Cleaning Up The Navy-Grumman Plume

Grumman Water Plume

The issue of our contaminated water supply effects all of us on Long Island. It is our intention to relentlessly generate an ongoing dialogue for solutions that will produce results “quicker and more efficiently” than what is being presented to the public NOW.

Background:

In the 1970s, the giant Grumman Aerospace Corporation used Long Island as the center for manufacturing industrial materials and reagents to support its business. Part of the manufacturing process involved the use of dozens of industrial solvents, two of which are Trichloroethylene (TCE) and 1, 4-Dioxane. As a part of their standard operating protocol, Grumman dumped industrial waste without concern for the health of thousands living in the area. The industrial waste seeped through the soil and entered the groundwater, the main source of drinking water on Long Island, forming the Grumman Water Plume.

Problems:

  • Because of Long Island’s rural, suburban and urban characteristics, the ground water has been exposed to many different chemicals at high levels.5 To date, as far as we can know, there has been no study conducted to examine how the chemicals interact with one another to affect our body.
  •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2014 study found that in one year a total of 42 drinking water–associated outbreaks were reported to CDC, resulting in at least 1,006 cases of illness, 124 hospitalizations and 13 deaths.”6

The water plume has been estimated to be 216 billion cubic feet,1 There is enough contaminated water to fill Yankee stadium from top to bottom 2,900 times. The plume grows one foot every day1.

  Toxicity:

  1. One of the more toxic chemicals Trichlorethylene (TCE),  which is in  many areas surrounding the Plume, could cause damage to the central nervous system, liver, kidney, reproductive organs, immune system and developing fetus2. Depending on exposure concentration, duration and route, TCE can cause chronic disease (asthma, cancer, kidney disease, etc.) and death.2

                          

3D model of TCE quantity in Plume10

  • 1,4 Dioxane may possibly still be in the drinking water and, if ingested, it can cause liver and kidney damage with prolonged exposure leading to acute chronic disease.3 On Long Island, 1.4 Dioxane was found at 100 times the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) acceptable dose. 4
  • Other Chemicals such as Tetrachloroethene (PCE) and 1,1,1-Trichloro- ethane (1,1,1-TCA) were also found in some of the water.4  

  Inhalants:

  • The EPA is currently reassessing the problem of inhaling contaminants.  The EPA advises not to boil the water!  There is no evidence that boiling water will remove Trichlorethylene (TCE) and boiling the water may increase the risk of inhaling TCE in contaminated steam.
  • Vaporing the water while showering, if it does contain TCE, could result in significant inhalation doses of volatile chemical contaminants.

Present Legislated Solutions:

  • The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) aims to build 24 groundwater extraction wells, five treatment plants, four recharge basins and approximately 24 miles of conveyance piping.8
  • This solution will cost up to $535 million, take AT LEAST 100 years to complete. Thisis UNACCEPTABLE

Proposed Solutions to Consider:

This tragedy has loomed over Long Island for over 75 years.  Ann Brancato as part of her ongoing interest in the community has established a Campaign Scientific Advisory Committee made up of experts from a variety of medical and corporate entities, Chaired by scientist Chirag Raparia.

We are exploring four science based solutions that has shown promise to shorten the decontamination time, reduce the expense of the project, and champion scientific innovation and advancement.  Rigorous investigation of these solutions be undertaken as opposed to settling for a 100 year “Fix” on the problem.

MITs’ Faradaic electrode driven decontamination process
  • The first solution is from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  They use a treated metal surface sandwiched between two powerful magnets. Water is pumped onto the table, the metal table will ionize the toxins in the water and then the magnets on either side of the metal surface will draw the toxins out of the water. Once the toxins and the water are separated, the water can continue to normal treatment procedures.
The Drexel University Cold plasma decontamination process

The second solution is a cold plasma treatment from Drexel University. They use a highly energized material called cold plasma to excite chemical bonds in toxins such as TCE. These bonds cannot handle the extra energy given by cold plasma and the bonds break, degrading the toxins into harmless elements. This solution not only separates, but eliminates the toxins from the environment.

The Brookhaven National Laboratory particle accelerator decontamination process

The third Solution is from the local institutions of Stony Brook University and the Brookhaven National Laboratory. They use particle accelerators to break down toxins. Using the particle accelerator located at Brookhaven National Lab, they can energize the chemical bonds in the toxins to the point where they break. Once a channel of water is established, the particle accelerator can start processing the water in bulk. Similar to Cold Plasma, this method will degrade the toxin to its basic harmless elements and will eliminate the toxin from the environment completely.

Arizona State University Membrane Biofilm Reactor

Our last solution is from Arizona State University; Membrane Biofilm Reactor. Scientist at Arizona State University have identified a strain of bacteria that takes toxic compounds such as TCE and uses its own cellular machinery to break down the chemical into elemental parts. Scientists there have developed columns lined with these microbes and as water passes through the columns, the microbes clean up the water.

While further exploration is needed, these solutions have the potential to cut the time needed to decontaminate the Plume dramatically. We need and we deserve clean water today.  These proposed solutions are possible vehicles to be further studied to achieve this critical goal.

Due to limitations of time and resources, the Committee strongly recommends the following studies along with our recommendations be pursued to safeguard the public’s health and ensure the protection of our water supply.  

Studies to be Further Pursued and Investigated:

  • What is the cumulative effect of all the chemicals in Long Island water? What effect does it have on the body?
  • What can we learn from Long Island’s companion animals and the illnesses they develop due to the water?
  • If TCE is present in the water, further research should be conducted on the consequences/effects of chemical inhalants produced in showering and other aerosol products such as humidifiers and if so, under what circumstances.
  • What is the decontamination mechanism the New York Department of Environmental Conservation plans on using and why will it take more than 100 years?
  • Explore these new mechanisms of decontamination in a realistic and scalable way?
  • Are there other methods of decontamination we can explore such as the use of naturally occurring bacteria with the ability to degrade TCE?
  • Is  a long-term plan to use New York City water a possible option?

Footnotes and Sources of Information:

  1. https://www.dec.ny.gov/data/DecDocs/130003B/Fact%20Sheet.HW.130003B.2019-12-20.Navy-Grumman_Final_AROD_Factsheet.pdf
  2. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp19-c3.pdf
  3. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp187.pdf
  4. https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/remediation_hudson_pdf/130003abdraftarod.pdf
  5. http://s1091480.instanturl.net/dwqr2020/AWQR2020_52620_FINAL.pdf
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6644a3.htm
  7. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/HAC/pha/northropGrummanWeapons/Northrop_Grumman_HC_508.pdf
  8. https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/remediation_hudson_pdf/130003app061019.pdf
  9. https://www.newsday.com/long-island/environment/bethpage-plume-1.39689286
  10. https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/35727.html
  11. https://news.stonybrook.edu/newsroom/doe-particle-accelerator-awards-support-clean-water-and-plasma-wave-tech-projects/
  12. https://drexel.edu/now/archive/2020/February/cold-plasma-PFAS-water-treatment/
  1. http://news.mit.edu/2017/electrochemical-clear-pollutants-water-0510
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080228100728.htm

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