Will EPCAL contamination spread east? Manorville resident says ‘everybody will be affected’

A Manorville resident who has been a leader in the call to extend public water to parts of Manorville and Calverton near the Enterprise Park at Calverton sasys the issue is bigger than just those hamlets and pollution may find its way in the Peconic River and in places to the east and even downtown Riverhead.

“The Navy has notified the public that the water flows to the Peconic River,” said Kelly McClinchey of Manorville, at the June 15 Riverhead Town Board meeting. Ms. McClinchey is a member of the Calverton Restoration Advisory Board, which oversees the Navy cleanup of land at EPCAL that is still owned by the Navy – and undergoing cleanup by the Navy – which previously leased it to the Grumman Corporation to test fighter planes.  

“Anyone who has attended a RAB meeting has heard this,” she said. “These chemicals are going offsite, and flowing past the south fence line, and they will get no further remediation. The Navy is not doing anything more to clean them up once they are off site.”

She said the Navy’s plan “is a complete lack of a plan,”  and “is to allow the contaminants to naturally attenuate, which means they’ll just disappear. To be clear, there are no guarantees that the VOC (volatile organic compounds) levels that are already off site are going to disappear before they get to the Peconic River.”

She said many of the contaminations are “forever chemicals” and will never disappear.

The chemicals enter the Peconic River and flow east toward Riverhead, Ms. McClinchey said. 

Every though only 64 homes in Riverhead Town and 64 homes in Brookhaven Town are impacted now, she said,  “it’s everybody in this town” that will be affected, including people that use the river for recreation and for food.

To date, the Navy has not admitted responsibility for well contamination of private wells. 

David Todd, a Navy spokesman, responded to a request for comment by email, saying: “The Department of the Navy is currently undertaking a comprehensive strategy to address known or potential releases of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) from Navy facilities like NWIRP (Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant) Calverton.”

PFAS are toxic manmade chemical compounds that have had a variety of uses, including firefighting foams and teflon.

“A key component of this strategy is the proactive sampling of private drinking water wells downgradient (i.e., in the direction of groundwater flow) within one mile from known or suspected PFAS releases to identify PFAS exposures above the Environmental Protection Agency’s Health Advisory (HA), Mr. Todd said.  

“For NWIRP Calverton, the Navy twice sampled private drinking waters wells within one-mile downgradient and found no exposures above the EPA’s Health Advisory.”

Ms. Todd said the Navy is aware that the Suffolk County Health Department sampled wells to the south of EPCAL last year.

“The Navy understands that these sampled wells are not downgradient from known or suspected releases on NWIRP Calverton, either because the sampled wells are south of the Peconic River – which forms a barrier to groundwater flow to the south – or are too far southwest, and therefore well outside the path of the southeast groundwater flow from NWIRP Calverton releases.”