Health Services

Groundwater Quality in the Vicinity of the Air National Guard Base in Westhampton

Updated 3/31/17

On September 12, 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has declared the New York State Air National Guard Base at Gabreski Airport a Class 2 Superfund Site. With this designation, NYSDEC has identified the U.S. Department of Defense, which oversees the site’s operations, as the potentially responsible party for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) contamination detected in nearby groundwater supplies.

In a letter to the airport director, NYSDEC leadership stated that it had directed the U.S. Department of Defense to finance connection to public water any homes with private wells that have been or may be impacted by contamination.

Background

On April 25, 2016, NYSDEC added PFOS to the state’s list of hazardous substances to utilize the State Superfund program. Through monitoring conducted by the Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA) under a United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) program known as the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, PFOS was detected in public supply wells in the vicinity of the New York State Air National Guard Base at Gabreski Airport located at Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton Beach.

The results of this sampling were reported to residents in the SCWA 2016 Drinking Water Quality report and to the US EPA. The public water supply is being treated to remove contamination and currently meets all state and federal drinking water standards, as well as the US EPA health advisory level for PFOS and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

In July, NYSDEC identified the Air National Guard Base, including the former fire training area at the airport, as a potential Superfund site due to historic use of firefighting foam containing PFOS. NYSDEC initiated an investigation and took groundwater and soil samples at the base, which confirmed that the site is a significant source of PFOS contamination in the area.

In August, 2016, the Air National Guard notified the SCDHS and the SCWA that they had concluded that a release of PFOS had occurred at the Air National Guard Base and that this release is a contributor to the contamination of the groundwater in the drinking water supplies in the area. Furthermore, the Air National Guard committed to work with the SCDHS and SCWA in providing a safe and alternative water supply to those on private and public water.

Private well survey

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) is completing a private well survey in the vicinity of and downgradient of the New York State Air National Guard Base to help assess the drinking water quality of properties served with private wells. A total of 59 properties have had their private wells sampled. PFOS and PFOA have been detected above the health advisory level in some of these private wells. Therefore, the SCDHS strongly recommends that owners of property that is served with a private well located south of the LIRR tracks, and East of Beaverdam Creek, Westhampton and West of Quantuck Creek in Westhampton contact the SCDHS Office of Water Resources at (631) 852-5810 to schedule to have the well water tested for free. Even if the property is unoccupied, the well water should be sampled. Those with homes served by public water do not need to have their water sampled, as the public water supply is routinely tested.

Those who live in homes with a private well in the area defined above may wish to -- out of an abundance of caution and until results of water testing become available -- use bottled water for drinking, preparation of infant formula and cooking. Bottled water is available at no charge. Residents should call 631-852-4820 to request bottled water.

Connecting to Public Water

In November of 2016, the NYSDEC announced that the state and the Department of Defense would connect properties that are either impacted or threatened to be impacted by PFC contamination. Approximately two thirds of the homes have been connected to public water to date. The Suffolk County Department of Health Services encourages all eligible property owners in the survey area to take advantage of this offer to connect to public water at no cost. Owners should contact the SCWA, at 631-563-0251 or e-mail, marie.berkoski@scwa.com to arrange to have their property connected to public water.

Monitoring well data:

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services has installed groundwater monitoring wells (profile wells) in the vicinity of the New York State Air National Guard Base to help determine the nature and extent of groundwater contamination in the area. The groundwater samples were taken from various depths within the groundwater table in order to understand where contamination may be present and the potential risks posed to public and private drinking water supplies. It is important to understand that these samples were not taken from a drinking water supply.

For monitoring well locations and data click here: SCDHS Gabreski Airport PFC Groundwater Investigation


Contacts for more information

  • For information on the environmental investigation at the Air National Guard Base
  • For general questions about PFOS or PFOA and health, contact New York State Department of Health at 1-518-402-7860
  • For residents who would like to find out if they are served by public water or are interested in connecting to public water, contact the Suffolk County Water Authority at 631-698-9500.
  • For information about the quality of public water, contact the Suffolk County Water Authority at 631-698-9500 or go to: http://s1091480.instanturl.net/dwqr2016/2016_DWQR_FINAL_5-31-16.pdf
  • Residents who have questions about private well water in Suffolk County or would like to have their wells tested, contact the SCDHS Office of Water Resources at 631-852-5810.
  • o For information about the Air Force’s response to PFCs, go to: http://www.afcec.af.mil/Home/Environment/Perfluorinated-Compounds/

Suffolk County Press Releases Related to PFOA & PFOS

07-22-2016 - Water Quality Advisory for Private-Well Owners in Areas of Westhampton

09-12-2016- Governor Cuomo Announces New Actions to Protect Water Quality on Long Island: http://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-new-actions-protect-water-quality-long-island

10-05-2016- NYSDEC Public Notice: Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Classification Notice, Gabreski Air National Guard Base