New York State’s tough new drinking water quality standards for “emerging” chemical contaminants may be good news for Manorville residents without access to public water in the area south of the former Grumman site in Calverton.

New York has established first-in-the-nation maximum contaminant levels for 1,4-Dioxane and the strictest standards in the U.S. for PFOA/PFOS — chemicals known to have a wide range of health risks.

Navy test wells both on and off the site, most of which the Navy transferred to the Town of Riverhead in 1998 after Northrop-Grumman vacated the facility, produced water samples that contained PFOA and PFOS that exceed the standards established yesterday by the State Health Department.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not set a drinking water maximum PFOA/PFOS, but has issued lifetime “health advisory” exposure limits. The Navy test wells did not exceed the less stringent advisory levels set by the EPA.

The EPA also has not set a maximum contaminant level for 1,4-Dioxane, a chemical the agency classifies as a “probable human carcinogen.”

The Navy has never sampled its test wells in Calverton for 1,4-Dioxane.

The Navy tested 14 private wells in the area for PFOS/PFOA in 2018 and 2019 and concluded there was “no evidence of PFOS/PFOA plume emanating from the Grumman Facility at a depth that would affect private drinking water wells.” None of the results exceeded the EPA’s health advisory level.

The Navy also concluded that there is “no need for Navy to expand the range of private drinking water wells for testing.”

Homeowners’ private wells also have not been tested for 1,4-Dioxane. A test for that contaminant was not part of the water test provided to residents by the Suffolk County Health Department, which tests private wells once a year for Suffolk homeowners at no cost. The county health department’s laboratory is not equipped to test for 1,4-Dioxane, Legislator Al Krupski said in an interview earlier this year.

Following repeated requests by Manorville residents to the Town of Riverhead for an extension of the Riverhead Water District to serve their neighborhood, the Suffolk County Water Authority in February announced it would test residents’ private wells for some 400 contaminants, including 1,4-Dioxane, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at no cost to residents.

The testing was being set up when the COVID pandemic struck. It is now being rescheduled, according to Manorville homeowner Kelly McClinchy, who has been an organizer and informal spokesperson for her neighborhood.

“The new state standards should help a public water system access grants to bring public water to the area,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which advocates for safe drinking water.

The new rules will also require the county to include the emerging contaminants in the tests they provide to homeowners — even though they will need to have an outside lab do the analyses.

“When private homeowners get their wells tested and PFOA/PFOS are over 10 parts per trillion, they should be provided with a granulated carbon system,” Esposito said.

The Navy said if New York promulgates a standard, it will “reevaluate whether to provide an alternate drinking water source in light of that standard.”

No one knows for sure how widespread 1,4-Dioxane and PFOS/PFOA pollution is among private wells, due to lack of testing — and, until now, lack of maximum contaminant standards.

“Water that was acceptable two days ago is no longer acceptable today,” Esposito said. “These are enforceable standards.”

PFOS/PFOA and 1,4-Dioxane are synthetic chemicals used for a variety or purposes in many different industrial processes — and consumer products. PFOS/PFOA are no longer produced in the U.S. but enter the marketplace in goods produced in other countries. New York passed a law last year to phase out 1,4-Dioxane in consumer products, beginning in 2023. 

“This is a public health victory for millions of New Yorkers,” CCE’s Esposito said — especially residents of Long Island, which Esposito calls “the epicenter of 1,4-Dioxane pollution.”  Of 4,400 water supply systems tested nationwide by the EPA, Long Island has the highest levels of 1,4-dioxane detection, she said, with some water systems in both Nassau and Suffolk containing levels over 100 times the EPA’s cancer risk guideline.

The contaminant is found in 80% of cleaning and personal care products, including baby products, shampoos, body washes, lotions, and laundry detergents, according to CCE. It has historically been used as an industrial solvent stabilizer. 

The Navy, meanwhile, is “continuing to investigate the potential on-facility release of PFOS/PFOA at the Grumman/Calverton Facility identified,” it said in an update posted last week on the Naval Facilities Engineering Command website.

The results of its continuing investigation will be reported to the community at the next Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) meeting, which will be held at Manorville Fire Department headquarters on a date that is yet to be determined — but it won’t be before the end of October, according to the Navy website.

The Navy retains ownership of a handful of sites within the former Grumman facility for environmental clean-up purposes.

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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.