A treatment system to remove perchlorate from Riverhead Water District’s well 16, located off Edwards Avenue north or Route 25 in Calverton, will cost up to $522,500, according to a capital project budget set by the town board last night. The price tag includes the treatment “vessel” itself, construction of a building to house it and engineering design fees.

The board last night also awarded a $279,516 bid for the installation of the perchlorate removal treatment system to Calgon Carbon Corporation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Calgon Carbon was the sole bidder in response to a bid request issued by the town Dec. 26.

The balance of the half-million dollar budget established by the board is expected to be spent on the costs of constructing a building to house the treatment system and up to $47,500 in engineering fees.  The cost of the project will be paid out of the water district’s operating budget.

The water district drilled the well in 2010 — at a cost of $1.58 million — despite initial tests indicating perchlorate in the water of about 9 or 9.5 µg/l, according to engineer John Collins of H2M, the district’s longtime consulting engineers. In 2011, the district then increased the well’s pumping capacity in 2011 from 1,380 gallons per minute to 2,000 gallons per minute — an extra 500,000 gallons per day — bringing the total cost of the well to more than $2 million.

At a March 2011 public hearing on the proposal to expand the well’s capacity, H2M engineer Dennis Kelleher told the board the quality of the water being drawn from the well was “excellent.”

Supervisor Sean Walter told RiverheadLOCAL earlier this month he was “very unhappy” he was not made aware of the perchlorate contamination until recently — even though the district engineers and former superintendent knew perchlorate had been detected there since the well first came online.

Kelleher did not return a call seeking comment.

State health regulations set a limit of 18 µg/l. Since the well came online, perchlorate levels in the water have been steadily increasing, Collins told the board at a Jan. 6 public hearing. Levels reached 14 µg/l when the district took the well offline this fall.

Perchlorate is a naturally occurring and manmade chemical known to affect the human endocrine system. It is used in the production of rocket fuel, missiles, fireworks, flares and explosives and some fertilizers, according to water treatment experts and health officials. The federal EPA is currently considering setting drinking water limits for perchlorate.

The town needs well 16’s pumping capacity to meet consumption demands, Walter said and plans to have the well back online before summer.

The supervisor said he had the water district solicit a proposal from a second engineering firm, Dvirka and Bartilucci, to design the perchlorate removal system. But H2M’s $47,500 proposal came in at $15,000 less, so it was awarded the design contract for the treatment system.

Walter said in an earlier interview he thinks the water district should solicit proposals for engineering consulting services to see what other firms can offer. H2M has been the water district’s engineering consultant for decades, he said. The supervisor since taking office in 2010 has been critical of the condition of the water district’s facilities.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.