06.24.19

SCHUMER: GROWING CONCERN ACROSS BETHPAGE INTO NAVY CONTRACTOR TASKED TO INVESTIGATE & REPORT ON RADIUM LEVELS AROUND PLUME DEMANDS ACTION; SENATOR PUSHES TO INCLUDE NEW AMENDMENT IN MUST-PASS LEGISLATION TO GUARANTEE LI’S GROUNDWATER TEST RESULTS GET AN INDEPENDENT, SECOND LOOK

A Navy Contractor—Tetra Tech—With A Checkered Past Is Currently Performing Sampling Of Radium Levels At Former Naval Plant In Bethpage; Concern Is Spreading That Given Firm’s Past, We Need A Mandate That Their Work Be Double-Checked By An Independent Third Party

Schumer Pushes Plan & Unveils Legislative Measure To Ensure That Tetra Tech, Which Fudged Toxic Reports Before, Cannot Ever Do The Same On LI

Schumer: When It Comes To Radium Levels On LI, A Guaranteed Second Look Is A Sigh Of Relief    

Citing growing concern for water quality testing and public health across Bethpage, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer pushed a new plan, today, to guarantee scheduled testing for radium levels in nearby groundwater is ironclad accurate. Schumer noted that the Navy-contracted company charged with performing the local testing—Tetra Tech—has a checkered past and has been caught falsifying records before. Therefore, Schumer’s push aims to include an amendment in the upcoming and must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would mandate the Navy’s testing receives an independent, second look. Right now, there is no such statutory mandate. Schumer said locals and others remain troubled by Tetra Tech’s past and that this amendment would deliver a sigh of relief.

“When it comes to the water we drink here on Long Island and in the beautiful community of Bethpage, the stakes are too high to be anything but certain,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “My push, today, aims to remove a giant weight from the shoulders of everyone here with me today, and the residents they represent.”

“Radium is so serious, and this testing is so critical, that holding the Navy to a guarantee on the verification of results requires an ironclad law. And this should be across-the-board, with all contractors, because there will always be bad apples who try to skirt the system, cut corners on testing, and they must and should be held accountable—but you have to root them out. And the only way to ensure this is to pass the law I am including in the NDAA. This is not a partisan issue. This is a public health issue, plain and simple,” Schumer added.    

Schumer’s push comes amidst growing concern over water quality testing and public health across Bethpage because Tetra Tech Inc., the company hired to perform sampling for radium at the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant (NWIRP), has been implicated in a scandal in which they falsified records. Employees of Tetra Tech EC, an environmental unit of Tetra Tech Inc., were ordered by company supervisors to commit widespread fraud in the cleanup of Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, a Superfund site in San Francisco. In September 2017, the Navy released a preliminary analysis of the cleanup which found that nearly half of the samples taken from the site had been falsified or manipulated. Two field supervisors plead guilty in 2017 to falsifying records by directing workers to substitute samples from potentially contaminated areas for clean soil samples.

Tetra Tech NUS, the architectural and engineering unit of the parent company, has already completed 4 radium samplings at NWIRP Bethpage: the first sampling was completed in April and May of 2018, the second was completed in September 2018, the third completed in December 2018, and the fourth completed most recently in March 2019. Tetra Tech NUS is scheduled to conduct a fifth sampling this month.

Schumer argued that the only way to trust Tetra Tech’s sampling results at NWIRP, Bethpage, in light of their past fraudulent record, is to mandate verification. Given Schumer’s and others’ concerns, the Navy has changed its contract in Bethpage, requiring a third-party contractor, Validata Chemical Services, Inc., to review the quality of Tetra Tech’s radium testing data, but Schumer says the review needs to be in law to guarantee the accuracy of the radium testing. An amendment to the NDAA would achieve this goal. Schumer has just filed the amendment and, today, is urging its inclusion in FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would mandate the Secretary of the Navy to require an independent third-party to review all radium testing completed by Navy contractors. The health risks posed by radium are too severe to turn a blind-eye to contractors who have and may continue to falsify or manipulate testing results, Schumer argues.

“Protecting the health, safety and welfare of residents must be the highest priority when remediating the harmful contaminants left behind by Grumman and the Navy”, said Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino. “I thank Senator Schumer for demanding that the Navy take extra precautions when evaluating data from the ongoing radium testing of area groundwater. As representatives of Bethpage, we will continue to work in partnership to remediate the contamination, hold the polluters accountable and ensure our residents are protected – both environmentally and financially.”

“The safety of our water supply is of the upmost concern,” said New York State Senator Jim Gaughran. “I thank Senator Schumer for his leadership in working to ensure that dangerous contaminants, pollutants, and other harmful materials in our water are swiftly detected and properly remediated.”

“It is very troubling to learn that elevated levels of radium were discovered at one of our local high schools,” said Assemblymember Lavine. “We must take action to ensure the safety of our children and local residents and I appreciate the initiative taken by Senator Schumer to address this matter."

Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive element that is generally present at low levels in all soil, water, and rocks and, at higher levels and prolonged exposure, poses many dangerous health risks to humans. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) states that exposure to radium over a long period of time can lead to anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, bone cancer, and in some cases, death. Radium-based paint was likely present at NWIRP Bethpage in luminous dials on aircraft instruments, prompting this investigation by the Navy and the hiring of Tetra Tech to sample the soil. If radium was released from past operations at NWIRP Bethpage, it could move away from the release area with the flow of groundwater.

Throughout the years-long history of radium detection in Bethpage, Schumer has been pushing the Navy, EPA and Congress to act and address the grave concerns amongst locals.

After reports of elevated levels of radium in groundwater on Bethpage High School’s campus in 2017, Schumer sent a letter to Northrup Grumman and the Navy demanding that they publically disclose any documents about the usage, storage, or disposal of radioactive materials at NWRIP’s Bethpage site. That year, Schumer sent a letter to the EPA requesting that they assist in an investigation into the past use of radioactive materials. Also in 2017, Schumer asked DOD Secretary Mattis –in a personal meeting-- to follow up on concerns about radioactive materials at NWRIP’s Bethpage site; he then secured Navy Secretary Spencer’s visit to Long Island where Schumer and locals raised concerns about elevated levels of radium; and finally, Schumer secured language in a prior NDAA mandating that the Navy provide a report to Congress addressing the possibility of radium and radioactive material released into groundwater near NWRIP’s Bethpage site. Schumer says all this work would be out the window if, in the end, there were any doubts about the accuracy of ongoing tests, which is why today’s push is so critical to Bethpage and other communities plagued by similar circumstance.   

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