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Schumer Demands Federal Reimbursement for Bethpage

Water district has been forced to issue $14 million in bonds for clean water.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer demanded the federal government reimburse residents of the Bethpage Water District for the money it spent to treat the defense department's toxic legacy.

Schumer, D-NY, said the water district has been forced to issue $14 million in bonds for construction and operation of equipment to treat and purify its drinking water. The water is contaminated by the "Bethpage plume," groundwater contamination left behind by the U.S. Navy and Grumman.

He said the cost of repaying those bonds would amount to about $3,000 per household in the district.

The district has had to issue bonds of almost $14 million for the construction and operation of equipment to treat the drinking water, and repaying those bonds will cost approximately $3000 per household if the district is not reimbursed.  The BWD has already had to make the first payment of $1 million, which will cost ratepayers approximately $100 this year. 

“Bethpage residents didn’t cause this mess and they shouldn’t have to pay to clean it up,” said Schumer.  “The Navy and Department of Justice should stop stringing the water district and its customers along and provide the resources needed to pay down the bonds and prevent water bills from sky-rocketing.  It is bad enough that residents have to deal with the toxic plume – they shouldn’t have to pay extra to do so.”

Schumer, who joined local officials at the Bethpage district's "Plant 6," called on the U.S. Navy to begin payments immediately.

The U.S. Navy operated a Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve in Bethpage for many years, beginning in the late 1930s, which has resulted in at least 2 plumes containing chemicals classified as carcinogens. Since 1976, when contamination concerns were first identified, the plume has spread and is currently threatening over 20 additional public drinking wells that serve over 250,000 Nassau County residents in Bethpage, Massapequa, South Farmingdale and Wantagh Districts.

There are at least two plumes currently within the Bethpage community, and contaminants were detected in five of the eight wells operated by Bethpage Water District. The first plume originates from the Grumman Aerospace Corporation and Navy manufacturing facilities, and the smaller plume is associated with the Bethpage Community Park where Grumman and the Navy disposed of wastes. The Bethpage Water District currently has 8,800 customers.

As a remediation effort, the Bethpage Water District recently built a wellhead treatment facility, known as Plant 6, to purify the drinking water and ensure the delivery of high quality water to the Bethpage community.

The district has had to issue bonds of almost $14 million for the construction and operation of equipment to treat the drinking water. The district has not received any reimbursement payments from the U.S. Navy and the delay has caused it to make the first payment of $1 million of almost $14 million.

Repaying these bonds will cost ratepayers $95 per year, amounting to $2,850 over the course of the loan. These costs are in addition to the normal water bill that homeowners must pay, Schumer's office said.

The South Farmingdale Water District, which is also affected by this plume, received about $14 million settlement from the Department of Defense to protect the District’s Plant 1 in 2010.

Schumer said New York State is also involved in the process and attempting to secure the payments for the water districts.

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