Through Governor Cuomo’s Water Quality Rapid Response Team, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Department of Health are evaluating various sites, including inactive landfills, throughout the state for potential impacts to drinking water supplies. Emerging contaminants, such as PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), which are currently unregulated by the federal government, and have been found in sites across the East End, will be the focus.
The former Damascus Road landfill in East Quogue is the latest local site where the contamination has been discovered. Other locales include Wainscott, Westhampton, Hampton Bays, and Yaphank. Also known as the old Bomarck site, the landfill has been closed for nearly 30 years.
Monitoring wells were installed at the site and test samples indicated that combined PFOS and PFOA exceeded the USEPA Health Advisory Level of 70 parts per trillion (ppt) in groundwater at one of the monitoring wells, with a combined PFOS and PFOA concentration of 11,620 ppt observed. Based on these results, additional investigations of private drinking water supply wells in the area are needed to ensure the public is protected.
PFOA and PFOS are part of a diverse group of chemicals, collectively known as perfluoroakyl substances, that are persistent in the environment and resist degradation. These chemicals are often used to manufacture products like fabric protectors, firefighting foam, and stain repellents. They are common primary ingredients in firefighting foam that was used at the Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh and the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach for training and fire-suppression exercises, according to state regulators.
This has led the regulators to suspect the foam as the cause of the groundwater contamination in Newburgh and Westhampton Beach.
The USEPA Health Advisory Level for drinking water (70 ppt) is provided for comparison purposes, as these PFOS and PFOA results are from monitoring wells as opposed to drinking water supplies. USEPA’s Health Advisory Levels are established to protect even the most sensitive populations, including fetuses during pregnancy and breastfed babies, against potential adverse health effects from exposure to contaminants in drinking water.
To assess the drinking water quality of properties served with private wells, Suffolk County Department of Health Services has begun a private well survey in the vicinity of the former Damascus Road landfill.
The SCDHS would like to sample all private wells in this area at no charge to homeowners. Residents whose property is served by a private well and is located in the area bounded on the north by Woodleigh Place and Damascus Road, on the west by Quogue Riverhead Road and Heatherwood Lane, on the east by Lewis Road and Walker Avenue, and south continuing to the Shinnecock Bay and its tributaries are advised to contact the SCDHS Office of Water Resources at 631-852-5810 to have their wells tested.
The New York State Department of Health has indicated that consumption (drinking or cooking) is the primary exposure concern for PFAS in drinking water. Bathing and showering are not expected to be a concern even if PFAS are present in the water supply. Out of an abundance of caution, bottled water is being made available through the Town of Southampton directly to property owners in the private well survey area described above, pending private well testing results.
If you use a private well for drinking or cooking purposes and live in the survey area, supplies of bottled water will be available to you at no cost by calling Southampton Town Hall at 631-283-6055. Residents who are unsure if they are served by public water may call the Suffolk County Water Authority at 631-698-9500.
Homes connected to a public water supply do not need to have their water tested as the public water supplied to the area does not exceed the USEPA Health Advisory Level and these supplies are routinely tested.
In other news of the contamination kind, last week Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, announced that the recently passed omnibus bill authorizes $63.8 million for remediation and research efforts for communities contaminated by PFOS and PFOA. Specifically, $43.8 million will be allocated to the Air Force Environmental Restoration fund, which allows the Department of Defense to identify, investigate, and clean up former waste disposal sites on military property for the remediation of perfluoroalkyl substances. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also receive $10 million to study the health effects of PFAS and an additional $10 million for health screenings related to contaminated water.
“PFOS and related chemicals contamination is a spreading threat, and we need to clean it up to make sure that New York’s families and children have water that is safe to drink,” said Senator Schumer.
“It is unacceptable that New Yorkers in some communities have had to worry about whether their drinking water will make them sick. We need to do everything possible to ensure that sites contaminated by PFOS and PFOA can fully recover,” said Senator Gillibrand. “These funds will help with these recovery efforts and will help uncover the full extent to which the contamination is affecting the water and health of New Yorkers. I was proud to fight for funding for cleanup efforts at contaminated locations throughout the country, and for the research to fully understand the health effects of these chemicals. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that we are able to clean up the sites in Newburgh and Gabreski.”
Schumer and Gillibrand successfully secured funding in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act for restoration and mitigation efforts at National Guard and Reserve installations to remediate PFOS and PFOA contamination. Gillibrand also signed a letter requesting funding for the CDC study she helped get into the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act to conduct a public health assessment of affected sites.