Environmentalists blast Navy's handling of remediation survey for Grumman plume
The Navy is under fire for its handling of groundwater pollution on the East End, and some environmentalists allege that the Navy is trying to silence the public.
At issue is a survey the Navy developed asking for feedback on remediation at the former Grumman site in Calverton, where there are efforts to clean up a toxic plume.
The problem, environmentalists say, is that the Navy hasn't made it easy for people to respond, which could lead to less oversight.
"The Navy's plan, instead of fixing the problem and cleaning up the toxic mess, is to silence the public. And we're not accepting that," said Adrienne Esposito, with Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
Esposito and other residents say it wasn't easy to respond.
"This is a Navy responsibility, to clean up. The community deserves and needs engagement and a voice," Esposito said.
At first, public feedback could only be given by phone before 3 p.m. on weekdays. They say that little effort was made to get the word out.
Kelly McClinchy lives nearby and sits on an advisory board on the matter with Esposito.
"They often seem to be not listening to the community," she said.
She says the Navy is now threatening to dissolve that board if there aren't enough responses to the survey.
"It's frustrating. It's nerve wracking. Every time residents put on the water in these 128 homes, we don't know what we're getting," McClinchy said.
"The Navy created a survey that they didn't distribute," Esposito says. "And they're using the lack of response as an excuse to dissolve the advisory board," she said.
In a statement, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command said in part that a "Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) Member Drive is being conducted to increase RAB members in an effort to amplify the flow of information to the community so that concerns and issues can be addressed more quickly and efficiently; however, this does not mean the RAB is in jeopardy of dissolving in the foreseeable future... A component of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Community Involvement Plan includes the survey, which helps to address community needs, concerns and expectations, while also giving the RAB members a role in the decision-making process."
The statement continued, "With things returning to normal across the county, our goal is to get back to having in-person meetings twice a year, as established before the COVID-19 pandemic – regardless of the number of current or future RAB members – until such time that the Navy deems site restoration is finalized and no further testing or action is required. Calverton residents may submit an application to become a RAB member by visiting our website at https://go.usa.gov/x6kfd."
The statement also said, "The Navy remains committed to its per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) cleanup responsibilities at NWIRP Calverton and will continue to let the data and science dictate the scope of remediation efforts. The April 2021 RAB meeting minutes are scheduled to be posted to our public website the first week of July, which will also include a link to the survey."