The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday it will add parts of Hicksville, New Cassel, Westbury, Hempstead and Salisbury in Nassau County to the Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The agency says groundwater throughout these areas is contaminated with harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
“Residents of Long Island rely on groundwater as their source of drinking water, making it imperative that Long Island’s drinking water is protected from contamination,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “By placing the site on the Superfund list, EPA can continue its investigation of the widespread ground water contamination in this area of Long Island, find the sources of the contamination and over time clean it up.”
The Magothy aquifer, Nassau County’s primary source of drinking water, has been impacted by the contamination, according to the EPA and residents of the affected towns are currently receiving drinking water that is being treated to remove the VOCs.
EPA proposed to add the site to the Superfund list in March 2011 and received and considered public comments on its proposal before making its final decision.
VOCs are often used as ingredients in paint, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleaners, disinfectants, automotive products and dry cleaning fluids. Repeated and direct exposure to VOCs can cause serious health effects including damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system, according to the EPA.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had been examining a number of the contaminated areas of ground water individually.
New York State ultimately determined that the contamination would be better addressed as one large site and in December 2010, referred the site to EPA for inclusion on the Superfund list. EPA conducted an initial investigation of the site in consultation with NYSDEC.
A variety of past industrial and commercial activities in the area are believed to have caused the ground water contamination, although investigations by NYSDEC and EPA have yet to identify all of the specific sources contaminating the wells.
NYSDEC investigated 17 facilities in the New Cassel industrial area between Frost St. in New Cassel and Swalm Ave. in North Hempstead. The DEC and some of the entities in the New Cassel industrial area that are potentially responsible for the contamination have already installed systems to remove contaminants from the ground water at and near some of the sites. The New Cassel industrial area is north of the two contaminated Bowling Green wells in Hempstead.
Ground water testing by EPA in 2010 confirmed the presence of elevated levels of VOCs in 11 public water supply wells, six in Hicksville, four in Hempstead and one on Westbury. The impacted towns have installed treatment systems that remove VOCs from the contaminated ground water before it goes into the water distribution systems by aerating the water or adding chemicals to it. The towns monitor water quality regularly.
To view a map of these wells, go to http://www.epa.gov/region2/kml/hicksville-new-cassel.kmz. (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html).