New Analysis Shows It Will Be Possible to Fully Contain and Treat the Four-Mile-Long, Two-Mile-Wide Plume
New York Demands Polluters Pay for Construction and Operation of the Containment and Treatment System
Critical Action to Protect Long Island's Drinking Water
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled the 14th proposal of the 2018 State of the State: New York is fast tracking construction of a new, state-of-the-art well system to fully contain and treat the plume of contamination caused by industrial waste from the U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman Bethpage manufacturing facilities in Oyster Bay, Nassau County. New analysis and modeling shows that it is possible to fully contain and treat the plume, which is now stretches nearly four miles long and two miles wide in the underground aquifer. Governor Cuomo is directing DEC to use every legal tool at its disposal to hold the polluters accountable for constructing and operating the system, which will fully contain and treat to plume to protect Long Island communities.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below.
Well it's my pleasure to be back. Always a pleasure, we were here on Long Island yesterday, two days in a row so it's a good day. First, to Joe Saladino, a man of many titles, Assemblyman, Supervisor. We had the chance to work together and he did an extraordinary job as an Assemblyman, I'm sure he's going to do an extraordinary job as a Supervisor. Let's give him a big round of applause. You're going to be hearing from the Senate President John Flanagan, let's give him a round of applause. I have with me Commissioner of the Environment and the Commissioner of Health, Basil Seggos and Howard Zucker—it's a pleasure to be with them. And we have Assemblymember Steve Englebright who you'll be hearing from in a moment also. Pleasure to be with him. Our County Executives Ed Mangano and Steve Bellone, great to be with them. And all my colleagues from the Assembly and from the Senate. Pleasure to be with all of you.
Today we're speaking about a simple issue, but an issue we've taken for granted for many years, which is now really problematic. And it's as simple as this—it's a glass of water that we have thought for many years, you never questioned it. You turned on the faucet, the water is there, you never wonder what's in the water, what chemicals, is there anything that could possibly be dangerous with this. We just took this for granted. Today, with the issues that we have in the environment, you can no longer just take it for granted. And that's one of the proposals that we have for the State of the State, one of the issues that we want to address. Because the quality of our water is increasingly under threat. It's not just in this state. It's all across the country, it's not just in communities that are near oceans. This morning we were in Upstate New York in the Finger Lakes, lakes in the Adirondacks that have serious problems. So it's a statewide and it's a nationwide issue.
And we know why, there's no mystery to why this has happened. We have overcapacity sewage treatment plants, we have septic tanks and cesspools that should have been replaced years ago that are leaking nitrogen and pollutants into the water. Long Island, 99 superfund sites from manufacturing companies where we still have the residue of the companies. We have 85 old landfills that were never properly done in the first place. And they are just leeching contaminants now into the soil. You have saltwater intrusion, you put all of these challenges together and it's wreaking havoc on our environment. It's also threatening our drinking water. Now Long Island is particularly vulnerable because of the geography of Long Island. It's an island of sand, the contaminants literally go right through the sand. The sand offers very little filtration. And they wind up in the aquafer and the aquafer's move through, through Long Island headed towards the ocean.
This state has been the most aggressive state in the country in protecting groundwater, and I applaud the members of the legislature for all the actions they've taken. Clean Water Infrastructure Act, we just passed last year, $2.5 billion. We have the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant that we just announced where we're redoing the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. We did the Environmental Protection Fund, more money than ever before to protect the environment. The sewer treatment system in Smithtown and Kings Park for $40 million, the Long Island Ground Water study we've done, the Nitrogen Action Plan, the Ocean Action Plan, Suffolk County and Stony Brook advanced septic systems. How do you make septic systems better? Repair the ones we have. The Estuary Reserve at $9,000 in partnership with Nassau county, $354 million to connect the Bay Park Waste Water Treatment plan to the existing ocean outflow at the Cedar Creek Treatment Facility which is going to make a phenomenal difference. For years we've been just having the overflow going to Reynolds Channel, and this will make a magnificent difference for the bays. And county executive Ed Mangano deserves a lot of credit. Suffolk county, we are working in partnership with Steve Bellone who's exactly right. He needs to connect homes to sanitary sewer systems. There's too many homes in Suffolk that don't have the proper sewer systems, and that's winding up in the ground water. We've partnered up with Suffolk County to the tune of $380 million which is a lot of money. You see that big smile on the County Executive's face? That's his smile when you give him $380 million, that's what that is. In September we launched the $200 million selfish project, clams and oysters that are being grown and seeded and disturbed in key areas all around the island because we believed that we can help clean up the water and do it naturally, so that's something we're very excited about. And this summer we filed a lawsuit against the EPA which made a bizarre and terrible decision to allow discharge of dredged materials from Connecticut in the Eastern Long Island Sound. Which, while were trying to clean up the Sound, they're allowing dredging to be dumped into the Sound which is totally counterproductive and we went to court over it, and we should.
