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Cuomo: State Will Take Action On Contaminated Long Island Ground Water

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York state will clean up decades old ground water contamination that's spreading under several Long Island communities.

The U.S. Navy admitted responsibility for the pollution, but has yet to remedy it.

Sammy Moussa prepares food in a hot truck in the shadow of the Grumman property in Bethpage. He makes it with bottled water, and doesn't dare use tap.

"Never. I don't drink it, I don't give it to customers," he said.

That's because for decades a toxic plume of ground water has been flowing beneath the land where decades ago, the Navy and Grumman dumped contaminants.

For years, the public water has been treated to remove toxins, but now Governor Cuomo said he is launching a complete fix, no longer waiting for the polluters to act.

"We are announcing that New York State will take action, number one, we are going to fully contain the plume, and number two we are going to fully treat the plume. Enough damage has been done," he said.

It's welcome news for a bipartisan group of Long Islanders who did not think the plume could be contained, and have gone to battle with the U.S. Navy to pay for the clean up.

"No community should be afraid to drink its water. This is a true holiday gift for all of Long Island," Adrienne Esposito, Citizens Campaign For The Environment, said.

New state testing shows the plume is bigger than thought -- 2 miles by 4 miles -- and spreading quicker, endangering the water in other communities, and within 20 years, the ocean.

It's even more contaminated containing 24 chemicals. The state will drill 14 wells around its perimeter.

"So it can't spread and there will be further wells inside the plume to remove all the hot spots," Bethpage Water District Superintendent, Michael Boufis said,"That will do the trick. This is a huge step moving forward."

"The Navy and the federal government will just clean the water at the well heads before you drink it. What the governor is doing is very bold, trying to contain the actual plume," Assemblyman Andrew Raia, (R - East Northport), said.

The cost to contain the plume is $150-million. The governor said the state will do the work now and recoup it from the polluters later, and through the courts if necessary.

The well system will extract and treat the water using carbon filtration, air stripping technology, and ultraviolet light as well as advanced oxidation.


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