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Zeldin Pushes Navy On Calverton, Long Island, Groundwater Clean Up

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U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin from eastern Long Island has called for the Navy to clean up contaminated groundwater near a former defense manufacturing plant in Calverton. Data from 14 nearby private wells show the presence of dangerous PFAS chemicals from operations at the plant.

Zeldin said the Navy must provide clean drinking water to residents.

“Failure to act is not an option, but every step of the way the Navy has dragged their feet, and the more we learn, the worse it gets,” Zeldin said.

Tim Hopkin, chief legal officer for the Suffolk County Water Authority, said it is prepared to connect 28 homes with clean water provided there is federal funding.

“The Suffolk County Water Authority has already drawn up plans to provide safe drinking water to everyone in the community. We’ve conveyed those plans to the Navy and we’ve given them cost estimates on how much it will cost to provide public water to everyone in the area,” Hopkins said.

It would cost $12 million to connect private service lines for each home.

Zeldin stood among environmental advocates at the homes of residents who have long demanded the Navy provide them clean drinking water.

“It was three decades ago that the Navy first did their assessment at the Calverton site. Three decades, over 30 years, they have known there was contamination on that site,” said Manorville resident Kelly McClinchy. “Sadly for us with the sampling, our worst fears have been confirmed. We now know for sure that the poisons that were dumped on the land have made it to our wells, and these wells are the only source of drinking water for our homes.”

Environmentalists say the Navy refuses to recognize the state’s drinking water standard for PFAS, at 10 parts per trillion. The Navy said it follows a 70 parts per trillion standard set by the federal government.

The highest level of PFAS recorded in private wells were nearly 99 parts per trillion.

“The public deserves and needs clean, safe drinking water, and it shouldn’t be this hard to get it. We shouldn’t have to fight this hard,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “People in this community get up every morning and make a pot of coffee or a cup of tea and take a shower and they worry. Is it safe? Am I safe? Is my water contaminated? And that’s wrong."

Zeldin said the Navy has been slow to remediate the site because there are thousands of similar projects around the country.

A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.