water-from-kitchen-tap
Manorville residents near the former Grumman site will have their well water tested by the Suffolk County Health Department and the Suffolk County Water Authority. Stock photo

Private wells in the Manorville neighborhood abutting the former Grumman manufacturing plant in Calverton will be sampled for some 400 contaminants, including 1,4-Dioxane, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at no cost to residents, Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman Patrick Halpin said yesterday.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services is going to expedite the testing, Halpin said, and the Suffolk County Water Authority will assist with the analysis.

The testing plan came out of a meeting yesterday morning at the water authority’s office in Oakdale, set up by Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which was attended by community residents, County Legislator Al Krupski, health department officials and representatives of Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Lee Zeldin.

“The meeting was well attended and the collective goal is to provide 63 residents with safe municipal water,” Esposito said yesterday. “We can expand existing infrastructure to replace private wells, however the challenge is funding,” she said.

“It’s immensely frustrating that we need to find grants or a funding source so people can obtain clean water in the year 2020.”

Clare-Bennett-cooks-with-bottled-water
Manorville resident Clare Bennett in the kitchen of her Oakwood Drive in 2015. Her well water has MTBE, benzene, acetone and other contaminants. File photo: Peter Blasl.

Testing is the first step toward bringing public water to the area, where many private wells have tested positive for a variety of chemical contaminants, Halpin said.

“It’s important because we have to have more information to document the extent of the contamination,” Halpin said.

To date, only a handful of the wells in the area have been tested for the “emerging contaminants,” for which there is not yet an established state or federal drinking water standard. Some have had results over the proposed 10 part-per-trillion standard currently being promulgated by New York State. Other well sampling has indicated the presence of a number of other contaminants such as MTBE, benzene, isopropylbenzene and acetone, among them.

The Navy — which owned the entire facility when Grumman Aerospace (later Northrop-Grumman) operated it from 1954 to 1996 — has refused to conduct a survey of neighboring private wells for contaminants, despite having documented a 2,000-foot-wide volatile organic compound (VOC) groundwater plume that had already migrated off-site from the southern boundary of the property. The Navy estimated the volume of the VOC-impacted groundwater to be 340 million gallons.

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The VOC plume on the southern end of the former Grumman site in Calverton, flowing off the Navy property toward the Peconic River. Image: U.S. Navy 2012 Record of Decision

The plume, flowing to the southeast, emanated from a site used by Grumman in the testing of aircraft fuel and engine systems from the late 1950s to 1996, according to Navy documents. That site, designated as Site 6A and located in the southern area of the facility, is one of several sites the Navy retained for remediation when it transferred about 2,900 acres to the Town of Riverhead in 1998. The other sites, nine in all, were scattered throughout the facility. All have undergone investigation and, monitoring and, as determined necessary by the Navy, remediation.

Documenting the source of the contamination is also critical, Halpin said.

The extent and source of the contamination will determine whether state or federal grant funds are available to help offset the cost of providing water to affected homes. That funding is essential to completing the project, according to officials, whether the water is supplied by the water authority or the Riverhead Water District.

Though residents have for years been asking the town board to extend the Riverhead Water District to their homes, town officials have in the past said the project was cost-prohibitive, citing the distance of existing town mains.

Halpin said yesterday the water authority’s mains are closer to the Manorville area than the town’s mains and said it would be more cost-effective to connect the homes to SCWA mains.

The water authority has ample capacity to serve the 63 homes in question, Halpin said. The Riverhead Water District, he noted, has had capacity issues during peak times of year.

“We have three well fields nearby that can serve that area,” Halpin said. “We have redundancy.”

Town board members made it clear during their meeting Wednesday night and in interviews immediately following that they do not want the Suffolk County Water Authority to provide water to Riverhead residents. Word of yesterday’s meeting at the Suffolk County Water Authority prompted town officials Wednesday to hastily authorize the preparation of a map and plan for a Riverhead Water District extension in Manorville.

“The Riverhead Water District has the capacity to serve the area,” Councilman Frank Beyrodt, town board liaison to the water district, said after the board’s Wednesday night meeting.

“We’re happy the town has taken a step, which is more than we’ve ever gotten in the past,” said Manorville resident Kelly McClinchy, who has been an outspoken advocate of the cause for public water.

No one knows the extent, nature or sources of contamination, McClinchy said. The Navy wants to limit where they look, based on where Grumman told the Navy they dumped things or used hazardous chemicals.

“With everything we’re learning about how Grumman covered up contamination at their Bethpage site, why would we think it would be any different in Calverton?” McClinchy asked.

“We do know PFOS and PFOA were found over the proposed limits. We know there’s a VOC plume. We know the Navy has no intention of cleaning it up. People have had MTBEs well over the limit in their wells,” McClinchy said.

The Navy hasn’t tested everywhere. There are hundreds of acres of woodlands that haven’t been investigated, McClinchy said.

“No one — not the Navy, not Grumman — wants to take responsibility,” she said.

“We know Riverhead wants to keep Riverhead, Riverhead. But this is not a political game,” McClinchy said. “The one and only goal is to make sure everybody has clean water to drink.”

The water authority has more resources than the town and can probably get the job done in a more timely manner, McClinchy said yesterday after the meeting at the authority’s offices in Oakdale. The residents want to see a timeline, she said.

“Where do we go from here? Every day, we’re showering in it. Brushing our teeth with it,” McClinchy said. “In our lives, it doesn’t ever get put to the side.”

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