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Jun 5, 2019 5:44 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

State Adds East Hampton Airport Hazardous Waste Site To Superfund List

The state has declared 47 acres of the East Hampton Airport, including the land where the terminal now stands, a hazardous waste site.  KYRIL BROMLEY
Jun 11, 2019 11:50 AM

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has ordered 47 acres of East Hampton Airport added to its “Superfund” hazardous waste site list, in the wake of its investigation of chemical contamination of groundwater in southern Wainscott.

After a year-long investigation, the DEC identified a half dozen sites on the 570-acre airport property last fall that showed elevated levels of contamination by the chemicals PFOS and PFOA. It has now recommended that they be added to the state’s Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites.

All of the locations of elevated contamination, which are scattered around the property, have some connection to the use of fire-suppressant foams.

Inclusion on the Superfund list requires the state and those parties deemed responsible for the contamination to clean it up. It makes state funding available for further investigation of the contamination and for determining how it can best be remediated. It also gives the DEC the authority and funding to clean up the site if the responsible party is unwilling or unable to do the work in an acceptable time frame.

The Superfund program was used to force the Nabisco Corporation to conduct a decades-long, multimillion-dollar cleanup of groundwater contamination at the Rowe Industries site in Sag Harbor, which is still ongoing.

The chemicals PFOS and PFOA found in the soils of the airport were common ingredients in fire-suppressant foams until about 2005. In its report on the East Hampton Airport investigation last fall, the DEC identified several instances of the foams being sprayed during emergency training drills or in response to incidents at the airport dating back to the 1980s.

Included in the locations that will be added to the Superfund list is the area surrounding the airport’s terminal, which had been the site of at least one emergency drill before the current terminal building was constructed, as well as an East Hampton Fire Department training facility, and a storage area at the southeast end of the airport property, where fire trucks and the airport’s stock of firefighting foams were stored.

There also is an area with elevated contamination at the northern end of one of the airport runways, where a plane once crash-landed and where another drill was staged, both involving the use of fire-suppressant foams on open ground.

The discovery of groundwater contamination by PFOS/PFOA has mushroomed nationwide in recent years, most often in areas surrounding airports where fire-suppressant foams had been stored or used in drills and emergency responses. There are dozens of lawsuits pending against the handful of companies, including the chemical giant 3M, that manufactured the foams. East Hampton Town and a Wainscott resident, Kim Shipman, have both filed lawsuits against 3M and other foam manufacturers.

After the PFOS/PFOA contamination was discovered in Wainscott in 2017, the town spurred a Suffolk County Water Authority project to extend county water mains to more than 500 homes in the southern portions of the hamlet, paid for with a $9.7 million grant from the state.

This week, East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said the town will maintain a proactive approach in dealing with the issue. “We’re committed to further investigation and engaging environmental experts and the DEC to remediate the contamination,” he said.

Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton already has been listed on the Superfund site list, following the discovery of PFOS/PFOA contamination in surrounding groundwater tables in 2015.

The two chemicals are among several that are known as “emerging contaminants” by regulatory agencies, because their potential health effects are unknown and the agencies generally do not have standards for determining whether their presence in the environment is dangerous or not.

The chemicals were also common ingredients in waterproofing additives to a broad number of products, from pizza boxes to carpeting. They have largely been eliminated from use in products made in the United States but are still used in products imported from other countries.

The Suffolk County Water Authority has said that combating PFOS, PFOA and other emerging chemical contamination could cost it—and its ratepayers—as much as $1 billion in the coming years.

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Terribly poor reporting Mr. Wright. No plane ever crashed at the end of any of HTOs runways. The fire department put an old bus in the field at the approach end of runway 16 and lit it on fire to perform a mass casualty exercise decades ago. Pathetic effort to blame the PFOS contamination on aviation activities at the airport when this was 100% fire department training exercises related (not that it’s the fire department’s fault either for unknowingly using the foam they were told was ...more
By localEH (393), East Hampton on Jun 5, 19 6:38 PM
There was a crash. 70s or 80s. Small plane. Clipped a tree or something and didn't make it to the runway. Wasn't bad but lots of fire trucks were there. Right by Daniels Hole Road where it makes the left turn after you go past the hangers.

Must have been before you were "local"
By em (50), sagaponack on Jun 11, 19 5:19 PM
localEH, did you live here when that crash occurred?
By PBR (4917), Southampton on Jun 11, 19 8:01 PM
Let's deal here. What would you say the rough estimate of C8 contaminated soil exists? Not just here, but elsewhere? Like, acreage nationwide. No joke, there are entire river communities tainted with the stuff. It ain't just local. BTW, y'know, fluorine is "F" on the Periodic Table. Just sayin'...

By Mr. Z (11364), North Sea on Jun 6, 19 1:09 AM