Long Island residents face renewed concerns after discovery of toxic chemicals in graveyard of contaminants


Large chemical drums found buried at a local park on Long Island have reignited anger and outrage from area officials and residents who have long feared that the park’s past may be linked to cancer’s prevalence in the community. The latest discovery has left some to believe there are more secrets to be dug up. 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced at the end of March that six 55-gallon steel drums had been discovered encased in concrete at Bethpage Community Park as the multi-year cleanup of the contaminated site continues. The area, located in the town of Oyster Bay, is the former dumping ground for aerospace manufacturer Northrop Grumman, previously known as Grumman Aerospace. 

Preliminary testing revealed that the drums were filled with chlorinated solvents and waste oil, according to the state, which also said in a statement, “The discovery of the drums in an area of ongoing cleanup in the ball field does not present a threat to public health and safety at the site.” 

Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino had a scathing rebuke of the ongoing cleanup process and called on Northrop Grumman to remove all the soil and haul it off Long Island. 

“You’re looking at Grumman’s graveyard of contamination, we’ve been telling them for years that it’s a lot worse than they’re claiming,” Saladino told Fox News while standing in front of the site’s fenced off enclosure. “Now these drums prove that, and it’s time for Grumman to get on the stick, show they’re responsible [and] clean up this site fully and ship all the contaminants off Long Island. The people of this community and this town deserve nothing less.” 

Image Bethpage community park

55-gallon steel drums were discovered encased in concrete at Bethpage Community Park as the multi-year cleanup of the contaminated site continues. (Fox News)

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The contaminated soil was first discovered at the park in 2002, and Northrop Grumman was named as a major contributor to a groundwater plume spreading from the site. 

According to a state outline for remedial actions, “At its widest point, the plume is approximately 2.1 miles wide. In most areas, the top of the groundwater plume is over 200 feet beneath the ground surface and extends to depths of approximately 900 feet beneath the ground surface.” 

The DEC says that from 1942 to 1996, Grumman Aerospace and the United States Navy used approximately 600 acres of property in Oyster Bay to manufacture military aircraft. 

A tract of the land, which had been used by the company for waste disposal, was donated to the town in 1962 and later turned into a community baseball field.

There’s never been a confirmed link between the site and the cancer rates in the community, but nearby residents are increasingly joining class actions or filing personal injury lawsuits. 

Northrop Grumman has previously denied culpability or declined to comment on ongoing litigation. 

Regarding the latest discovery, a spokesperson for Northrop Grumman shared the following statement:

“While conducting environmental remediation in the Bethpage Community Park under the supervision of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), we discovered several drums encased in concrete underground in a closed area of the Park. We promptly notified NYSDEC and other relevant stakeholders and we are working with NYSDEC to assess and address this situation as quickly as possible. We remain committed to protecting the health and well-being of the community and to continuing our partnership with NYSDEC and other government regulators to address environmental conditions in the area.”

Fears of a tainted childhood 

Long Island was a beacon of opportunity for Lois Schiavetta and her family when they moved to the area decades ago. 

“I was three years old, and my dad just got out of the Navy a year before and got a job at Grumman Aerospace, and they decided we might as well move to the town we’ll be working in,” Schiavetta said. 

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Schiavetta said her childhood was markedly happy; she spent time with her parents, siblings and friends. 

“The ice skating rink was the Friday night thing to do, that’s where we all went to meet the boys and skate,” she said. 

Schiavetta lived three blocks away from the manufacturing operation then known as Grumman Aerospace. 

“We went swimming all the time, we played in the ballfields,” Schiavetta said. “We didn’t have parents driving us anywhere; we walked, took a bicycle, and that’s where we hung out.”

Throughout her adolescence, she noticed an alarming trend in the community. 

“Every single household on the other side of the block had someone who contracted cancer of some sort.”

Now, she wonders whether the time she spent in and around the baseball field later contributed to her own cancer diagnosis. 

“I had to have a double mastectomy and go through chemotherapy – it was trying, for sure, and put a large strain on the family and my kids, but I’m still here ten years later,” she said.  

Despite the challenges, Schiavetta said she considers herself one of the lucky ones. 

“I have many friends who had multiple cancers from my high school, and it’s pretty devastating,” she said. “The numbers that I’ve seen and the names … of our class list of those who have left us.”

Image Bethpage community park

55-gallon steel drums were discovered encased in concrete at Bethpage Community Park as the multi-year cleanup of the contaminated site continues. (Fox News)

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A lengthy court battle

I’m not surprised at all. Grumman has done everything they can … to hide the truth from the public,” Paul Napoli, a personal injury attorney on Long Island, said. “You know, they buried these barrels like they buried their heads in the sand when it comes to telling the community — they buried the truth.”

Since 2016, Napoli has been working with community members on a class action lawsuit against Northrop Grumman. 

He alleged that the manufacturer’s historic operations led to expansive air pollution.

“It was actually air pollution they were emitting from 400 stacks at the site, millions of pounds of TCE into the air and thousands of pounds, by their own admission, of hexavalent chromium … and TCE is banned in New York,” Napoli said. 

Napoli further alleged that Northrop Grumman initially left its 600-acre site because it didn’t want to pay newly required costs associated with monitoring air emissions following the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1962.

 “I always wondered why Grumman left Long Island – and the reason became pretty clear: the costs associated with putting scrubbers and air emission protection on these 400 stacks was so costly, it wasn’t worth staying in the community, and so they left, but what they left was this toxic legacy.” 

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Northrop Grumman still operates on nine acres in Bethpage on Long Island. 

Napoli hopes by this fall the judge will have ruled on a motion filed in his class action lawsuit against Northrop Grumman. The judge has also appointed a mediator to try and resolve the case through a settlement, the attorney added. 

Fox News producer Jennifer Johnson contributed to this report. 



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