FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 31, 2008
SCHUMER TO REVEAL: NAVY STONEWALLING ON SOUTH FARMINGDALE WATER TREATMENT PLANT FUNDS COULD SEND LOCAL RESIDENTS' WATER BILLS THROUGH THE ROOF
Joined by officials from the South Farmingdale Water District (SFWD), U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that, despite a long standing agreement, the United States Navy is refusing to cover the full cost of building a new water treatment facility needed to clean up potential contamination of water sources caused by the Navy’s weapons depot in
“With times already so tough, the last thing local residents need is a massive spike in their water bills simply because the Navy and Justice Department are dragging their feet,” Schumer said. “The Navy must live up to its responsibilities and pay for these vital systems to ensure that the drinking water is safe and affordable for the entire
The United States Navy operated an old Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in
The Navy agreed that if contamination from their site was identified in the outpost monitoring wells that they would pay for all future costs that the water suppliers would incur for the required treatment facilities or abandonment and replacement of the respective wells. By 2004, the plume had already traveled faster than the Navy had predicted. The outpost monitoring wells indicated that two plants were impacted by contamination from the naval plant site at levels above the trigger values agreed to by the Navy, DEC, and the water district.
The SFWD has been pursuing a settlement with the Navy for nearly five years. Although the Navy has been in general accord with the necessary treatment facilities, the Navy and U.S. Department of Justice have been slow to move on final resolution and execution of the settlement agreement.
This concerns the officials at SFWD because the contaminants are “knocking on our door,” in the words of Business Manager Len Constantinopoli.
In the interim, the SFWD Board of Commissioners have continued to express their concern that one or more of the District’s wells may be impacted before it can design and construct the treatment facilities that all parties have agreed are necessary, despite the fact that currently, all water served by the District is safe to drink.
"After today, I
The water treatment systems proposed would provide the same quality of water consumers enjoy today, but action has to take place as soon as possible. The District cannot defer the construction of treatment facilities indefinitely, waiting for the United States Navy to provide the funds needed to meet this critical need.
While the SFWD Board of Commissioners intends to work diligently with Senator Schumer’s office to expedite the final agreement with the U.S. Navy, two plans of action have been put into effect by the District to protect its water supply and to shield its consumers from paying for the treatment facility.
First, SFWD has been approved to bond up to $18 million to begin design and construction of the necessary treatment facilities. If the treatment facilities are not constructed in time, there is the potential that SFWD would need to close down or restrict wells at Plant Nos. 1 and 3. The four wells at these two sites provide nearly 40% of the District’s well capacity, which are needed to meet existing water supply and fire flow demands. The loss of any of these wells could adversely impact SFWD’s ability to meet peak and emergency pumping requirements, thereby impacting the ability to deliver an adequate water supply to its 45,000 consumers. While the District would prefer to have the money in hand from the Navy prior to building the treatment facilities, it can no longer tolerate any further delays and will soon need to proceed with the project. All proceeds associated with the capital cost portion of the settlement will be used to pay for treatment, thereby minimizing any cost burden on its taxpayers.
Second, the District met with civic associations and asked for their help. These community-minded groups provided a tremendous amount of support and positive action that has helped augment SFWD efforts during these proceedings.
Schumer was joined by S. Farmingdale Water District Commissioners John Hirt, Ralph Atoria and Gary Brosnan, Business Manager Len Constantinopoli, Superintendent Charles Prucha, and representatives from the District’s environmental consulting team, the H2M company.
Schumer today asked the Navy to expedite these negotiations, and to report back to me immediately on when they can promise to reach a final agreement with the South Farmingdale Water District. Schumer will also urge the Navy to pay the full amount that the water district estimates the treatment plant will cost. Finally, Schumer is asking the Department of Justice, which provides legal counsel for the Navy on this issue, to do its part to move quickly so that this issue can be resolved immediately. Schumer wrote, “The contamination caused by the Navy isn