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Consultant: Portion of pollution cleanup at EPCAL could take 30 years

Part of the more than $11 million cleanup effort underway at the Enterprise Park at Calverton could take up to 30 years to complete, according to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, which is charged with remediating pollution caused by the U.S. Navy when it leased the site to the Grumman Corporation more than 20 years ago.

The Navy still owns 208 acres at EPCAL that were not turned over to Riverhead Town in 1998 because of pollution caused by activities conducted at the site between 1950 and 1996.

The goal is to eventually turn that acreage over to Riverhead as well, but there is currently no timetable for doing so, according to environmental engineer Joseph McCloud, who is overseeing the NAVFAC cleanup.

The Navy did turn over 144 acres to the town in 2007 after it deemed that pollution on that land had been successfully cleaned up.

The 30-year estimate pertains to a former fire training area comprising 169 acres just west of McKay Lake, where officials say soil and groundwater have been compromised by petroleum, chlorinated solvents and other chemicals.

Dave Brayack of Tetra Tech, a national engineering firm the Navy hired to handle the toxic removal project, gave an update during a public meeting last Wednesday at the Henry Pfeifer Community Center.

“We expect it to be less than 30 years, but at this point in time, we can’t assume that,” Mr. Brayack said. “Once the groundwater hits drinking water standards, we’ll be done and, in fact, parts of it should be done sooner than others.”

He also estimated the total cost of remediation at $2 million. The 30-year estimate came from a recent feasibility study released last fall, according to Mr. McCloud.

Potential residual munitions and explosives also are present at that site and likely resulted from cannon testing on another part of the property, according to the Navy.

In addition, two groundwater plumes contaminated with volatile organic compounds appear to exist on this site, with the primary contaminants being trichloroethene (TCE) and xylene, according to the Navy.

Trichloroethene (TCE) is classified as a carcinogen by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. It was used as a solvent.

Xylene is found in paints, gasoline and aircraft fuels but is not considered a carcinogen, according to the EPA. However, inhaling emissions of xylene can lead to central nervous system effects including headaches, dizziness, and tremors, according to the EPA.

Officials noted that most of the homes nearby are connected to the town water district, so no one is drinking the water in this area, officials say.

After the meeting, Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said, “I think it’s important to notify all of the homeowners in this area that may not be on public water to encourage them to get their wells tested.”

Kristi Francisco of Tetra Tech explained, “The plume goes under the pond, it is not in the pond,” referring to Swan Pond on the golf course across Grumman Boulevard.

Mr. McCloud said in an interview that the projected cleanup time frame for this area doesn’t necessarily mean it will take that long to turn the land over to Riverhead because much of the plume has drifted off from the EPCAL property.

NAVFAC’s proposed remedy for contamination in this area is to enact “land use controls” to restrict access to the groundwater and soil on site until the cleanup is done and to continue monitoring it, according to Ms. Francisco.

“There’s no real remedy here” said Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Land use controls, that’s not really an active remedy, and monitoring, that’s not a remedy.”

The second area of residual contamination at the EPCAL property involves 30 acres at the southern border near Grumman Boulevard, just south of the eastern runway. Here, traces of tetrachloroethene (PCE) were detected in the groundwater. It was being treated through a process in which two extraction wells draw up water, remove volatile organic compounds by air stripping, and reinject the treated water into the ground.

According to the EPA, PCE is a man-made chemical used for dry cleaning clothes and degreasing metal. It has not been shown to cause cancer in humans, but exposure to very high concentrations has caused dizziness and other conditions.

The treated water in this area had been returned to drinking water standards and 99 percent of VOCs were being removed, but officials say the treated water hasn’t been injected as deeply as the groundwater, and was starting to pond on the surface — an indication that the infiltration pipes were clogged, officials said.

“We think there’s some iron oxides in there plugging up the media,” said Patrick Schauble of KOMAN Government Solutions, which is working with NAVFAC.

NAVFAC has estimated the cost of this cleanup at $4.66 million over 16 years.

Ms. Giglio, who was the only elected town official present at last week’s meeting, said she’s been working with Mr. McCloud to get the Navy to approve an easement in this area that would allow the town’s proposed bike path extension to cross over Navy land on Grumman Boulevard, in order to avoid the groundwater extraction building.

The third area being cleaned is a nine-acre parcel within the privately owned industrial park at EPCAL that was formerly a fuel depot. Lead and methylnaphthalene have been detected on this land. The latter is used to make chemicals such as dyes, and resins, and is present in cigarette smoke, wood smoke, tar, asphalt and at some hazardous waste sites, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

An “air sparging” system used to strip contaminants from the water there stopped working in 2013 after eight years and was shut down, but soil extraction continues at the site, according to NAVFAC.

The cost of this cleanup was estimated at $4.2 million over 10 years, according to NAVFAC.

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Courtesy image: U.S. Navy