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Wind Farm Suit Thrown Out

Thu, 07/20/2023 - 11:08
Work on Beach Lane in Wainscott, as seen in October of 2022.
Durell Godfrey

A lawsuit brought by four Wainscott residents challenging the onshore construction of the South Fork Wind farm, one of many efforts to stop its construction via the courts, was dismissed by a federal judge this week. 

The website Law360 reported on Monday that a suit brought by Lisa Solomon, Mitch Solomon, Pamela Mahoney, and Michael Mahoney was thrown out after United States District Judge Frederic Block “determined they have failed to show the federal government’s conduct is the likely cause of allegedly worsening ‘forever chemical’ contamination in their groundwater.”

The chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFOS and PFOA, were detected by Suffolk County Health Department officials in private wells in the area of East Hampton Town Airport in 2017. The findings were at levels in excess of the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable levels for lifetime exposure. The Biden administration has since proposed the first national drinking water standard for six such substances, as they have been determined to be dangerous at any level of exposure. The suspected source is aqueous film-forming foam that was used and stored at the airport in the form of firefighting foam.

The lawsuit named as defendants several federal agencies: the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Army, and the Army Corps of Engineers. BOEM is an agency within the Department of the Interior. The approval of these defendants was required in order for construction of New York State’s first offshore wind farm to proceed.

BOEM approved the 12-turbine, 132-megawatt wind farm’s construction and operations plan in January 2022, the final federal approval needed for the project’s construction to commence. Onshore work has since been completed, and the offshore component is now underway, with the wind farm scheduled to be operational by the end of the year.

The plaintiffs alleged that the wind farm’s approval would “worsen the existing contamination from per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in the area,” according to Law360, because of the wind farm’s onshore construction component, which saw trenching and installing of conduit along that route from its export cable’s landfall site, at the ocean beach at the end of Beach Lane, through Wainscott and to a Long Island Power Authority substation in East Hampton. Those disturbed areas, they said, are “known to be contaminated” by the toxic chemicals and “will likely spread the . . . contamination to other properties,” including their own, as well as wells in the area.

The cable, and the trenching to install it, moved up Beach Lane alongside the Mahoneys’ property, and then up Wainscott Northwest Road alongside that of the Solomons.

The plaintiffs’ contention lacked standing, Judge Block ruled in dismissing their complaint.

 

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