates the contamination could be migrating farther off site and into private drinking wells, stakeholders have said. A map released last month 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.

"I don’t believe the Navy has investigated the extent of the offsite contamination both far enough offsite and deep enough into the aquifer," said Stan Carey, a Calverton resident and a water service professional. "Public health has to come first."

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