Authorities are still working to pinpoint the source of pollution responsible for contaminating more than 100 private wells near and around Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton more than a year after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency first identified a pair of unregulated chemicals in the drinking water. Starting this fall, representatives of the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said they will launch an investigation targeting the Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing base, located at the airport that is owned by Suffolk County and thought to be the source of the contamination.
Officials have said that they think the chemicals—perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA—will be traced to special firefighting foam once used at the base during training sessions. Both chemicals are classified as perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, and have typically been linked with industrial products, such as water-resistant coatings, oils, stains and certain greases, according to a fact sheet released by Suffolk County.
DEC officials expect to wrap up their investigation before the end of the year, according to an agency statement.
“The objective of the Site Investigation is to sample and analyze soil and groundwater at all identified areas of concern for perfluorinated compounds (PFCs, including PFOS and PFOA) at the base to determine which of the areas of concern are sources of the contaminated groundwater which has impacted public and private water supply wells,” reads the statement in part. “Areas of concern found to be sources of groundwater contamination will subsequently be investigated in greater detail to guide future cleanup activities.”
The upcoming investigation is expected to confirm if the contamination originated from the foam used at the base, said Christina Capobianco, deputy commissioner for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and Amy Juchatz, an environmental toxicologist with the same department, in a recent joint interview.
As DEC officials ready for that investigation, homeowners in the direct path of the contamination are finally learning if their consumption of the tainted well water—possibly over several decades in some instances—has put them at risk. In the spring, a group of homeowners filed a class action lawsuit against multiple firefighting foam manufacturers alleging that their product, which had been sold to the ANG since 1970, polluted their drinking water.
Several homeowners exposed to the chemicals are being represented by Patrick Lanciotti of the Manhattan-based law firm Napoli Shkolnik PLLC in the class action lawsuit. A section of the firm’s website, www.napolilaw.com, is dedicated to well contamination, and states that the consumption of PFOA and PFOS can cause several serious illnesses, including testicular and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, high cholesterol and pregnancy-induced hypertension.
Mr. Lanciotti could not be immediately reached for comment, and several county officials declined to discuss the lawsuit, saying that they cannot comment on ongoing litigation.
“Napoli Shkolnik PPLC is investigating claims by Westhampton residents with private wells who were potentially exposed to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in the [Westhampton’s] drinking water supply,” the firm’s website reads. “You may have property damage or potential personal injury claims.” Read More
SOURCE: 27 East