New York has reached an agreement with defense contractor Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy on a $406 million plan to clean up a massive plume of underground contamination left from Long Island’s heyday as a hub of aerospace manufacturing, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced.
Northrop Grumman will pay a $104 million settlement for environmental damages that will be used for the 30-year containment project and related efforts, including protection for local wells and water systems that had been compromised by pollution from the Bethpage facility. Grumman and the Navy will be responsible for the bulk of the work.
Cuomo announced the agreement nearly a year after the state threatened to take polluters to court over what was then projected to be a $585 million bill for cleaning up the nearly 7-square-mile swath of pollution from former manufacturing facilities in Nassau County.
Cuomo said the settlement was the largest of its kind in state history. Once finalized by lawyers for the state, Grumman and the Navy, the agreement will be incorporated into a consent degree.
“It was a long fight but it will protect the drinking water for the people on Long Island,” Cuomo said at his daily news briefing in Albany.
Grumman said in a statement that the cleanup agreement reaffirms its “long-standing commitment to the ongoing collective efforts for the further protection of the Bethpage community.”
A message seeking comment was left with the Navy.
Grumman built warplanes at the Bethpage plant for about six decades, until 1996. It was there that the Apollo Lunar Module used in the moon landings came to life. The Navy had an adjacent, Northrup Grumman-operated facility on the 600-acre site for researching, testing, engineering and assembling military aircraft.
The plume, discovered in the 1970s, contains 24 contaminants, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. They include TCE, which has been found to be carcinogenic, and 1,4-dioxane, which is possibly carcinogenic.
The contamination is about 4 miles long and more than 2 miles wide in some places and has polluted 11 public water supply wells while threatening another 16, according to the DEC. The polluted wells have been treated for TCE and related compounds, allowing continued use for drinking water purposes, the DEC said.
As part of the agreement, the state said, the Navy will construct a network of hydraulic containment wells at the southern edge of the plume along the Southern State Parkway to halt its expansion.
Grumman will design and drill containment wells in other areas of the plume to prevent further spread and provide additional protection to nearby public water supply wells, the state said. Some of the work will begin early next year.
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