Well, some Suffolk County officials as well as community members appear, at this point, satisfied that the United States Navy has finally begun testing as to how they might treat the Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) contamination calamity at Calverton. On July 21st, 2010, I received a copy of an e-mail from a very savvy, no-nonsense community member of the Restoration Advisory Board, Jean Mannhaupt, concerning the Navy's endeavor to eventually clean up the toxic groundwater plume at Calverton.
In sum and substance, the e-mail stated that several members of the Restoration Advisory Board took a tour of the Calverton site with naval officials and their contractors who are undertaking the work. The team is conducting pump testing and has initiated their pilot study to determine if bioremediation is a viable cleanup technology. Bill Gunther, Community Co-Chair for the Calverton Restoration Advisory Board said, "We were very impressed with the extensive testing underway, which indicated to us that the Navy is finally serious about an active cleanup of the groundwater contamination. The NYSDEC representative was also there, and we learned that the Suffolk County Health Department has been taking water samples during the testing program. During the pump testing, the Navy's contractors are routing the contaminated water through carbon filters before release, so in effect, some cleanup is being done already. We are finally seeing the action we have all been seeking for some time."
On July 29th, 2010, the Riverhead News-Review reported that the Navy had begun testing by utilizing two methods for treating the contaminated groundwater. In February 2011, "based on those test results, the Navy will present a comprehensive Corrective Measures Study that will include long-term cleanup options," recounts staff writer Vera Chinese.
Please be reminded of my fourth blog dating back to August 17th, 2009, in which I had commented on and questioned the time frame of the Navy's "Corrective Measures Study," fearing procrastination on their behalf. Time has been steadily slipping away. Much time has been lost because the United States Navy had been in denial from the onset, claiming that Calverton's toxic plume was simply going to go away through "natural attenuation."
Allow me to reiterate from my August 2009 blog: "And so it shall continue (meetings and studies, compromises and concessions), ad infinitum, is my pessimistic outlook. I truly hope I'm wrong, but I rarely am mistaken, for I've been dealing with federal, state and local governments for more years than the Navy has been polluting the Peconic River. Action speaks louder than words."
Was I wrong? Most assuredly not.
Ms. Chinese continues her article; however, I took the liberty of boldfacing the staff writer's key words and phrases so as to emphasize qualifiers that might tend to have some of us wonder and worry. Too, I include my [bracketed and underlined] documented reminders.
After a 30-day public comment period, the study will be amended, if necessary. Once it is approved by the state, an actual cleanup could begin.
The first treatment method, called a pump test, mimics the groundwater pump-and-treat system on a smaller scale. Testing of that method began July 12.
The other cleanup option, called a biodegradation system, involves injecting the groundwater with corn-based organic materals that help degrade the polluting chemicals. A test of that approach began July 19.
Lora Fly, the Navy's remedial project manager, said pump test data had already been collected, although the Navy will continue to collect information from the second test until December. She said that it "is not going to be an instantaneous result."
Both methods could ultimately be used in the cleanup efforts at the site.
The treatment systems will target high concentrations of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that are flowing from the former Navy property toward the Peconic River. [Actually, trace concentrations of volatile organic compounds have already found their way into the Peconic River.]
VOC concentrations as high as 1,090 micrograms per liter have been found in the area. State drinking water standards are five micrograms per liter.
The chemicals, used for decades to clear grease from jet engines when Grumman operated an assembly plant and flight test facility at the site, could have harmful effects on humans and wildlife. They have been found in the river. [Also, the toxic chemicals have been found in the banks of the river.] Grumman ceased operations in 1994 after about 40 years there.
The Navy previously contended that the chemicals were disappearing naturally as they flowed south toward the river, a theory that community members and elected officials rejected.
Is the United States Navy finally doing the right thing? It seems so. Will state government drag its feet following the Corrective Measures Study, further thwarting or delaying "an actual cleanup?" I've been reporting and commenting on this matter since April 1st, 2009. We will be well into 2011 before we even begin to learn the corrective measures our governments (federal, state, and local) will take.
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Breast Cancer Research Foundation