Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy have come to a $406 million agreement to conduct a full aquifer protection clean up project to eliminate groundwater pollution at the former Grumman Aerospace site in Bethpage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
After a decades-long fight to curb what’s referred to as the toxic “Grumman plume,” the decision marks a significant victory for environmentalists, Long Island water districts, and elected officials. The plan to cure the aquifer contamination will span 30 years.
“It was a long fight,” Cuomo said during his press briefing, “but it will protect the drinking water for the people on Long Island, and it was a really good thing and a big win.”
The project, which Cuomo called “very elaborate engineering, but highly effective,” is set to begin in January. The agreement also contains $104 million in payments in environmental damages, some of which will go toward drinking water treatment plants.
“This is a landmark agreement that deserves to be celebrated by every resident on Long Island,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement. “Nassau County will be working collaboratively with the federal and state government every step of the way to make sure these settlement funds are used to help provide clean and safe drinking water for all.”
Northrop Grumman, which was then Grumman Aerospace, co-owned the Bethpage site with the Navy in the mid-20th century, where the manufacturer constructed World War II fighters and the space module that put the first man on the moon.
During that time, more than two dozen contaminants, most notably Trichloroethylene, or TCE, seeped into the ground’s aquifers that provide drinking water for residents in the area and spread in a plume throughout nearby aquifers over the years.
Since then, Grumman had misled the public and denied that any harmful chemicals were in the water. The Navy only recently began to come around to plans to rectify the situation.
U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said Bethpage Water District “has unfairly shouldered this burden for far too long but has never failed in its mission of delivering clean water to the community it serves.”
He added that he will continue to fight for Northrop to “pay the Bethpage Water District to acquire Plant 4 which will facilitate the cleanup and provide the Water District with needed financial relief.”
“This agreement with Northrop Grumman and the recent agreement with the Navy are dramatic steps forward in this 40-year nightmare,” he said.