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U.S. Navy Secretary Visits LI To Witness Aftermath Of Ground Water Pollution

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The secretary of the U.S. Navy visited Long Island on Friday to see first-hand the legacy of ground water pollution that has been traced to Navy work during World War II.

The visit came as testing of wells showed radioactive radium is spreading, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

Monique Aksoy is one of many Bethpage residents no longer drinking public water. She even uses a home filtration system to make her ice cubes.

"I would not touch that water. I will not drink it, I do not brush my teeth with it," she told Gusoff.

The culprit is toxic plumes of contaminated ground water that are three miles long and two miles wide.

Discovered in the 1980s, it has cost taxpayers millions of dollars to make Bethpage's drinking water safe.

But nothing stopped the plume from steadily moving south toward Massapequa. Radioactive radium is on the move, too.

It was first found by testing wells under Bethpage High School, and now Central Boulevard Elementary School.

"Now it's all the way below the Southeastern State Parkway, putting many, many more people at risk," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

The Senate minority leader invited U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer to see for himself the effects of Navy pollution. The contamination was traced to Navy work following WWII when it contracted with Grumman to build fighter planes and chemicals were dumped into the ground.

"We need the Navy to step up to the plate," Schumer said.

"The Navy knows its responsibilities. The Navy is not going anywhere. The Navy is part of this community, as it is many communities," Spencer said. "We will do what is the right thing to do."

The secretary toured water filtration plants and learned it could cost $250 million to stop the plume before it hits other communities.

Water officials say it's been an epic battle to get the Navy to take responsibility.

"If they would have done this 20 years ago, it would have been a lot smaller task to undertake," Superintendent of the Bethpage Water District Michael Boufis said.

"Had the Navy and Grumman stepped up to the plate earlier, we could have solved the problem already for a lot less money," Schumer agreed.

After finally having the opportunity to make the case directly to the secretary, local officials said they are hopeful. They have asked for reimbursement and the millions needed to intercept the plume, clean it, and return it to the Long Island water supply.

State officials said there is no danger to children or visitors at the schools, because the radium is only in testing wells – not in the drinking water.

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