Riverhead Water District asks residents for contaminant data to bolster grant opportunities

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The Riverhead Water District is asking residents with polluted private wells to submit contamination tests to the district to increase the city’s chances of receiving grants for extending water to their homes.

Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said at Wednesday’s water forum that the city had difficulty obtaining data on contaminated private wells within the boundaries of the Riverhead Water District from the department. of the Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Department of Health Services. He said residents sending in a copy of the data would allow the water district to more effectively advocate for a grant, especially if the data shows drinking water from the well contains human-made contaminants like PFAS. and 1,4 dioxane, which do not occur naturally. in water wells.

“Anyone who has their water tested and retrieves data from the DEC, we would like you to give us a copy,” Mancini said. “I’m struggling to get this data and that if you have detections above the drinking water norm of emerging contaminants, that will really help strengthen our grant [applications].”

“It’s really critical for us to be able to really support the grant application with real numbers and serious issues,” said community development developer Dawn Thomas, who leads the city’s grant-writing department. “If we can’t do that, they won’t be motivated, they’ll have someone else who has data that they can allocate the money to.”

Mancini said the water district is working with the Suffolk County Health Services Department and is expected to receive a set of data on Friday, but other attempts to get the city to get the data through the Liberty Act information failed. Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski said he would contact the health department to help the city’s efforts.

Assistant City Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti said residents can call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services at 631-852-5810 to arrange testing at “very reasonable” rates. She said to make sure residents ask the department to test for human-made contaminants.

During the forum, city officials provided an update on their efforts to secure funding to bring public water extensions to homes in Calverton and Manorville with well water contamination.

There are three areas in the city that the water district is targeting for expansion. Costs for these projects are estimated at $3.1 million for an extension east of EPCAL for residents in the River Road area of ​​Calverton, $5.8 million for residents south of EPCAL in Manorville and $13 million for Calverton properties on Middle Road, South Twomey Avenue and Deep Hole Road – an area that also includes significant amounts of industrially zoned land.

Thomas said the city is awaiting the results of the New York State water infrastructure improvement grant it applied for in November. The city has applied for funding to help cover the estimated $12.9 million cost, Thomas said. The maximum grant award would cover 60% of the net eligible cost of the total improvement project, or approximately $8.8 million. Thomas said if the city did not receive the award, or only received a partial award, it would apply for the grant again this year.

The city also requested $7 million in federal funds through the Congressmen’s Community Projects Fund. Rep. Lee Zeldin secured $3.5 million for Riverhead Water Projects in the House of Representatives for Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriation Bills. The bill passed the House of Representatives but has not yet been passed by the Senate. Congress is not expected to pass the appropriation bills this month, having already passed a continuing resolution last week to fund the government through March 11 last week.

Thomas said the more money the city receives, the more likely the city is to secure other funding it has applied for.

While funding may be coming in, Mancini said residents and the water district should start discussing the costs residents are willing to pay for brining extensions to their homes if the city only receives one. part of the money next year.

“I’m afraid if you’re expected to want it completely free, we can wait forever,” Mancini said. He proposed sending a survey to residents of affected neighborhoods asking them what an acceptable cost would be if the city only received half or three-quarters of the total money.

Ray Kreiger of Manorville asked how soon the city could act on the extensions if it received funding.

“When the first money is received, we need to look at the status of the other grants and also determine how they also fit into their schedule,” Rothwell replied to Kreiger. “And so if it’s a long distance and we’re still going to wait years, then maybe we have a discussion and say, ‘Okay, let’s use and approach a mainline as close as possible’ just to that we make progress and we use the $3.5 million that we get.

John Collins of H2M, the water district’s consulting engineers, said the process before the extensions are installed will take around six months, which includes time for design, regulatory approval and installation. approval of offers. Prudenti said the process could potentially be sped up if the city releases bids for long-term construction and equipment contracts for the projects ahead of funding.

Jamesport’s Angela De Vito asked if the city could use money from the Community Preservation Fund — a fund made up of a 2% real estate sales tax in the city — to conduct drinking water studies, since the fund reached record numbers this year.

“We would then have to spend twice the taxpayers’ money,” Thomas replied to De Vito. “And I think that’s a very inefficient use of taxpayers’ money. If the work has been done and the data exists, why wouldn’t other levels of government voluntarily provide it to the Town of Riverhead?

Prudenti said the city could explore this use of funds, but favors data that already exists. She said the money generated by the CPF is currently being used to pay for large bonds borrowed by the city against future CPF funds before the 2008 housing crash.

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