Pictured above: The Hampton Bays Fire Department headquarters (center, to left of 7-Eleven) is just north of the Hampton Bays Water District’s well field, whose water tower is the white circle in the lower center of the photo.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has listed the Hampton Bays Fire Department as a state Superfund site, due to lingering contamination from PFOA/PFOS, compounds found in firefighting foam.

The classification, announced Feb. 27, is the first step in a site investigation to determine the best methods of cleaning up the contamination. The DEC has listed the site as a “Class 2” site, which “represents a significant threat to public health or the environment” and requires action.

The fire department headquarters, on Montauk Highway, is just north of the public well field belonging to the Hampton Bays Water District, which has shut down wells and installed expensive filtration equipment after the emerging contaminants PFOA/PFOS were found in the wells there in 2017.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set a limit of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA/PFOS in drinking water in 2016, and since then the contaminant has been found at levels exceeding the new standard throughout the country.

PFOA/PFOS is no longer used in firefighting foam, although long-term safety of current foam formulas has not yet been determined.

Firefighting foam is used to smother fires that might involve flammable and combustable liquids such as gasoline and jet fuel, and is commonly used to suppress motor vehicle fires.

Southampton Town, which operates the water district, is considering turning over its well field to be managed by the Suffolk County Water Authority, and has hired an attorney and is exploring pursuing litigation against the manufactures of PFOA/PFOS, which was long found in firefighting foam, non-stick cookware and upholstery stain guards.

East Hampton Town and New York State are also pursuing litigation against the manufacturers, which include the DuPont and 3M corporations, over similar contamination found near the East Hampton Municipal Airport in Wainscott and Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach.

In Hampton Bays, two of the water district’s wells were found to have levels of PFOA/PFOS just over the 70 ppt limit and one well was found to have contaminants just below that limit, after which the wells were shut down in 2017 in order to install activated carbon filtration.

The Hampton Bays well field, near the Long Island Rail Road tracks behind the Hampton Bays Fire Department’s Main Street firehouse, is also not far from the site of a major fire decades ago in an airplane factory parts warehouse, Hampton Bays Water District Superintendent Robert King, who also served as a Hampton Bays Fire District Commissioner, told the Southampton Town Board in September of 2017. It is the district’s oldest well field, he said, and was installed in the 1950s.

The fire department has used its 2-acre Montauk Highway site since the 1930s.

The DEC’s next step in Hampton Bays is to pursue a remedial investigation, involving installing and sampling soil borings and groundwater monitoring wells. After the investigation is complete, the Fire District will need to conduct a Feasibility Study, overseen by the DEC, on potential ways to clean up the contamination.

After the Feasibility Study is complete, the DEC will develop a Proposed Remedial Action Plan, which will describe the remedy preferred by the DEC, or “if warranted, a no action or no further action alternative,” according to the DEC’s fact sheet.

Information about the ongoing investigation is online here.

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 editor@eastendbeacon.com

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