The State Department of Environmental Conservation has set a date for a public information meeting during which the agency will explain its decision not to clean up a roughly 2-mile-long plume of contaminated groundwater in Speonk.
According to DEC spokesman Bill Fonda, the meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 27, from 7 to 9 p.m., in Room S-101 in the Shinnecock Building on the eastern campus of Suffolk County Community College in Northampton.
The meeting will address the immediate concerns of residents who were first notified about the plume more than a decade ago, discuss the results of the site characterization report for the area, provide information about the site classification, and explain the agency’s rationale behind not removing the chemicals from the soil.
The primary contaminants found in the plume are perchloroethylene, trichloroethene, trichloroethane, carbon tetrachloride and chloroform; several of the chemicals are metal degreasers while chloroform is primarily used to make other chemicals. A source of the plume has not been found.
“This is what we were looking for,” State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said this week regarding the DEC’s decision to hold a meeting and explain its reasoning. “We want a public hearing whereby the entire process of analyzing this site is open and transparent. The DEC has a lot of explaining to do.”
The plume was discovered in 2001 after an unidentified resident complained that the well water in Speonk tasted odd. The pollution was the subject of a massive 16,000-page characterization study commissioned by the DEC and conducted by the Massachusetts-based environmental consulting firm Camp Dresser and McKee.
The report was completed in December 2011, though the DEC never formally announced its finalization—or its decision not to treat or remove the contaminated groundwater.
The report, which took more than a year to complete, also failed to identify a potential source of the plume—a necessary step in determining a guilty party responsible for funding any remediation efforts. Late last year, after learning that the DEC had relabeled the plume as a class “N” site—which stands for “No Action Necessary”—and would, therefore, not be performing any remediation, officials with the Group for the East End began calling on the DEC to address concerns still shared by them and area residents.
“The group is encouraged by the scheduling of the meeting,” said Jenn Hartnagel, a senior environmental advocate for the Group for the East End. “This will provide us an opportunity to better understand the decision not to remediate the plume.
“We are not entirely convinced at this point that this decision is best for the community and the environment,” Ms. Hartnagel continued. “This meeting will, hopefully, help to address this point. The community has been waiting a long time for answers and they certainly deserve to get them.”
According to a fact sheet provided by the DEC this week, the plume is roughly two miles in length and located at depths ranging from 25 to 115 feet below the surface. It begins about one mile north of the intersection of Old Country Road and North Phillips Avenue, and continues south until it is about 2,000 feet south of Montauk Highway. The swath of pollution starts at Speonk-Riverhead Road and runs about 2,000 feet to the west.
The plume is slowly moving in a north to south direction, and the most concentrated levels of pollution are now located near the intersection of Old Country Road and North Phillips Avenue.
Mr. Thiele said the DEC will have to present some new information in order for him to think it is a good idea for the agency to skip remediation altogether. Based on what he has heard, he said he believes the DEC does not want to clean the area because it will be costly and the agency could not identify a responsible source that could be billed for the work.
“I am very critical of their decision not to clean this up,” he said. “I think it is a mistake.”