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Aug 4, 2016 1:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eight Private Wells In Westhampton Contaminated With Chemicals; Suffolk County Still Testing Water

The Air National Guard base at Gabreski Airport. BY ERIN MCKINLEY
Aug 9, 2016 3:10 PM

Eight Westhampton homes have been identified so far as having their private water wells contaminated by two chemicals that were recently discovered in monitoring wells near Suffolk County’s Francis S. Gabreski Airport.

While it remains unclear what specific health risks the chemicals—perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA—could pose if ingested by people, Suffolk County Department of Health officials are still advising the affected homeowners to continue using bottled water for drinking and cooking until the pollution can be remediated, or they are hooked up to public water.

To date, Suffolk County Health Department officials said they have tested the wells at 41 of 69 homes in Westhampton, though they have declined to provide the locations, citing the privacy of the homeowners. When the pollution was first discovered last month, the county had estimated that 104 homes in the area were still on private wells.

Of the 41 wells tested since then, five were found to have levels of the chemicals higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended amount of 0.07 parts per billion, or ppb. According to Suffolk County officials, the amount of chemicals found in the tainted wells ranged from 0.086 ppb to 1.88 ppb. Traces also were detected in three additional wells, but at levels lower than the EPA guidelines.

Twenty-five of the wells did not contain any amounts of either chemical, Suffolk County spokeswoman Grace Kelly-McGovern said this week, and the county is awaiting the results of another eight wells.

Though an investigation is still pending, both chemicals are typically found in fire suppression foam.

In response, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are now calling for the Air National Guard, which is stationed at Gabreski, to fund the future remediation efforts, pointing to fire suppression foam utilized at the base. In a letter to the ANG, both senators urge officials to fund not only the testing of all the wells but the future study that is supposed to determine how the chemicals found their way into the groundwater. Both also want the ANG to pay for the connection of private well owners to public water.

“It has come to our attention that the PFOS contamination was likely caused by firefighting foam that was used by the ANG at the Suffolk County Air Base,” the joint letter reads. “If so, we urge the ANG to immediately provide all of the necessary resources to ensure that residents have access to clean bottled drinking water while also remediating the pollution as quickly as possible.”

New York Stage ANG General Richard Goldenberg said this week that officials are cooperating with the ongoing investigation and has stopped using the chemicals in question. He also suggested that the contamination did not originate at the 106th Rescue Wing’s base, but then declined to comment further on the matter.

Suffolk County Health Department officials, meanwhile, are still trying to get in touch with the 28 homeowners who they say remain on private wells and need to get their water tested immediately. Those individuals are being urged to contact the Suffolk County Office of Water Resources at 631-852-5810 to set up a time for inspection and testing.

All of the affected homes are located south of the railroad tracks in Westhampton Beach, and between Beaverdam Creek in Westhampton and Quantuck Creek on the Quogue Village border.

Though the EPA has guidelines for the two chemicals, which are classified as perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, the federal agency does not actively monitor them. Recently completed studies prompted to EPA to start monitoring the chemicals in 2009, the same time it encouraged companies to stop manufacturing them. Earlier this year, the federal agency began urging individual states to start testing water supplies for the chemicals.

County officials have not yet determined how the chemicals, typically found in firefighting foam and coating that repel grease, oil, water and stains, made their way into the groundwater south of the Westhampton airport. Officials have previously stated that they think the pollution will be traced to fire suppression foam used during training exercises when Gabreski was an Air Force base.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation recently launched an investigation to pinpoint a source of the contamination and that is expected to take several weeks to complete. State officials have also notified both Suffolk County and the 106th Rescue Wing that the airfield could eventually be labeled as an inactive hazardous waste disposal site—commonly referred to as a Superfund site—due to the pollution.

The contaminants were originally detected in three of four monitoring wells that the county has installed at the airport; county officials have also declined to disclose the locations of the wells.

Suffolk County will continue to offer free bottled water to those homeowners with contaminated wells and those who are still awaiting the results of testing. Originally distributed from Westhampton Beach Village Hall, the water is now being delivered to individual homes through Suffolk County’s Fire Rescue and Emergency Services. Eligible homeowners should call 631-852-4820 to set up delivery of a week’s worth of water.

More information about the contaminants can be found online at www.suffolkcountyny.gov/health/pfcwaterinfo.

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Cram in a golf course and jam some blocks of condos on top of that..
Even better if its all ontop of a key acquifer. .
..
Frustration &Sarcasm
By dave h (193), calverton on Aug 4, 16 2:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well - the Town Board won't be here when the Health Dept. decides we can't go back in the water...
So, what the heck!
By sag2harbor (117), sag harbor on Aug 4, 16 3:03 PM
We hired napoli law because arguing with the town is a bigger waste of time.
By Scottfree (1), cutchogue on Mar 2, 17 11:50 AM