New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced its decision to add areas of Hicksville, New Cassel, Westbury, Hempstead and Salisbury in Nassau County, New York to the Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. Ground water throughout these areas is contaminated with harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Magothy aquifer, Nassau County’s primary source of drinking water, has been impacted by the contamination. Residents of the affected towns are currently receiving drinking water that is being treated to remove the VOCs. EPA proposed to add the site to the Superfund list in March 2011 and received and considered public comments on its proposal before making its final decision.
VOCs are often used as ingredients in paint, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleaners, disinfectants, automotive products and dry cleaning fluids. Repeated and direct exposure to VOCs can cause serious health effects including damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.
“Residents of Long Island rely on ground water as their source of drinking water, making it imperative that Long Island’s drinking water is protected from contamination,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “By placing the site on the Superfund list, EPA can continue its investigation of the widespread ground water contamination in this area of Long Island, find the sources of the contamination and over time clean it up.”
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had been examining a number of the contaminated areas of ground water individually. New York State ultimately determined that the contamination would be better addressed as one large site and in December 2010, referred the site to EPA for inclusion on the Superfund list. EPA conducted an initial investigation of the site in consultation with NYSDEC.
A variety of past industrial and commercial activities in the area are believed to have caused the ground water contamination, although investigations by NYSDEC and EPA have yet to identify all of the specific sources contaminating the wells. NYSDEC investigated 17 facilities in the New Cassel industrial area between Frost St. in New Cassel and Swalm Ave. in North Hempstead. The DEC and some of the entities in the New Cassel industrial area that are potentially responsible for the contamination have already installed systems to remove contaminants from the ground water at and near some of the sites. The New Cassel industrial area is north of the two contaminated Bowling Green wells in Hempstead.
Ground water testing by EPA in 2010 confirmed the presence of elevated levels of VOCs in 11 public water supply wells, six in Hicksville, four in Hempstead and one on Westbury. The impacted towns have installed treatment systems that remove VOCs from the contaminated ground water before it goes into the water distribution systems by aerating the water or adding chemicals to it. The towns monitor water quality regularly. To view a map of these wells, go to http://www.epa.gov/region2/kml/hicksville-new-cassel.kmz. (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html).
With all Superfund sites, EPA does an extensive search to identify and locate the parties potentially responsible for the contamination and require them to pay for or perform the cleanup work. The majority of Superfund cleanups are performed by or paid for by polluters, not tax dollars. Superfund money is used for EPA oversight costs and when no responsible party can be identified.
EPA is adding 14 other sites across the country to the Superfund list today and proposing 11 others to be added to the list. For more information on Superfund, go to http://www.epa.gov/superfund/.