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Don’t block needed drilling in Bethpage

Northrop Grumman contractors drill at the corner of

Northrop Grumman contractors drill at the corner of William Street and Broadway in Bethpage on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, as part of an ongoing investigation of a decades-old plume emanating from former manufacturing sites run by the Navy and what is now Northrop Grumman. Credit: Barry Sloan

The basic function of government is to protect its citizens.

So we can understand why Oyster Bay’s town board postponed a vote on allowing Northrop Grumman to drill a well in Bethpage to treat the awful groundwater plume there. Residents near the proposed well are concerned, and the board wants to do its due diligence.

But this is a vitally important well and due diligence must not result in derailment.

Oyster Bay must let Northrop Grumman drill this well. It took a lot to get to this point.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation took the lead in convincing Northrop Grumman to drill three wells and lay pipes from them to a new treatment plant to remove trichloroethene and other volatile organic compounds from the part of the plume that originates in Bethpage Community Park.

Northrop Grumman also agreed to have the wells and plant up and running by the end of next year.

The other two wells, located in parking lots, have been approved and work is underway. The third is in a residential area, a more sensitive location. But the site also is along the spine of the most intense contamination and farther down the route along which the plume is spreading, so it is a critical well and one approved by the DEC.

Construction disruptions will be temporary, in a fight predicted to last decades. When complete, the well and its associated equipment will be underground.

Northrop Grumman should respond to reasonable requests for information from Oyster Bay and it must ensure the safety of residents as the well is drilled.

The DEC must continue to ride herd on the process. But the decision to proceed lies with Oyster Bay and it’s a clear call: Let the drilling begin.


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