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May 2, 2018 9:58 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Health Department To Begin Testing Blood Of Westhampton Beach, Quogue Residents Exposed To Toxins In Drinking Water

Charles DiPirro, who lives on Rogers Avenue in Westhampton Beach, worries that water contamination contributed to his wife’s death in 2015. ELSIE BOSKAMP
May 2, 2018 10:44 AM

The State Department of Health has sent letters to 800 homes in Westhampton Beach and Quogue asking residents to participate in a study that will test participants’ blood for toxins that have recently been found in private water wells near Francis S. Gabreski Airport, even though the residents are now connected to public water.

The contaminants, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, were detected by the Suffolk County Health Department in Westhampton Beach in 2016 and are thought to have been derived from firefighting foam used during training sessions at Gabreski.

In recent months, high concentrations of the chemicals, which can cause negative health effects, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have also been detected in East Quogue, Hampton Bays, Wainscott and East Hampton. In most cases, firefighting foam used until the early 2000s is believed to be the cause.

“As in other communities affected by elevated levels of emerging and unregulated contaminants found in drinking water, the Department of Health has initiated a biomonitoring or blood testing program, to measure PFOA and PFOS blood levels in a random selected sample of Westhampton Beach and Quogue residents on public drinking water,” said Erin Silk, a State Department of Health spokeswoman.

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming said she was notified of the study and said the blood tests are being conducted for informational purposes. According to Ms. Fleming, results from Westhampton and Quogue residents will be compared with results collected from people throughout the country in an effort to determine the amount of PFOS and PFAS in local residents who are believed to have drunk or came in contact with contaminated water.

“The people being asked to participate in the study are now connected to public water, their drinking water is safe, but testing is being done because there is a potential that they were exposed to the chemicals years ago,” Ms. Fleming said.

According to the letter, which was provided to The Press by a Westhampton Beach Village resident, participation is voluntary—and each participant will receive a $50 gift card for taking part in the study.

Elyse Richman, a Westhampton Beach resident and owner of several stores in the village, who lives on Rogers Avenue, received the letter from the State Department of Health the week of April 11 and plans to participate in the study with her son, Max Richman.

“It’s really scary,” Ms. Richman said. “Why does the Health Department want to test my blood for PFAS and PFOS now?”

Ms. Richman said she also worries about part-time residents, who are excluded from the study, and former Westhampton Beach residents who have since moved away.

According to Ms. Silk, the study is part of New York’s protocol for addressing water contamination and is currently only open to year-round residents in an effort “to reach those people who may have had the highest risk of exposure and therefore would have the greatest potential to have elevated levels of PFAS in their blood.”

Charles DiPirro, a former Spanish teacher at Suffolk County Community College, also lives on Rogers Avenue in Westhampton Beach but was not asked to participate in the study. According to Mr. DiPirro, who has lived in Westhampton Beach since 1963, he and his late wife, Mardythe DiPirro, a former Southampton Town supervisor, had well water for more than 30 years.

Although the water at Mr. DiPirro’s current home is supplied by Suffolk County Water Authority, he is still worried.

“I always have concerns, especially about the water,” Mr. DiPirro said. “My wife drank tap water all the time, and I think it really hurt her. She died of Parkinson’s [disease] three years ago in December, and a lot of times I wonder if these toxins contributed to the health problems she had.”

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Beware of FREE things for NYS...
By knitter (1940), Southampton on May 2, 18 11:27 AM
Colors Light ?
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on May 2, 18 5:02 PM
Does the testing include residents of Quiogue?
By Moneybogue (37), Westhampton Beach on May 2, 18 8:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
Yes. I live in Quogue and got the offer
By bradbutler (3), quiogue on May 3, 18 8:18 PM
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on May 3, 18 7:17 AM