The South Farmingdale Water District began construction on a new water treatment system to impede the impending plume of contamination heading towards the District. SFWD determined that it could not wait or tolerate any further delays from the United States Navy to build the necessary treatment facilities, so the District was approved for an $18 million dollar bond from the Town of Oyster Bay.
The bond covers design, construction, operation and maintenance of the treatment facility. Construction began in late March 2010. These proactive measures were taken to protect the SFWD water supply and to shield consumers from paying for the treatment facility. If the treatment facilities are not constructed in time, it is possible that SFWD would be forced to close down or restrict wells at Plant 1 (Langdon Road, Farmingdale). The wells at Plant 1 provide nearly 20% of the District’s well capacity, which is needed to meet existing water supply and fire hydrant flow demands. Early in 2010, the District reached a settlement with the U.S. Navy to pay for the treatment facilities, but have not yet received the check from the U.S. Department of Justice. When the SFWD receives the check, the monies will be used to retire the bonds and pay for future operation and maintenance costs. All monies associated with the capital cost portion of the settlement will be used to pay for treatment, thereby minimizing any cost burden on taxpayers.
As reported by SFWD, the District was approached in November 2000 by the United States Navy regarding a widespread groundwater contamination plume flowing in a southerly direction towards several SFWD well fields. This plume is the result of soil and significant groundwater contamination containing volatile organic compounds from the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant at Grumman in Bethpage, NY from several decades prior. The U.S. Navy agreed that if contamination from their site was identified in the outpost monitoring wells they would pay for all future costs that water suppliers would incur for the required treatment facilities or abandonment and replacement of the respective wells. The Navy developed a water contingency plan in connection with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that resulted in the Navy constructing outpost monitoring wells upgradient of Plant 1 in SFWD.
In 2004 the outpost monitoring wells upgradient of Plant 1 indicated that they were impacted by contamination from the Grumman/Naval sites at levels above the trigger values agreed to by the U.S. Navy, DEC and SFWD. The Navy had been in general accord with the necessary treatment facilities; however, final resolution and execution of the settlement agreement was not a priority within the U.S. Department of Justice until 2009.
Finally late last year, after five years of deliberating, the two parties reached an agreement and the U.S. Navy settled the case with SFWD. Moving forward, the District could not defer the construction of the treatment facility any longer and wait for the Navy to provide the necessary funds to meet this critical need. The SFWD Board of Commissioners continued to express its concern that one or more of the wells could be impacted before the construction of the treatment facilities is complete. Please remember all water is safe to drink.
During the course of the settlement, the District received an overwhelming amount of support from local civic leaders, Town of Oyster Bay elected officials and United States Senator Charles E. Schumer. “We’re happy with the settlement, but we’re still waiting for the check,” commented Ralph Atoria, SFWD Water Commissioner. “Our number one priority is to protect our consumers’ precious water supply and that’s why we had to bond the project so we can begin construction. It’s our responsibility to provide high quality water, and this is not a time to be reactive and wait for the Navy’s cooperation.”