Toxic Plume Estimated To Be Three Miles Wide, Four Miles Long

BETHPAGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – New York State Department of Health has confirmed a cancer study is under way in Bethpage near an old dumping site.

Health officials said the study began in 2009 but had not made it public until now.

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Residents said the area has had a high incidence of cancer diagnoses.

“This house, the following house had cancer. The house after that, cancer. And the corner house, cancer,” Bethpage resident Gertrud Louwder told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Louwder said her husband died of bone marrow cancer, she fought breast cancer and her daughter has melanoma.

“I wonder if it has at all to do with Grumman and the dumping they did there,” Louwder told Gusoff.

“It’s kind of in the back of my mind but it is definitely a cause for concern,” Bethpage resident Joe Mercer told Gusoff.

The toxic plot is the result of years of dumping by the Grumman Corp. and the U.S. Navy and is believed to threaten the water supply to about 250,000 residents in Bethpage.

Fighter jets and the lunar module were built at the now-retired manufacturing plants.

Chemicals and solvents were legally dumped for decades before more stringent rules went into effect.

The toxic plume is estimated to be three miles wide and four miles long.

WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reports

One lifelong Bethpage resident said confirmation of this cancer study is a long time coming.

“Everybody knew that it was a dumping ground. I’ve known since I was a little kid. I remember because I used to play in there,” the man told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs.

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1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports

A woman who lives across the street from the site said the community has a high number of cancer cases.

“There’s a woman that’s right up the street here. She’s my age, 41, she’s recovering from a rare blood cancer. This whole neighborhood by the Grumman field, everybody that are young that are coming up with cancer issues and I think they’re not letting the public know enough about it,” she told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

“They said the air quality was a little weird here. And then deeper in it was a little bit worse,” the resident told Rivera. “I’m more worried about the air than I am the water.”

“People fear the unknown and they have concerns and they should be concerned, they have a right to be concerned and it’s governments responsibility to make sure that the environment is as safe as it possibly can be,” State Senator Carl Marcellino told Gusoff.

Health officials have been analyzing cancer cases in communities that sit atop two toxic plumes.

One contaminated plume was discovered in 1986 and a more contaminated plume was identified three years ago in an area that is now Bethpage Community Park.

A contaminant found in the park has been identified as TCE, which has been associated with liver and kidney cancers, Gusoff reported.

Scientists caution that many other factors that contribute to cancer diagnoses may make it impossible to pinpoint the exact cause.

Meantime, state and local officials continue to argue about the best way to clean up the moving, growing toxic plumes.

“It’s never going to get cleaned up,” the lifelong resident told Xirinachs. “The baseball field is still closed, nobody’s asking questions why because that’s the most toxic place in Bethpage. There’s a big wall there.”

The results of the health department cancer study are due out later this fall.

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