The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has included 47 of the 570 acres at the East Hampton Airport on its “Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites,” also known as Superfund Sites, due to the presence in the soil and groundwater beneath the airport of chemicals found in firefighting foam.

The notification, sent to East Hampton Town in late May, follows the DEC’s release of a “site characterization report” in November of 2018, that recommended further investigation based on testing results that found evidence of perfluorinated chemicals at the airport.

The 47 acres consist of areas around the fire training facility, along Industrial Road, the terminal, fuel depot, end of Runway 34, west of Daniel’s Hole Road, and the firefighting storage facility.

The DEC investigation grew out of a statewide examination of areas where firefighting foam containing perfluorinated chemicals had been used.

Gabreski Airport in Westhampton was declared a Superfund site in 2016, based on high levels of perfluorinated chemical contamination reaching 58,900 parts per trillion. The Hampton Bays Fire Department was also declared a Superfund site in March of this year due to elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds in a neighboring public water well field.

Levels of perfluorinated compounds at East Hampton Airport have been detected up to a maximum of 290 parts per trillion. 

Suffolk County health officials also tested private wells throughout Wainscott as part of the East Hampton investigation.

After finding PFAS in the groundwater in Wainscott in 2017, the town arranged for the Suffolk County Water Authority to extend public water mains throughout the hamlet, which was completed at the end of 2018.

Through a bond issue, the town also offered those hooking up to public water the option of amortizing the private connection line costs by repaying them over time through a line item on their property tax bills. 

Town representatives said in a statement that initial evidence reviewed by hydrogeologists hired by the town “indicate that the widespread incidences of contamination could be tied to residential use of the chemicals, which are a component of numerous household products. The town is committed to continued action in order to protect residents’ health and the environment.”

Although there is no drinking water quality standards set for perfluorinated compounds, New York State’s Drinking Water Quality Council recommended a standard for the chemical of 10 parts per trillion and the United States Environmental Protection Agency set an advisory level at 70 parts per trillion. 

East Hampton has retained Rigano LLC as environmental counsel, who has sued the manufacturers of PFAS chemicals, manufacturers of firefighting foam and the users of the foam to recover the town’s damages.

“The town is committed to addressing the contamination with the necessary investigation and cleanup in accordance with a consent order expected to be executed with the DEC,” said town officials in a press release. “The work would be performed by expert environmental consultants working under DEC oversight. The town intends to proceed expeditiously and will seek repayment of all of costs to investigate and remediate the contamination from all responsible parties.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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