South Farmingdale, NY - May 1, 2015 - Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer presented the South Farmingdale Water District (SFWD) with a check for $3.3 million due to the recent U.S. Navy reimbursement settlement as a result of plume contamination. SFWD has borrowed almost $5 million from the Town of Oyster Bay to construct Plant No. 3, a water treatment facility to filter and purify the ground water impacted by the Bethpage plume. Repaying the bond could have cost consumers $1.5 million each year over the course of the loan. Therefore, in September, Schumer called on the U.S. Navy and Department of Justice (D.O.J.) to prevent significant water bill increases for Farmingdale’s thousands of residents and immediately follow through on the Navy’s years-old obligation to reimburse the SFWD for the capital costs, operating and maintenance of the water treatment facility, which was constructed at Plant No. 3, Hicksville Road, Seaford, New York. Schumer publicly said that consumers should not be on the hook for something they didn’t create. Today’s announcement means that local ratepayers will not be on the hook for the new water treatment facility; the Navy is paying for the entire construction of Plant No. 3. Schumer also said that the second installment of money will be made soon; SFWD submitted the appropriate paperwork, which needs to be reviewed and approved.
Schumer stood at SFWD Plant No. 3 alongside SFWD Commissioners Ralph Atoria, John Hirt, Gary Brosnan & SFWD Superintendent Charlie Pruchia.
“South Farmingdale Water District ratepayers didn’t cause this toxic mess, and this $3.3 million in reimbursement from the US Navy means they won’t have to pay to clean it up,” said Schumer. “South Farmingdale Water District has waited far too long for these funds, but the day has finally arrived. I am pleased that the Navy and Department of Justice have finally provided the resources needed to pay down the bonds, prevent water rates from sky-rocketing and keep our drinking water clean.”
The U.S. Navy operated the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Bethpage, New York for several decades, which resulted in soil and significant groundwater contamination containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The SFWD, as well as other neighboring Water Districts, were approached in November 2000 by the U.S. Navy relative to a widespread groundwater contamination plume* flowing in a southerly direction toward 20 or more public drinking wells that serve over 250,000 Nassau County residents across South Farmingdale, Bethpage, Massapequa and Wantagh Water Districts.
The Navy developed a water contingency plan in connection with N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that resulted in the Navy constructing outpost monitoring wells upgradient of Plant No. 1 and Plant No. 3 in SFWD.
The Navy agreed that if contamination from their site was identified in the outpost monitoring wells, they would pay for all future costs that the water suppliers would incur for the required treatment facilities or abandonment and replacement of the respective wells. In 2004, the outpost monitoring wells upgradient of Plant No. 1 and Plant No. 3 indicated that they were impacted by contamination from the naval plant site at levels above the trigger values agreed to by the Navy, DEC and SFWD.
In 2010, SFWD determined that it could no longer wait to receive the settlement from the Navy and was approved by the Town of Oyster Bay to bond up to $18 million to design and construct the necessary treatment facilities at both Plant No. 1 and Plant No. 3, with Plant No. 1 starting in late March 2010, and Plant No. 3 starting in 2012. If the treatment facilities were not constructed in time, it was possible that SFWD would be forced to close down or restrict wells at Plant No. 1 and Plant No. 3.
The SFWD pursued a reimbursement settlement with the Navy for Plant No. 1, and in 2010 with the assistance of Senator Schumer received $14.5 million to cover all construction, maintenance and operation costs.
The SFWD Board of Commissioners have continually expressed that all water pumped from all wells meet or exceed all local, state and federal standards. The Commissioners had no choice but to design, construct and build both treatment facilities in order to ensure that the water delivered within the District is safe to drink. If the treatment facilities were not constructed in time, there was the potential that the District would have had to close down or restrict wells at both Plants No. 1 and 3. The four wells at these two sites provide nearly 40% of the District’s well capacity, which are needed to meet existing water supply and fire flow demands. The loss of any of these wells could adversely impact SFWD’s ability to meet peak and emergency pumping requirements, thereby impacting the ability to deliver an adequate water supply to its 45,000 consumers. While the District would have preferred to have the money in hand from the Navy prior to building the treatment facilities, it could no longer tolerate any further delays and had to proceed with both treatment projects.
Schumer today announced that SFWD has received $3.3 million in reimbursement payments, meaning that water rates will not increase for consumers. In September, Schumer demanded that a settlement be reached with the U.S. Navy and the D.O.J. on Plant No. 3.
*The plume is approximately 12,100 feet long, 9,600 feet wide and 580 feet deep.