Exclusive: Residents sue Suffolk County over contaminated water

Kristin Thorne Image
Monday, October 16, 2017
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Kristin Thorne reports from Yaphank.

YAPHANK, Long Island (WABC) -- Eyewitness News has learned exclusively that more than 120 residents in the Yaphank area are suing Suffolk County and five manufacturers of firefighting foams containing dangerous chemicals.

The class action lawsuit alleges the plaintiffs have been exposed to high levels of PFCs and are now at an increased risk of severe health issues, including liver and immune diseases, changes in thyroid hormones, and kidney and other cancers.

All the residents live around the Suffolk County Firematics Training Facility on Pine Street. Since 1959, firefighters have been using foam there during practice drills. The foam contains high levels of carcinogens, and the lawsuit alleges the foam leaked into the water supply.

In May 2017, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation declared the site a Class 2 Superfund Site, meaning it presents a significant threat to public health and/or the environment. The state DEC has recommended a full remedial investigation of the site in order to determine the extent of the contamination.

A spokesman for Suffolk County said the county will continue to take all steps that are necessary to protect public health.

"Since the U.S. EPA established a health advisory level for PFOS and PFOA in drinking water back in May 2016, Suffolk County has moved aggressively to identify potential environmental impacts related to the use of firefighting foams at county facilities, as well as take steps to protect public health by providing safe drinking water," Suffolk County spokesman Jason Elan said.

Officials with the Suffolk County Water Authority say they haven't detected PFOAs or PFOS in higher than regulated amounts in the the public water supply around the Yaphank area. They say they are working with Suffolk County to hook up resident's private wells, which did test high for the chemicals to the public water supply.

The law firm of Napoli Shkolnik is representing the residents. It filed the lawsuit October 6.