We're also on the front lines in the fight against the legacy of industrial pollution. The largest single problem for Long Island is ground water pollution because ground water is drinking water, and the most critical situation is the Grumman Navy Facility. And this has been a situation that has been talked about for years, and the action has been sporadic and we're going to change that today. We appreciate what the industry did for Long Island, northern Grumman did great work, not just for this state but for this country. It's an historic site, that's where they made the Hell Cat, Albatross aircraft that played a key role in World War II, in the Korean War. They did the Apollo Lunar Lander, was built on that site, so no doubt, great work. But they left a stain behind, and they left a different legacy which was 36 years of discharging pollutants into the ground water. Now when it started in the 30s, frankly there wasn't an awareness, there was a sense that you could dump anything on the ground and it was basically fine. That was the discharge facility for a lot of plants. But as we now know especially on Long Island, that all winds up in the aquafer and then there's trouble.
They have been sporadic past remediation efforts, none of them were extensive enough, none of them were thorough enough. Community elected leaders have pushed through a complete solution. But, the experts told us that it was impossible. That the plume was too large, too deep, too difficult to manage, and we had to live with it, was basically what they said as a conclusion. We didn't accept that response. We said we had to do better and that's why earlier this year, working together with the Senate and the Assembly, we said to DEC, "You have to figure out a more aggressive approach and you have to figure out how we actually solve this problem because it has to be solved." DEC was tasked with doing a fast-track engineering investigation. The goal was simple: to come up with a complete solution to the problem. That investigation has been finished, they have a conclusion and we want to move forward from that now. The questions were: can you fully contain the plume? What is really in the plume? And let's understand exactly what chemicals we're dealing with. And then third, once you identify the chemicals, is the technology available to treat those chemicals? Those were the questions. As I said prior to this investigation, most people said it was impossible to fully contain the plume. We brought in national experts, international experts, they went to work. They've done the most thorough investigation that has been done to date, with the state of the art technology, we have a better picture than ever before with what we're dealing with.
First, the plume is laced with 24 contaminants, which they found in their investigation. Some contaminants were not previously mapped, like 1-4 dioxane, which is a new chemical compound that has recently been identified and is highly problematic with negative consequences for the health of people. Second, the plume is larger than previously estimated. Almost two miles wide, 3.7 miles long, up to 800 feet deep, and the plume is travelling with the ground water at various levels of the aquifer. Third, a model shows a more accurate trajectory and the trajectory is that the plume will continue until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. This is where the plume was in 1997. This is where the plume is today. This is where the plume is going over the next 20 or so years. So you can see that it has moved from where it was, which is problematic. You can also see the movement continues to hit an even wider swath, more homes, more people, on the other side of the Southern State, and that is the exact situation that we have to prevent. We also know the density of the plume. It's the first time they've done 3D modelling. The plume is not uniform. There are higher concentrations in certain parts of the plume and the plume is at different depths depending on different parts of the plume. Where there are higher concentrations, obviously those would be areas where you would concentrate first. So, after the investigation, after that analysis, the conclusions are: number one, you can fully contain the plume, which is good news. Two, we now know what is in the plume, which is also good news. And three, we know we can treat all those elements that are in the plume. We have the technology to do that treatment. So now we just have to do it. And we have to do it quickly and we have to stop the delay.
