The Speonk Solvent Plume - How Big a Threat is it to Our Environment?
February 21st there was a public meeting sponsored by CAC West and
the Speonk Remsenburg Civic Association regarding the Speonk Solvent Plume in
preparation for an upcoming meeting with the State Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC), which has recently characterized the plume as requiring no
further action, including monitoring.
The following is a
brief summation of the meeting.
As brief background, the Speonk Solvent
Plume was discovered in 2001 via a contaminated well in Speonk. The primary chemical in the plume is
“PCE” – which is an industrial degreaser, similar to dry cleaning fluid and it
affected several wells.
The contaminated well, contained 1200ppb of
carbon tetrachloride more than 200X the acceptable level of 5ppb!
Since its discovery, there have been efforts to track the course of the
plume as well as to discover its source (ie. the culpable party). Unfortunately, the effort to identify
the party has been unsuccessful making the plume an “orphan plume.”
“Exposure to high concentrations of carbon
tetrachloride (including vapor)
can affect the central nervous
system, degenerate the liver and kidneys and may result (after prolonged exposure) in coma and even death. Chronic exposure to carbon tetrachloride can
cause liver and kidney damage and could
result in cancer. “
The plume has been spreading south/southwest
– towards Remsenburg and the tributaries of Moriches Bay.
While the plume is currently deep underground (limiting its adverse
environmental impact) it is expected to move towards the surface as it
approaches lower elevations and the waterfront – the pace of its movement is
uncertain and unknown.
Local environmental advocates believe the
chemicals in the plume pose a very substantial threat to marine and other
wildlife, since there is no evidence of the chemicals becoming less toxic over
The DEC believes no further actions are
required – even monitoring the course of the plume.
It is generally believed that the DEC’s position is based as much on the
fact that it is an “orphan” plume (meaning no one to seek money from for
damages) and because it does not meet certain standards to qualify for as a
Local elected officials termed the DEC’s
stance “unacceptable.” The Remsenburg Association will support
continued efforts to make progress on this issue and will remain engaged with
CAC West, Speonk Remsenburg Civic Association and Local Elected Officials. The Remsenburg Association agrees with
members of the town board and other community groups that requesting the state
Department of Environment Conservation model the expected progress of the
plume, and continue monitoring the plume, is a reasonable next step.