Questions and Answers for the Bethpage NWIRP/Grumman Cancer and Environmental Evaluation
What is being released?
The New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) is releasing a study of cancers occurring among people living in a small area directly east of the NWIRP (Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant) site or directly south of the former Grumman site in Bethpage (Nassau County). It also includes an evaluation of information bearing on the potential for human exposures to site-related contaminants in the air of homes near the sites. The study was requested in 2009 by then-Nassau County Legislator, now Nassau County Executive, Edward Mangano, and State Senator Carl Marcellino after testing had shown that elevated levels of contaminants from the NWIRP site had reached the air inside a small number of homes through the process of soil vapor intrusion.
What did the study find?
The study looked at cancers occurring among people living in two areas – a one-block area directly east of the NWIRP (bounded by 11th St., Sycamore Ave., 10th St. and Maple Ave.) where measurements had shown elevated levels of contaminants from the site in the air inside some of the homes, and a 19-block area surrounding that block and bordering the Grumman site.
Overall, the study provided no evidence that cancer patterns in the area were different than in any other community in New York. The one finding in the one-block area east of the NWIRP that the NYSDOH noted was that the people with cancer were relatively young (all between their mid-20s and early 50s) at the time they were diagnosed. Cancers can occur at relatively young ages when the cancer is hereditary, or when people have been exposed to carcinogens in the workplace. However, the people with cancer in this area were all diagnosed with different types of cancer, most of them not linked to the contaminants of concern; the actual number of people diagnosed was small (7) and small numbers are more likely to show the effects of chance; there was no clear relation between the occurrence and type of cancer at a particular home and the results of environmental sampling at that home; and in at least one case there was evidence of a familial predisposition to a particular type of cancer, although we do not know to what extent individual family histories may have played a role. Cancer patterns were not unusual in the 19-block area. The NYSDOH concluded there was no persuasive evidence of an unusual cancer pattern in the study areas.
Are there any plans for a follow-up study?
The NYSDOH conducted a comprehensive evaluation of cancer cases occurring in an area affected by soil vapor intrusion by contaminants from the NWIRP, and an area that might have been affected by soil vapor contaminants from the NWIRP or the Grumman site in the past. The evaluation provided no persuasive evidence that cancers occurring in this particular area were any different from cancers occurring in other communities, therefore no further cancer studies are planned for this area at this time.
Where can people go to get more information on the study?
A summary of the study and a copy of the full report are available on the NYSDOH web site at http://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/investigations/bethpage/. A public meeting is planned for February 13 at 7:30 pm at Bethpage High School. NYSDOH will give a presentation on the study, and will address questions from the public.
Is it "safe" to live in Bethpage? Is contamination from the Navy and Northrop Grumman site making people sick?
Based on the evaluation of thousands of soil vapor, outdoor and indoor air, water and soil samples collected at and around the Navy and Northrop Grumman sites, the NYSDOH concludes that there is no evidence that the health of people living and working in Bethpage is being adversely affected by site-related contaminants.
Do other homes located over the contaminated groundwater associated with these sites need to be tested for soil vapor intrusion?
Based on soil vapor intrusion evaluation data collected to date, and based on the depth at which the groundwater contamination is located, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and NYSDOH have determined that soil vapor intrusion of site-related compounds is not a potential exposure pathway for people living or working in buildings located over contaminated groundwater associated with the Navy and Northrop Grumman sites.
Is the water in the Bethpage area safe to drink?
Yes. The public water suppliers impacted by contaminated groundwater associated with the Navy and Northrop Grumman sites, like all public water suppliers in New York State, are required to meet all health-based drinking water standards set by the NYSDOH. These public water suppliers are required to conduct on-going monitoring to demonstrate that the drinking water is in compliance with these standards. To meet these requirements, the Bethpage Water District reports that it analyzes more than 20,000 water samples during the course of each year. These results are summarized in an Annual Drinking Water Quality Report that Bethpage Water District, and all public water suppliers, are required distribute to their customers. If monitoring results exceed the established levels, your water supplier is required to notify you and to advise you as to the necessary precautions that may be required.
Is the treatment provided an acceptable method of protecting the district's customers from exposure to these contaminants in their drinking water?
Yes. A multiple barrier approach is used for assuring the quality of the potable water served by a public water system. These barriers include source water protection, treatment, and monitoring. Ideally, a public water supplier would utilize a source of water that already meets the State's drinking water standards, but this is not always possible. Treatment utilizing effective and proven methods is often required. The treatment of the source followed by on-going monitoring is used to ensure that the drinking water provided to the district's customers is in compliance with the health-based standards.