Sand piles at the southern end of EPCAL's eastern runway set off alarm bells among Manorville residents.

Piles of sand that recently popped up at the end of the eastern runway on the former Grumman site in Calverton have nothing to do with the Navy’s ongoing environmental investigation and remediation of the site, according to town officials. The sand was temporarily stockpiled there in connection with a Calverton Sewer District project.

Residents in the area grew concerned when they saw the sand piled there and saw trucks, including Riverhead Highway Department trucks, hauling it off site, because of known contamination issues on the formal Navy property.

Certain areas of the 2,900-acre former Grumman facility have been undergoing monitoring and remediation by the Navy for more than 20 years. The Navy retained ownership of the remediation sites when it transferred the rest of the property to the Town of Riverhead in 1998, so that it could continue environmental remediation efforts. Recently, test wells have detected the presence of emerging contaminants — 1,4 dioxane and PFAS — in proximity to several Navy remediation sites. The Navy remediation sites are located west of the eastern runway.

The stockpiled sand was not excavated where it was stockpiled, Sewer District Superintendent Michael Reichel said in an interview last week. It was trucked there by the town’s contractor from a 34-acre lot east of the runway where the Calverton Sewer District is constructing four recharge beds, Reichel said. The contractor doing the construction moved the excavated sand to the end of the runway and then removed it from the site, he said.

The Riverhead Highway Department has taken about 200 cubic yards of the excavated sand, Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson said. He saw the sand piles and asked Reichel if he could have some, because the highway department uses sand on certain roads in winter weather.

Neither the sewer district nor the highway department had the soil sampled for contaminants prior to its removal from the site, according to interviews with both Reichel and Woodson.

“Soil sampling wouldn’t normally be required. It’s in the middle of the forest,” Reichel said. “There was no contamination in that area.”

There are no Navy remediation sites on the lot where the recharge beds are being built, according to Navy documents. Two Navy remediation sites were located on the northeast corner of the former Grumman site on property designated by the Navy as “Parcel D.” They were two disposal sites that have been cleaned up by the Navy, which transferred “Parcel D” to the town several years ago. “Parcel D” is located to the northwest of the sewer district parcel where the recharge beds are going in.

Woodson said the area where the sand was excavated “was virgin territory.” He said he the trees growing on the site were “at least 30 years old” and the sand itself was “probably the cleanest sand I’ve seen in a long time — like beach sand,” Woodson said. It had no odor and no foreign materials in it.

According to documents on file in the town clerk’s office, the sewer district is building four 50-foot by 50-foot, four-foot-deep recharge beds on the 34-acre site. The recharge beds will serve a new sewage treatment plant the district is constructing at a cost of more than $10.5 million. The new plant will be a more effective treatment plant, with nitrogen removal, and will increase treatment capacity from 25,000 to 100,000 gallons per day. Its treated wastewater will be piped to the recharge area. Currently the treated wastewater discharges into the Peconic River.

Calverton Civic Association president Toqui Terchun said she was glad to hear the sand wasn’t excavated from a known contaminated site.

However, she questioned how anyone can be certain of exactly what areas might be contaminated at the site.

She pointed to a Newsday expose published yesterday (“The Grumman Plume: Decades of Deceit”) that documented deceptions and coverups by Grumman Aerospace/Northrop-Grumman in connection with groundwater contamination at its Bethpage facility.

Terchun said the town shouldn’t spread any sand from the site on its roads throughout its communities.

“How confident can we be in what the Navy is telling the residents of Riverhead today about what areas were contaminated and what were not, since the Navy says they’ve only investigated sites Grumman admitted to using as dump sites and hazardous materials storage areas?” Terchun asked.

The Navy has refused to cast a wider net in their investigations in Calverton. A Navy representative told the community at the Jan. 31 Restoration Advisory Board meeting in Manorville that it is not feasible to drill test wells all over the sprawling site and they would only do so upon evidence of contamination or documentation of activities by Grumman when it operated there.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.