The U.S. Navy has agreed to pay $6.78 million for upgrades to a Bethpage Water District treatment plant that the Navy Secretary visited in September as part of a trip to examine local water-contamination issues.
The plant off Park Lane has two wells and is equipped with treatment systems to remove volatile organic chemicals associated with groundwater plumes that have been traced back to a Bethpage site where the Navy and what is now Northrop Grumman occupied more than 600 acres to research, test and manufacture airplanes and space exploration vehicles from the 1930s to 1990s.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) toured the facility in September after the senate minority leader pressed Defense Secretary James Mattis for action.
“We turned the corner with his visit,” Schumer, who announced the agreement, told Newsday on Monday. “I knew once he saw it and sat down with the local water districts he would understand the Navy was wronging this community for far too long.”
After meeting with local officials in September, Spencer said, “The Navy knows its responsibilities ... and we will do what is the right thing to do.”
The Navy money covers 90 percent of costs to rehabilitate the plant — installing new air strippers to remove contaminants, vapor control systems and other upgrades, Bethpage Water District Superintendent Mike Boufis said.
“It’s definitely good for us,” he said. “All of this has really started to get the cart rolling along.”
Some form of contaminant removal has been in place at the plant since the late 1980s and two air stripper towers were upgraded a decade ago, Boufis said.
“I’m very interested in seeing this site cleaned up after 40 years of people suffering with this in their neighborhood,” said Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who has also pushed for increased scrutiny and aid to speed up remediation. “I’m very happy this happened. There’s a lot more left to do.”
Activities on the Navy and Northrop Grumman sites began in the 1930s and lasted in some form until the 1990s. Contaminated water was first discovered in the 1940s and the site was added to the state Superfund list in 1983. Several cleanup efforts are underway to remove contaminated soils and a number of groundwater plumes.