Cuomo signs Kaminsky, Englebright bill to ban use of carcinogen

Michael Gormley for Newsday

December 23, 2020

Originally published in Newsday on December 23, 2020.

ALBANY – A new state law bans the most dangerous uses of a toxic chemical employed for decades to clean U.S. Navy aircraft, which contributed to the threat the Grumman Plume posed to Long Island’s drinking water.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill Wednesday that been sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket).

The law bans the most harmful uses of trichloroethylene, or TCE. It is used as a vapor degreaser and as a refrigerant as well as in the production of other chemicals, in manufacturing and in industrial cleaning.

"This legislation will protect New Yorkers from a known carcinogen that has been linked to cancer, developmental disorders and other conditions while protecting our water and air from contamination," Cuomo said.

Kaminsky, chairman of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, and Englebright, chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, said the law that will be in effect statewide was driven by a need to protect Long Island drinking water.

"On Long Island, we have seen the scale of the risk of this substance in the massive toxic Grumman plume, polluting our drinking water," Englebright said.

"The science is clear," Kaminsky said. "Our water is too important to be jeopardized, and our children are too precious to be sold out to reckless polluters."

The chemical can be absorbed by breathing, eating and skin contact. "Long-term exposure is strongly linked to various types of cancer, including kidney, liver, lymphoma, testicular, and leukemia," the text of the law states. "Short-term exposure can cause harmful effects on the nervous system, liver, respiratory system, kidneys, blood, immune system, and heart."

The U.S. Navy and Northrop Grumman on Monday agreed in principle to the state’s plan to contain and clean the groundwater plume. The plume is associated with the Northrop Grumman Bethpage facility and Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant sites in Bethpage.

In February, Newsday reported that Grumman knew as far back as the mid-1970s that chemicals it used, including TCE, were contaminating groundwater from its Bethpage facility. The plume of contaminants is 4.3 miles long, 2.1 miles wide and as much as 900 feet deep.