WESTHAMPTON BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Longtime Westhampton Beach residents who live near Francis S. Gabreski Airport say they plan to sue over their exposure to a hazardous chemicals in their drinking water.
They told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan Wednesday that they are worried about their health.
“My husband is suffering from thyroid,” said Elizabeth Liggon. “I have a growth on my kidney.”
Liggon and her husband, Jerome, are among dozens of Westhampton Beach families living in the neighborhood around Gabreski Airport’s Air National Guard base. They claim they were exposed for decades to a dangerous chemical, liquid foam, that is used in drills to put out ground and airplane fires.
“As we grew up, we had barbeques; and we were using this water for, you know, lemonade and iced tea,” Liggon said.
Liggon and her neighbors learned New York state has added the air base to its Superfund site list in September, after water samples in private and public wells detected perfluorooctanesulfonic acid – or PFOS – from the firefighting foam.
The chemical can potentially cause blood, thyroid, fetal and immune system issues.
“People are suffering,” Liggon said, “I actually gave my mother-in-law her last bed bath.”
A total of 200 residents plan to sue New York state and Suffolk County, alleging that negligence, recklessness, and carelessness.
“The county has known about this problem for years and they’ve allowed the people to drink this toxic soup,” said plaintiff attorney Marie Napoli.
The county and state said told CBS2 that due to pending litigation, they are unable to comment.
“What we’re really looking for now is medical monitoring,” Napoli said.
The county is urging residents to come in for blood testing.
One hundred percent of Long Islanders get their drinking water from underground, and it is feared that the chemicals seeped unchecked into the aquifer.
“Although they no longer use the foam, it could still be a legacy contaminant in drinking water, and that’s why we want to ensure routine testing,” said Maureen Murphy of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment.
“In shock,” added Liggon. “I can’t believe that they would use something possibly that toxic and not be aware it would harm individuals.”
Attorneys have not determined an exact amount of damages they will seek,, but because there are so many residents affected, it very well may be in the tens of millions of dollars.