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Southampton Town officials doubt landfill is source of groundwater contamination

Some suspect Gabreski Airport, plan to seek state grants or use Community Preservation Fund to connect dozens of parcels to Suffolk's water mains.

An observation well at the site of a

An observation well at the site of a former Southampton Town dump in East Quogue, where perfluorinated compounds are suspected of contaminating surrounding private wells. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Southampton Town officials said last week that they are unconvinced a former town landfill in East Quogue — a site where perfluorinated compounds were detected in the groundwater last spring at record levels for Long Island — is the source of drinking water contamination in the area.

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, speaking during a Nov. 1 town board work session, instead pointed to Gabreski Airport as a possible source for perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) contamination, chemicals the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said are linked to certain cancers and other health impacts. The compounds, which were used in fire suppression foam and other products, have been detected by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services in 45 private wells near the long-closed landfill, on Damascus Road near Lewis Road. Three of the wells had compound levels at or near the EPA advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

“I’m not convinced this is even a contributing site,” Schneiderman said during a conference call at the work session with a Bayside, Queens-based geologist whom the town hired to resample state data and outline possible contamination sources.

The geologist’s report, which was discussed at the work session, found PFOS levels at 4,050 parts per trillion at a well downgradient of the landfill, meaning the sampled water flowed off the property. An upgradient well and a well west of the downgradient well had readings of less than 70 parts per trillion, said geologist Eric Weinstock, of the Scotland-based Wood Group.

Schneiderman pointed to the detection of PFOS and PFOA in a monitoring well on the east side of the airport property in October as a possible link to the East Quogue contamination. The chemicals were part of a liquid foam that firefighters used at the air base to practice extinguishing airplane fires.

Additional county data from nearby wells in Quogue and East Quogue will soon be available and provide a more complete picture, he said.

The source of the contamination will determine which entity pays to remediate the problem, although the town is seeking state grants and the use of its Community Preservation Fund money to finance public water access.

Town officials said 44 parcels can immediately connect to Suffolk County Water Authority mains. The system would have to be extended to offer service to 106 additional properties at a cost of $1.3 million, said Water Authority CEO Jeff Szabo.

Residents would then have to pay to connect to the mains, though Schneiderman said he would consider a proposal where the town lays out that money, which can be thousands of dollars per household, and recoups the cost through those homeowners’ tax bills.

Meanwhile, Lewis Road area residents remain anxious and question how soon public water could reach the area.

“They have to do something,” said Joey Cole 40, a Box Tree Road resident and mother of three whose well showed traces of the contaminants. “I think everyone should be connected to public water.”

Lucille Morreale, 73, and her husband Robert, 76, who live on Lewis Road,  said they are drinking and cooking with bottled water despite a detection of less than 4 parts per trillion of PFOA and no PFOS in their well. They still shower with well water for lack of another option, the couple said.

“Without water, what are we supposed to do?” Robert Morreale said.

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