Officials call on feds to pay for contaminated water

Posted: Updated:

Suffolk officials and Sen. Charles Schumer are demanding the federal government reimburse costs after contaminants from Gabreski Airport tainted area drinking water.

Patti Birks, of Westhampton, learned last year that the water from her private well was contaminated by toxic chemicals from firefighter foam used at nearby Gabreski Airport. The Suffolk County Water Authority stepped in this July and hooked up her home to public water at no cost. The water authority did the same thing to more than 60 homes and also installed two new filtration systems.

The work cost more than $4 million. Suffolk officials say the Department of Defense promised to reimburse the water authority since the contamination happened on an Air National Guard Base. Now, the county says the Department of Defense is going back on its word and refusing to pay up.

Schumer says it’s unacceptable.

“The Air National Guard caused the mess, and they should be the ones to pay for the cleanup now, not later, and every day that Suffolk County waits for reimbursement is a day too long,” says Schumer.

If the Department of Defense doesn't pay up, the Suffolk County Water Authority says unfortunately all of its customers would have to foot the bill.

Late this afternoon, the Air Force press desk told News 12 that it's not authorized to reimburse past expenditures. Schumer says he will use whatever power he has in Washington to make sure the Department of Defense pays up.

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