Bethpage Water District Blog

Friday, October 13, 2017

Bethpage Water District Participates in Productive In-Person Meeting with U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (NY) and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer to Address Northrop Grumman/U.S. Navy Groundwater Plume

During In-Person Meeting With Secretary Spencer, Schumer Raised Crucial Need for Toxic Plume Cleanup At Navy-Grumman Site & Said Navy Must Do More to Promptly Cover Water Districts’ Costs

   On Friday September 29, 2017, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer convened and led a critical meeting between new U.S. Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, and local water districts who have been impacted by the toxic plumes coming from the former Navy-Grumman site in Bethpage. Bethpage Water District stood front and center along with Senator Schumer, Secretary Spencer, and representatives from Massapequa Water District and South Farmingdale Water District at a press conference held on the steps of the Massapequa Water District.
    Earlier this year, Schumer met with Secretary Spencer, then nominee Spencer, where he pushed various Northrop Grumman plume-related clean up and payment issues. In that meeting, Schumer urged the nominee to do everything in his power to get the Navy to proactively corral the migrating contamination from the toxic plume and address new radioactive contamination in and around the former Navy-Grumman site in Bethpage. Senator Schumer specifically urged nominee Spencer to visit Bethpage and meet with local water district officials. As a result of their meeting, Navy Secretary Spencer committed to Schumer’s request.
    “Having U.S. Navy Secretary Spencer in Bethpage is an opportunity for the local water districts to educate the Secretary on the critical need for the Navy to more aggressively contain the advancement of the plume and to establish a better system for more prompt payment of the considerable costs the water districts absorb while they fight this battle,” said U.S. Senator Schumer. “We thank Secretary Spencer for taking the time to understand the concerns of locals and our water districts, and also the concerns I raised with him. At the end of the day, the more effectively local water officials are able to work with the Navy, the more we will be able to accomplish. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and closing the book on this long-standing issue will require more steps, which is why today’s giant leap of a meeting is so critical.”
    “Northrop Grumman created this costly environmental mess. Taxpayers and consumers should not be held responsible for paying for it,” commented Bethpage Water District Superintendent Michael Boufis. “The District has a responsibility to the individuals and families we serve, and we will continue to keep our community safe and to protect our water supply. We are grateful to have Senator Schumer and U.S. Navy Secretary Spencer join us for a tour of Bethpage Water District Plant No. 6.  It’s important for the Secretary to hear first hand the impact the Grumman Plume has on our community. This is a vital issue that needs to be resolved immediately.”   
    Schumer has long championed the local water districts of Bethpage, South Farmingdale and Massapequa as they struggled to contain and pay for the toxic plumes emanating from the former Navy-Grumman facility in Bethpage, often in face of corporate and bureaucratic stonewalling. Last year, Schumer successfully pushed for language in the 2016 Water Resource and Development Act (WRDA) that mandated that the Navy submit a report to Congress on the groundwater contamination at the Plume Site. The report must be submitted annually for the next 4 years. The report includes a description of the status of contaminants that are leaving the site and migrating to locations within a 10-mile radius of the site, a detailed mapping of the movement of the plume over time, analysis of the current and future impacts of the movement of the plume on drinking water facilities, and a comprehensive strategy to prevent the groundwater toxins from contaminating drinking water wells that have not yet been affected by the plume.
    Prior to Schumer’s one-on-one meeting with Richard Spencer, it was found that groundwater (not used for drinking water) nearby Bethpage High School was contaminated by high levels of radium. Bethpage Community Park, the location of the groundwater, was once part of a more than 600-acre complex where the Navy and the company, now known as Northrop Grumman, disposed of waste and other contaminants from operations associated with developing, testing, and manufacturing airplanes and space exploration aircraft. According to a document filed by state environmental officials and described in media reports, radium, tritium, polonium, uranium, and other radioactive isotopes were handled at the Northrop Grumman/Navy site in Bethpage. In 2012, Bethpage Water District was forced to shut down one of its drinking supply wells after elevated levels of radium were detected there. And finally, recent alarming media reports of company and regulatory documents suggest that radium and other radioactive materials were handled at the Grumman site, despite earlier denials that this was the case. Meeting participants pressed the Navy for more detailed information on the use, storage and disposal of radioactive materials at the site.
    Moreover, in additional meetings with the Department of Defense, Schumer also urged  Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to ensure that the Navy will continue to provide the local community with the financial and technical assistance it needs to clean up the plume. As a remediation effort, Bethpage Water District built wellhead treatment systems at Plants 4, 5 and 6 to purify the drinking water and ensure the delivery of high quality water to the Bethpage community. Because of the plume, the ground water contains volatile organic compounds (VOC), and the wellhead treatment systems will provide the two-step process to provide drinking water free of any VOCs, such as trichloroethylene (TCE). This wellhead treatment center employs “air stripping” and “granulated activated carbon” technology to remove TCE, among a multitude of other contaminants, to non-detectable levels. Air stripping involves air being force blown through a column of water so that VOC attaches to the air and is removed from the water. Bethpage Water District is still waiting on millions of dollars in reimbursement for this remediation effort and meeting participants pressed for more prompt and generous reimbursements for remediation and clean up related costs incurred by the water district.
    The U.S. Navy operated a Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve in Bethpage for many years, beginning in the late 1930s. Since 1976, when contamination concerns were first identified, the plume has spread and is currently threatening over 20 additional public drinking wells that serve over 250,000 Nassau County residents in Bethpage, Massapequa, South Farmingdale and Wantagh Districts. There are at least two plumes currently within the Bethpage community, and contaminants were detected in five of the nine wells operated by Bethpage Water District. The first plume originates from the Grumman Aerospace Corporation and Navy manufacturing facilities, and the smaller plume is associated with the Bethpage Community Park where Grumman and the Navy disposed of wastes. The Bethpage Water District currently has 35,000 customers.


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About Bethpage Water District

Established in 1923, Bethpage Water District is one of the most tenured Districts on Long Island, serving more than 8,800 accounts through a stretch of 110 miles of water main across the District. Our water comes from nine wells on six pumping sites, with a total pumping capacity of over 11,000 gallons of water per minute. All wells combined pump approximately 1.4 billion gallons of water per year. We serve an area of five square miles, which includes Bethpage, Old Bethpage, Plainview, Farmingdale and Levittown. Bethpage Water District is located at 25 Adams Avenue, Bethpage, NY 11714. Phone: (516) 931-0093.



Foreground: (L to R)

Michael Boufis, Superintendent Bethpage Water District, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (NY), Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer

Background: (L to R)

Stan Cary, Superintendent Massapequa Water District, Raymond J. Averna, Commissioner Massapequa Water District,
Joseph Tricarico, Commissioner Massapequa Water District, Francis Koch, P.E., Superintendent South Farmingdale Water District

Foreground: (L to R)

Michael Boufis, Superintendent Bethpage Water District, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (NY), Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer

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