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Nov 27, 2018 10:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Wainscott Water Contamination Investigation Looks At Sand Pit

A firefighting training drill on the Wainscott Commercial Center property in June 2000, at which firefighters sprayed the sort of fire retardant foam that is being identified as a likely source of PFOS/PFOA water contamination. BY MICHAEL WRIGHT
Nov 27, 2018 11:43 AM

The State Department of Environmental Conservation’s investigation of the source of chemical contamination of drinking water supplies in Wainscott has turned its attention to the Wainscott Sand & Gravel property as a possible point source of the pollution.

The investigation thus far has focused on the East Hampton Airport property, and the light industrial lots that ring the airport itself, where firefighting foams that contain the chemicals PFOS and PFOA were stored and used in firefighting training for decades. A simulated plane crash drill at the sand pit in June 2000, which several fire departments and emergency response teams participated in, included the spraying of fire-suppressant foam, leaving pools of the white suds on the open ground.

Airports and the fire-suppressant foams used there have been found to be a source of PFOS/PFOA contamination across the nation. The engineering contractors conducting the analysis portion of the investigation submitted their first report on the findings of their tracking of groundwater flows to the agency last month. The findings have not been made public or presented to town officials.

Some early testing at the airport property had shown high concentrations of PFOS/PFOA in groundwater but limited evidence of the pollutants in the soils—a hint that the contamination may have been coming from another source.

The state acknowledged last week, in response to questions from The Press, that tracing the contamination has given engineers reason to seek further investigation of the sand pit property.

“Based upon the investigation and findings associated with the East Hampton Airport, the Wainscott Sand & Gravel property is currently under review as a potential source of [PFOS/PFOA] in this area,” DEC spokesperson Kevin Frazier said in an email. “If DEC determines the need for study of this property is appropriate, we will designate the property as such, and work with the owner to conduct the needed study, or directly undertake the investigation.”

East Hampton Town officials said that they have been told the DEC plans to request permission to do soil testing and to install groundwater test wells on the sand pit property, and could force the issue legally if access is denied by the owners.

“They have a process by which they can request permission to conduct further testing on the property, and if there is resistance, they can take steps to ensure the testing they want to do gets done,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said earlier this month.

A representative of the sand pit property’s owners, the Tintles, said last week that they have received no specific request for access to the 70-acre property from the DEC yet.

David Eagan, the vice president of the Wainscott Commercial Center—as the sand pit property has been dubbed in its application to the East Hampton Town Planning Board for redevelopment as a 50-lot light industrial park—said that the property owners spoke with DEC officials early in the investigation of the pollution about the various activities, other than the mining of sand and gravel, that take place or have taken place in the past on the sand pit property. He said the June 2000 fire drill was acknowledged.

Mr. Eagan also said that as part of the application for the redevelopment of the property, the company is conducting its own extensive hydrological testing of the groundwater under the property, including testing for the presence of PFOS/PFOA, and would do soil testing as well if findings of the water tests give reason to.

Mr. Eagan said that nine test wells have been installed on the property by engineers hired by the property owners, Alpha Geoscience.

“We will have a full, complete picture of this property’s groundwater situation,” he said. “The owners fully understand the people’s concerns, and we would respond to any requests from the DEC in a professional way. They can look all they want, and we will share any information we have with them.”

Mr. Eagan lives in Wainscott and said his house’s well water tested positive for traces of PFOS/PFOA, as have more than 150 other wells have in the region.

The Suffolk County Water Authority is in the process of installing new water mains at all homes in Wainscott south of the airport.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the town has not yet seen the engineers’ report on the investigation thus far and has only been told that the DEC is seeking to expand its analysis into the sand pit property.

Mr. Van Scoyoc said he expects that the investigation will turn up “multiple sources” of the PFOS/PFOA contamination but would not say whether he thought the town, as owners of the airport property, would ultimately have to bear some responsibility for the pollution.

Along with their use in fire-suppressant foams, PFOS and PFOA were common ingredients in water-repellent treatments applied to a vast variety of products, from carpets and furniture to pizza boxes.

The use of the chemicals was largely halted in the early 2000s after concerns about health impacts were raised—though chemically altered variants are still in wide use. The chemicals are currently categorized by most environmental and health safety agencies as “emerging contaminants” because the full extent of the threats they pose to human or environmental health are not yet fully known.

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We have said from the beginning that the contamination did NOT come from aviation activities at the airport. That it came from the use of fire suppression foam during firefighter training south of the airport (no fault of the firefighters either since the foam was legal, works well on roof fires and car fires, and they had no reason to suspect it was a contaminate). Now we have been proven RIGHT! I wonder if Overby and Bragman will now allow the much needed airport maintenance to take place since ...more
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Nov 29, 18 11:31 AM
Thank you for this article. Tintle has the DEC in his back pocket as he stalls and appeals ruling after ruling. The DEC is turning a blind eye. WHY? Might there be payoff at the top levels? An investigation needs to happen. Our representatives, Citizens and Towns must stand up to this business that is contributing to the contamination of our aquifer. Both on Middle Line Hwy and in Wainscott.
By Hamlet01 (3), Sag Harbor on Nov 29, 18 1:25 PM
The Wainscott sand pit in question is not tingles fault!! He allowed volunteer firefighters to use his land as a training facility and firefighters used foam that entered the groundwater...That’s the towns problem to clean up the mess they’re firemen caused
By Tommy11963 (9), Sag Harbor on Dec 2, 18 2:51 PM