DEC Has Been Monitoring Second Area For Five Years


A second area of contamination in Speonk, underneath Dock Road, has quietly been studied for several years together with a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation review of the highly publicized solvent groundwater plume currently being monitored, officials have confirmed.

Now, Southampton Town officials said, the area will be a second focus of the new Speonk Solvent Plume Working Group formed by the DEC to work with town officials for future monitoring and potential remediation.

According to Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the second area of concern is not a full-blown plume, but water wells in the area have tested positive for similar contaminants—metal degreasers and cleaning supplies—found in the nearby 2-mile-long plume. The area, which has not been classified, is leaving some local scientists to believe it poses a more immediate threat to the community due to its depth and proximity to groundwater.

Although not much is known about the second area, DEC officials have confirmed to Ms. Throne-Holst that it has been subject to monitoring since 2008, she said. Although it is not part of the plume, DEC officials said that any property owner with a well that has tested positive has been hooked up to public water. DEC officials were not immediately available for comment this week.

“The priority is to fully understand and monitor the nature of the public health threat these areas of contamination pose so we can protect our residents from exposure and take appropriate actions to prevent public health issues over the long term,” Ms. Throne-Holst said in a press release sent out this week. “And in order to do that properly, we need to do more monitoring, both of the Speonk Solvent Plume and this second area of concern.”

The area is located under Dock Road, a dead-end street leading to Seatuck Cove south from Montauk Highway. The area is to the west of the solvent plume, which begins about one mile north of the intersection of Old Country Road and North Phillips Avenue, and continues south until it is 2,000 feet south of Montauk Highway. The swath of pollution for the main plume starts at Speonk-Riverhead Road and runs about 2,000 feet to the west.

The plume was discovered in 2001 after an unidentified resident complained that the well water in Speonk tasted odd. The pollution—the source of which has not been determined and is believed to be about a half-century old—was the subject of a massive 16,000-page characterization study commissioned by the DEC and conducted by the Massachusetts-based environmental consulting firm Camp Dresser and McKee.

According to the study, the primary contaminants found in the plume are perchloroethylene, trichloroethene, trichloroethane, carbon tetrachloride and chloroform. Several of the chemicals are metal degreasers, while chloroform is primarily used to make other chemicals.

According to Stephanie Davis, a Remsenburg resident and hydrogeologist who sits on the Solvent Plume Working Group and has been following the plume’s progress since its discovery, said in the release that although the chemicals are not as concentrated in the second area, they are likely to hit larger bodies of water sooner because it is starting closer.

“I think it is important that we know more abut the path and depth of this contamination as soon as possible,” she said. “The contamination in the second area of concern, though much less concentrated, is shallower and located closer to points of discharge, which makes it more concerning to me in the short term than the primary Speonk solvent plume.”

For now, the group is collecting as much data as it can about the second area, and have confirmed that the town, the Suffolk County Water Authority and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services are collaborating to reach all property owners still using private wells in the area. The groups are also planning to conduct another groundwater study in the area using those wells. All affected property owners are expected to be notified by the end of May.

“I think a key message for homeowners in the area is that if you are using well water, be sure to have your water tested annually,” Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said this week. “The Suffolk County Department of Health Services will provide the service for free, so cost is not an issue.”

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