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OpinionEditorial

Keep the focus on clean water, especially 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. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

It took 14 years for Northrop Grumman Corp. to sign a consent order requiring it to take responsibility for cleaning up the groundwater plume its manufacturing operations created in Bethpage. Better late than never.

The Navy, which shares responsibility for the toxic mess, signed on to a similar plan in 2003. Bravo to state and federal officials who finally forced Northrop Grumman's hand. Now the officials must ride herd on the company to ensure it continues its cleanup efforts, shares information about those activities, coordinates its efforts with the Navy, and meets deadlines for filing progress reports.

That wasn't the only good news last week for clean water proponents. State and federal officials also reached an agreement -- with each other -- on the use of clean water funds for construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The pact followed an attempt by the state to help pay for the new Tappan Zee Bridge by raiding $510 million from clean water funds given by the federal government. But the federal Environmental Protection Agency blocked that, ruling most of the spending had nothing to do with clean water. The agreement allows $31 million to be used for several bridge-related projects, while declaring $480 million not eligible. The state will drop its appeal of the EPA's original action. Still unclear is how the $3.9-billion bridge will be funded, given that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants to avoid a huge toll increase.

Agreement in hand, now the state should get back to using the clean water funds as intended -- to help communities improve their sewer and septic systems. That would be a big win for Long Island, where such needs are enormous.

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