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On Bethpage plume, federal pressure matters

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer holds a press conference

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer holds a press conference at the Motor Head wellhead treatment plant on Oct. 11, 2012, calling on the Navy to reimburse Bethpage Water District for the cost of building a treatment plant to deal with the contaminated "plume" create by a near by Northrop Grumman plant Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Northrop Grumman has never signed a cleanup plan for the underground plume that over decades has spread more than four miles from the site of the company's former plant in Bethpage. So we greet with cautious optimism reports that the company is creeping closer to inking an agreement that would spell out its responsibilities.

The catalyst for this progress is the involvement of the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the interminable negotiations between Northrop Grumman and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Good for the EPA for injecting urgency into the talks.

Details of a deal, which would include the U.S. Navy, will be critical. We don't want an agreement simply to have an agreement. But a pact that finally forces the defense contractor to deal with the pollution it created is long overdue.