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New York finalizes deal with Northrop Grumman to clean up the toxic Bethpage plume

The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman built military aircraft at the Bethpage plant from 1942 to 1996

Northrop Grumman and the state of New York have put the final touches on a $104 million deal to clean up the Bethpage plume, Long Island’s largest groundwater contamination site.

The settlement, which awaits approval from a federal judge, includes tens of millions of dollars to the Bethpage and the South Farmingdale water districts to protect drinking water supplies. It also requires Northrop Grumman to contain the edges of the 4-mile-long, underground plume of chemicals to stop it from spreading further.

Bethpage plume
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
The Bethpage plume

State Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement that the settlement is about accountability.

"For decades, Northrop Grumman knew its hazardous waste disposal sites leaked toxic substances into the only source of drinking water on Long Island, but for decades, Northrop Grumman denied responsibility," James said. "Long Islanders have paid the price for the company's negligence but today, we're finally forcing Grumman to address its environmental abuse by paying the municipalities and the state that had to clean up its mess."

The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman built military aircraft at the Bethpage plant from 1942 to 1996, including bombers that flew during the Vietnam War. Parts of the Apollo lunar space module that first brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon were also built there.

Newsday revealed two years ago that officials at the plant knew the chemical pollutants were dangerous, but hid the threats to public health and the environment.

The plume contains about two dozen carcinogenic chemicals including trichloroethylene, or TCE, which came from the solvent that Grumman used to clean aircraft parts.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.