Multiple fire departments responded to an ammonia leak at the...

Multiple fire departments responded to an ammonia leak at the Town of Oyster Bay Ice Skating Center in Bethpage on Jan. 27. Credit: Jim Staubitser

Hydrants at the Town of Oyster Bay Ice Skating Center had no water when Bethpage firefighters responded to a Jan. 27 ammonia leak that led to the facility's evacuation — and had been turned off for months, Newsday has learned.

Firefighters had to bypass the park's hydrants and hook up to others nearby on the street, according to Bethpage Fire Department Commissioner Gregory Patsos.

The fire official said he didn't know of any notification from the Town of Oyster Bay before the emergency response that hydrants at the facility, located at Bethpage Community Park, were out of service.

“We haven't received any notifications from the town that I was aware of,” Patsos said in an interview Wednesday.

The town released a statement later Wednesday saying "there was never a point" when none of the park's four hydrants was working, but conceded three of the four hydrants had been impacted by damage to a water line.

The water access problem could have made a volatile situation worse, according to the fire official.

“You could have had a fire or even an explosion, depending on the volatility of the ammonia. … Fortunately there was no fire and no one got hurt,” he added.

Patsos said that if a fire had broken out at the other end of the skating center, firefighters would have had to drag hoses about 600 feet — a distance of more than a football field and a half — to douse flames.

Bethpage Water District Commissioner Mike Boufis said Wednesday the park's hydrants are the responsibility of the town and have been out of service since Oct. 11, when a contracting company that was building a fence at the park hit a water line.

“It's absurd that they didn't have it repaired,” Boufis added of the town.

The water district official said work to repair the water line was going on Wednesday.

Town of Oyster Bay spokeswoman Marta Kane said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the town's four hydrants in the park “are presently fully operational." She said three of the four hydrants had been out of service since a water line was hit last fall, but one hydrant had remained in service.

Kane didn’t answer questions about when the three other hydrants came back online or if the town notified the fire department about the outage. The spokeswoman said water line repair work “did begin late last year” but “access was limited” because of Northrop Grumman’s ongoing cleanup of a section of the park.

Northrop Grumman representatives didn't immediately respond to request for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

The town sued the aerospace company in September, alleging its cleanup of a park section it used for years as a chemical dumping ground was too slow.

Part of the park has been closed to the public since 2002 and Grumman's responsibility to clean up the park, which is on land it donated to the town in 1962, was detailed in a 2013 agreement with the state.  

During the recent emergency response, the incident commander pulled firefighters back to use hydrants outside the park once they realized park hydrants weren't working, according to Patsos.

The hydrants outside the park are managed by Bethpage Water District, Boufis said.

Patsos said a more than three-month stretch is a “very long time for hydrants to be out” and added of town officials: “I think it was oversight, I'm assuming, on their part.”

Multiple fire departments responded to the scene for the ammonia leak and contained the spill, with first responders evaluating four people who didn't request further medical attention, Newsday previously reported.

The emergency kicked off after the refrigerant anhydrous ammonia leaked from a compressor that is used to make ice at the rink in what Nassau County Assistant Chief Fire Marshal James F. Hickman previously called a “dangerous” situation.

Hazmat crews responded about 7:15 p.m. and were on scene for about five hours, according to Hickman.  

The rink reopened Feb. 4, with a town spokeswoman saying previously that crews had to replace a gasket in the leaking compressor following a detailed inspection.

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