A public informational meeting was held at Long Island MacArthur Airport, on Thursday, March 2, at 5:30 p.m. Representatives were in attendance from New York State Department of Environmental …
A public informational meeting was held at Long Island MacArthur Airport, on Thursday, March 2, at 5:30 p.m. Representatives were in attendance from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), New York State Department of Health (DOH), Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA), in addition to the airport’s environmental consultant, and Town of Islip, to discuss reclassification as a Class 02 site for the storage and use of federally mandated firefighting foam.
The Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Program is New York State’s superfund program for identifying, investigating, and cleaning up sites where the disposal of hazardous waste may present a threat to public health and/or the environment. The New York State DEC maintains a list of these sites in the Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites.
Islip Town supervisor Angie M. Carpenter explained her rationale for holding the community session, after the successful meeting took place. “When I learned Friday, of the holiday weekend, that News12 was sending a reporter over, to inquire about the situation, with it being listed as a Superfund—because 700 families around the area have received letters—which we were a little taken aback, that the DEC had not reached out to us, to let us know they were sending these letters out, but in any event, I spoke with the water authority—about these kinds of things being considered—and [found out] that the drinking water was safe.”
One of the most salient aspects of the situation, Carpenter underscored, is who is potentially affected by this contamination and who is not at any risk.
“Anyone who is on public water didn’t have to give it a second thought. However, if you used a private well, you really should have your well tested. I just felt so strongly that once this notification went out that we really needed to have all the players in the room, so that people could have their questions answered, and hear directly, so that there wasn’t hearsay, there wasn’t misinformation being shared on social media.”
The Town of Islip was proactive to immediately nix any rumors about the details of the situation by providing, from the beginning, informed and clear-cut answers—from reputable sources—directly to a concerned public.
PFAS is a compound in the firefighting foam— mandated by the FAA—to be on premise at the airport in case of a fire.
“Then the FAA has since altered their requirements, and one of the chemicals is no longer necessary, so they seem to have come to an understanding,” added Carpenter, summing up the impetus for the swift public outreach on this matter. “The whole intention was to make sure that no one was being unduly frightened, that public water is safe, and the one upside of this particular compound is that it can be filtered out of the water. So, if a particular private well is discovered to have the compound in it, they can put a filter on it. I forget how many wells there are, but they are filtered, so there’s no reason for anyone to be concerned.”
While this is certainly a relief for all who live and work in the area, and assuages most concerns and doubts, the supervisor encourages anyone with additional questions to reach out to the Water Authority.
“They’re very forthcoming with their information and very, very helpful, and again helping everyone have that comfort level that everything is ok,” she said.
The informational meeting was well-attended by about 100 people, including residents and property owners—from around the airport—plus the representatives from various organizations on-hand, to answer questions at the session.
“New York State continues to lead the nation in responding to emerging contaminants like Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) and working to clean up these forever chemicals from the environment. DEC recently designated MacArthur Airport as a state Superfund site, following the confirmation of significant PFAS contamination in groundwater. DEC is committed to ensuring the protection of public health,” said the NYSDEC in a released statement. “The main issue at MacArthur Airport is contamination of groundwater, and the potential for public exposure to PFAS through drinking water. DEC immediately responded to address the potential for exposure to contaminated drinking water by investigating private water supplies and providing alternate water if an exceedance of the state’s stringent maximum contaminant levels was found. Public water supplies in the area already meet the state’s standards. DEC will oversee a comprehensive investigation to define the full nature and extent of the contamination and take appropriate action to address the contamination to ensure the protection of public health and the environment.”
As part of New York State’s comprehensive evaluation of potential sources of PFAS contamination in the environment, DEC is examining locations with documented storage, and use of aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) with PFAS, often used for firefighting. Upon the confirmation of PFAS in the groundwater at the site, DEC evaluated the potential for public exposure and offered testing of adjacent private drinking water wells. New York State offered alternate water supplies when the state’s protective Maximum Containment Levels for PFAS were exceeded. Additional actions to address contamination will be determined once the investigation has been completed. DEC will continue to keep the community updated throughout the process.
“If they have any concern [about] if they’re on public water, if they get a bill from Suffolk County Water Authority, they’re on public water, they have no need to be concerned. If they have a private well, they can call the Suffolk County Health Department to have their well tested,” Carpenter assured.
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