The underground plume of contamination spreading throughout Great Neck is not new. The plume originated in the 1940's, became a concern to the public in the 1990's, and continues to be an issue today. However, residents and others have only until July 14, 2014 to submit comments to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) regarding the Agency's plan to remediate the plume. The safety of the town's water supply in the future is at stake.
From the 1940's until the early 1990's, the property at 1111 Marcus Avenue was used for a variety of defense industry related manufacturing. Due to this manufacturing, significant amount of liquid chemicals were disposed of into the groundwater. The contamination, or plume, is comprised of volatile organic chemicals, which must be entirely removed before the water is safe to drink. In May of 1991 the NYSDEC designated the site a Class 2 Site on its list of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites - meaning the site represents a significant threat to public health or the environment and action is required. In 1996, the site was purchased by Lockheed Martin and they became responsible for the cleanup and any contamination that had moved off-site. According to Lockheed Martin, the plume has been flowing in a northwest direction so that it has traveled north of the Long Island Expressway but has not yet reached Northern Boulevard.
What is the Solution?
In 2004, a temporary solution to the problem was implemented. An extraction well was created to take water from the aquifer to another site where the water was cleaned and then returned to prior to being pumped for use by the community. According to local water officials, this extraction well has successfully prevented the water supply from being contaminated by the plume. After a lengthy period of study, Lockheed Martin and the NYSDEC have proposed a more permanent solution to the issue. This includes adding an another extraction well and additional monitoring of the area's drinking water. A public meeting was held on Thursday night June 26 to discuss the details of their remedy. The details of the plan can be found at the link below as well as information of how to submit public comments.
Unsurprisingly, the meeting and plan are very controversial. Local officials generally seemed satisfied that the plan would maintain the safety of the water supply. However, many expressed frustration with the almost two decades it took to develop this plan and wondered if the plan goes far enough to ensure uncontaminated water for the foreseeable future.