The Town of Oyster Bay delivered a breath of fresh air to its residents this week, announcing that Bethpage Community Park has reopened following questions regarding environmental safety.
Supervisor John Venditto said that the town received confirmation from the New York State Department of Environmental Protection (DEC) that the park’s temporarily cordoned off areas—tennis courts, playground and pool area—have been deemed safe and free of contamination. The DEC conducted tests and completed a thorough evaluation of data from previous site investigations and removal actions in the park and the department sees no reason that any publicly accessible areas remain closed.
“While areas of the park were closed as a safety precaution, we have received notification from the DEC that, together with the NYS Department of Health, they have not identified any remaining contaminant levels within the publicly accessible areas of the park—including the pool, playground and tennis courts—that would preclude their intended uses,” said Venditto, adding that the park officially reopened on May 23.
The supervisor noted that the DEC further indicated its belief that allegedly buried drums on the property were likely removed during the excavation undertaken by the town a decade ago during the remediation process of a large portion of the park. At that time, the town removed a large area of buried drum remnants and debris.
Previously published reports stated that an unnamed whistleblower claimed to the state that large, contaminated drums were discovered at the park decades ago and then subsequently reburied. Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. donated the park land to the town in 1962. Prior to Grumman’s donation, various dangerous chemicals were dumped at the site—which was perfectly legal at the time.
The site is on the state Superfund registry and is part of an $81 million cleanup program to remove contamination and remedy a groundwater plume, according to state officials. Venditto said the DEC’s findings confirm the park’s safety and the community should feel safe using the park’s amenities.
“While the closure of portions of the park were solely done as a safety precaution, we are comfortable, following discussions with DEC representatives and environmental experts, that these areas of the park can be reopened,” said Venditto. “We are pleased to restore access to all the wonderful amenities Bethpage Community Park offers our residents.”
After the initial report was released local residents said they weren’t surprised by revelations that Grumman allegedly dumped volatile chemicals in the area surrounding the plant. Scott Graham, a resident of the Bethpage area for more than 30 years, said that while he worries about what might lurk below the surface of the community, he’s confident in elected officials’ efforts to keep residents safe.
“Ultimately, [elected officials] live here too. And they want it to be safe for anyone who lives here, you have to believe that,” said Graham. “Grumman was good for the community a long time ago and the laws were different then. But you have to trust your local leaders to fix the mistakes of the past and keep us safe and healthy.”