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Groundwater near dumping sites is safe, Suffolk officials say

At a press conference in Hauppauge on June

At a press conference in Hauppauge on June 3, 2014, Joe Pokorny, left, deputy chief executive officer for operations at the Suffolk County Water Authority, points to a map showing the locations of well sites in relation to areas where illegal dumping was recently discovered. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Public drinking water near sites in Suffolk County under investigation for illegal toxic waste dumping is safe, at least for now, officials said.

James Gaughran, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority, said the agency fielded calls from concerned citizens after Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota last month announced a criminal investigation into what is now estimated to be 50,000 tons of debris laced with asbestos, pesticides, heavy metals and petroleum products dumped at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

Initial tests of water in wells near sites under investigation done at the authority's in-house laboratory for heavy metals, pesticides and petroleum products came back negative, according to Karen Randazzo, director of water quality at the water authority. Testing for asbestos is being done at a private, contracted lab and results are expected within the next few weeks. Ongoing testing at public wells near dump sites will be ramped up to four times annually, Randazzo said.

"We want to assure them [the public] that it is safe and it will continue to be safe, and we're going to do everything in our power to make sure it is safe," Gaughran said of the public water supply. He called the dumping a "major environmental concern."

Although Clemente Park is not near public water wells, county officials say they are concerned about three other sites are also being probed by Spota: a Deer Park site at Brook Avenue in the Town of Babylon, which feeds into the Harvest Lane well in West Islip; the Nichols Avenue well near the six-home veterans subdivision in Islandia; and the Bellmore Avenue well, near the Islip Town-owned Eastview Drive ballfields in Central Islip.

Using computerized simulations to create groundwater maps, Gaughran said hazardous materials potentially left at the sites could seep into groundwater in 25 years. Full boring samples from the three sites are being tested. Initial asbestos tests were positive at the Central Islip site but did not show up in Islandia.

Spota has said those responsible for the dumping at Clemente Park are also to blame for the dumping in Deer Park. He said debris dumped at a private lot on Islip Avenue in Central Islip is contaminated with toxins similar to those found at Clemente Park.

The Islip Avenue site could potentially affect a public well on Fisher Avenue about 75 years from now, the maps show.

The water authority is prepared to bring civil action against whomever Spota deems criminally responsible for the dumping to pay for any remediation efforts needed to keep drinking water safe, Gaughran said. To build a new well site could cost upward of $2.5 million. Filtration systems, along with stringent monitoring, could also be used.

The Town of Islip passed a bond resolution last week authorizing up to $6 million to pay for remediation costs. That amount is likely to rise as the estimate was calculated before test results of the toxic fill at the park and Islip Avenue sites were completed.

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