So we're announcing that New York State will take action, number one: we're going to fully contain the plume. Number two: we're going to fully treat the plume. Enough damage has been done. Our action plan will include the construction of 14 wells which will be placed along the current perimeter of the plume to stop it where it now exists. And we believe if you put the strategically 14 wells right at the edge of the plume they can pump it out and stop the progress at that point. In places of higher concentration within the plume they'll place additional wells to reduce those high concentrations. The wells will pump the water out, extract it to treatment facilities using state-of-the-art technology, air-stripping carbon, UV for contaminants and advanced oxidations for really threatening contaminations like 1-4 dioxane.
We've been trying to get Northrop Grumman, literally for 30 years this has been going on. They have been difficult. They have been slow. They have been litigious. And we're not going to wait for Northrop Grumman to do this work. We're going to do the work ourselves because delay is an enemy and time is of the essence and every day we lose that plume moves and that plume is now effecting more homes. So, delay is not acceptable. We're going to move forward and we're going to move forward starting today to fast-track the construction. In 2018 we'll begin construction on the wells. The cost of the entire project is approximately $150 million. The people of Long Island deserve the state to step and do this project and do it now. Assemblyman Saladino, before he became Supervisor and was promoted, was adamant and dogged on this issue. Steve Englebright is Chairman of the Environmental Committee in Albany and has been a top environmental watchdog, not just for Long Island, but for the entire state, and he has been adamant that the entire state should step in and not wait for the federal government. He has also been adamant that he believes there is technology that can clean the plume. It turns out that he is right. Senator Flanagan is not just President of the Senate, he is Mr. Long Island. I called him concerned about all the issues on Long Island. He's been very concerned with this issue and he's thoroughly engaged and when he's thoroughly engaged it's very helpful because it means you have the head of the Senate who's thoroughly engaged. And working together we have done great work. Sometimes we debate over who gets more credit for the work but that's a good position to be in.
We were together yesterday announcing that the Islanders came back to Long Island which is a very big, big, big deal. And it was a great accomplishment and I was there with the Senator. I was a little surprised when he got up and took total credit for bringing the Islanders back to Long Island, but I understand politics and I'm a big boy. I think he went a little far, that's my personal opinion. But you know, he is the President of the Senate and that's a different branch and I respect the differentiation. But then he went even further and took credit for Billy Joel's singing career, which I thought was really a little far afield. But, in any event, let's give him a big round of applause and thank him for what he's doing here.
We will have this initiative as part of the State of the State. We will include funding for this initiative in the budget, and I believe there's going to be bipartisan support for it. While we're starting immediately, and the State will provide the $150 million in funding, it doesn't mean that we're letting Northrop Grumman off the hook. We will proceed because we don't want to delay. We will put the money up front. We will then recoup the money from the polluters, Northrop Grumman, through our Superfund process and through litigation if necessary. So we'll get the money back, but I don't want to wait to go through the process to start the work. So we'll put the money up front, we'll start the work, we'll recoup it from the Superfund site. We're dealing with the health and well-being of the people of Long Island, and this is not a time or a place to scrimp. We need action. We need action now. We've lived with this for too long already. So we're moving forward, and we're moving forward quickly.
Because at the end of the day it's very simple: I turned the big 6-0 last week. Sixty years old. And it's just bad to turn 60. There is no good news in turning 60. You know, they say, "Well, 60 - that's the new 50." Well 50 stinks too. So there's no good in it. But you tend to reflect and you start to think about the totality of the circumstances, you know? And at the end of the day, we're here for a relatively brief period of time and the older you get, the briefer that period of time appears. And the fundamental obligation is that while you're here, you use your skills and your talents to make this place a better place. To leave this place better for us having been here. That's what it's really all about. As a parent, as a citizen, as a human being - leave this place better than you found it. And I have three young ladies who are my daughters. My obligation: leave this place better, stronger, cleaner, healthier than we found it. And that's what we're going to do. The Native Americans have a great proverb that sums it all up: we didn't inherit the Earth from our parents. We're borrowing it from our children. And we are stewards in the meantime. And when our time is done, and we turn this state over to our children, it's going to be a better state for our having been here. Thank you, and God bless you.