Field tests of contaminated Bethpage water may start this spring

Groundwater in Bethpage has been contaminated for years by the Northrop Grumman manufacturing plant. SKYLER GILBERT/THE LONG ISLANDERGroundwater in Bethpage has been contaminated for years by the Northrop Grumman manufacturing plant. SKYLER GILBERT/THE LONG ISLANDER

By Gregory Zarb and Skyler Gilbert

Field testing of ground-water contamination at Bethpage’s “Grumman Plume” could begin this spring, Martin Brand, spokesperson for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said in an email.. The investigation comes after decades of neglect for pollution at the site.

The DEC began its probe of the situation, an expansive leak of toxins from now-closed Northrop Grumman and U.S. Navy manufacturing plants on Feb. 17. 

“It’s an engineering investigation,” Brand, Deputy Commissioner for Remediations and Materials Management for the DEC, said. “We’ll take a look at the extent of the groundwater plumes and develop plans to keep that plume from migrating further, from moving, from expanding, and impacting drinking water supply wells that are currently not impacted.”

The problem was first identified in the 1940s, but has not been vigorously pursued until now. Many activists in the area are unhappy with the amount of time that it took to launch a comprehensive study, but are thankful that it is now underway.

“We’re a bit of both emotions,” Adrienne Esposito, head of the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, said. “Obviously, we’re glad the state is finally recognizing that there is a problem with the groundwater their citizens are drinking, but this should have come sooner.”

One of the leaked chemicals is trichloroethylene, which the Environmental Protection Agency has labeled as a carcinogen. Now the DEC has unveiled a comprehensive plan to start to take measures against stopping the plume from spreading.

“The plan is officially effective immediately,” Aphrodite Montalvo of the Long Island DEC said. “The DEC and Albany met throughout the week to figure out a proper plan and were able to get one done before announcing to the public on Friday.”

The plume is a two-mile-long by three-mile-wide area that has been slowly becoming larger, percolating its way into the Massapequa and Farmingdale water wells, according to the DEC in a press conference Friday afternoon.

“We’re going to spend 2017 doing the evaluation,” Brand said. “What those results will look like is a serious of options and alternatives that we can take, actually out there on the ground that would control that groundwater plume.”

Activists are still unhappy with the delay of the investigation, but are thrilled that action is finally taken.

“We are very happy that the DEC has decided to finally do something,” Esposito said. “They have agreed that the plume should be intercepted, the water contamination treated and then have a portion of the treated water recharged into the aquifer. This is exactly what we’ve been calling for, and what’s needed.”

Northrop Grumman was contacted, but declined to comment for the purposes of this story.

Brand indicated that although it was unlikely that any state-ordered maintenance would occur until 2018, the initial investigation will be completed this year.

“We expect to have preliminary results by the end of 2017,” Brand said. “The next step after that would be to go back to Navy and Grumman and say, ‘This is what we’ve come up with. Here is a plan for that groundwater plume. We want you to implement it and we want you to pay for it.’”

Private contractors of Northrop Grumman and the Navy are cleaning the site in various ways already, with the hope to prevent the plume from growing further in size.

About the Author

Gregory Zarb
Gregory Zarb
Gregory Zarb is a writer for the student run magazine publication The LongIslander. His passion falls under the sports reporting, as he hopes to eventually work at ESPN as a sports reporter.