The Environment

A widening toxic threat

Merrick activists want chemical plume cleaned up

A group of Merrick activists is calling on the State Department of Environmental Conservation to take over cleanup of the Grumman/Navy chemical plume that is migrating underground from Bethpage into Wantagh and Seaford.
Scott Brinton/Herald

A half-dozen Nassau County environmental and civic activists, most from Merrick, came to Bethpage Community Park on April 21 –– the day before Earth Day –– to call on the state to accelerate efforts to clean up a massive underground chemical plume that has crept for more than seven decades from Bethpage toward South Oyster Bay.

     The plume, a slurry of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that includes trichloroethylene, or TCE, is moving steadily through groundwater. Activists said they worry that the plume might contaminate Long Island’s aquifers. Those underground stores, hundreds of feet below the surface and thousands of years old, supply the Island’s drinking water.

      David Denenberg, a former Nassau County legislator from Merrick who was among the activists, said the state should apply money from its Superfund to clean up the Bethpage plume immediately and then seek compensation from the responsible parties –– Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy.

      “We’re saying just do it,” said Denenberg, an environmental engineer by training.

In 2014, the state Legislature passed a measure requiring Northrop Grumman and the Navy to contain the plume, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed. 

Assemblyman Anthony Saladino, a Republican from Massapequa, was among the bill’s sponsors.  He earlier told the Herald that the plume must be stopped before it infiltrates more drinking-water wells than it already has –– 20 in all.

Saladino said he worries about untainted wells owned by the Massapequa Water District and Long Island American Water, which supplies Wantagh-Seaford and Bellmore-Merrick.

“There is no reason not to clean up,” Saladino said. “It’s expensive … but don’t let the plume get to areas that have not already been affected.”

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