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After years of listening to Manorville residents ask for public water, the Riverhead Town Board last night authorized its consulting engineers to prepare a map and plan for a water district extension to serve the southwest corner of Riverhead Town plagued by water quality issues.

In the past, town officials have told Manorville residents an extension of the Riverhead Water District to that area of town would be cost-prohibitive. The area to be served would have to carry the cost of a 20- or 30-year bond to pay for the extension — a multi-million dollar project due to the location of existing Riverhead Water District mains.

What changed?

Riverhead officials learned of a meeting taking place today at the Suffolk County Water Authority office with residents and legislative representatives to discuss extending a Suffolk County Water Authority main to the area.

SCWA Patrick Halpin told RiverheadLOCAL in an interview earlier this month the agency would be able to bring public water to the area.

Even though the neighborhood is within the Town of Riverhead, the Suffolk County Water Authority, by law, can provide public water to any area in Suffolk County that’s not served by another water district, Halpin said. The Riverhead Water District, which is not a state authority, does not comprise all of the lands within the town’s borders. It exists only where it already has mains. So anywhere in the town that isn’t within an existing Riverhead Water District extension can be served by SCWA, Halpin said.

All five town board say they oppose incursion by the county water authority into Riverhead Town.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, during her campaign last fall, accused then-incumbent supervisor Laura Jens-Smith of making a secret deal with the water authority to take over the town’s water district. She cited a confidential source within the water authority that she said she could not publicly identify. Both Jens-Smith and Halpin dismissed that allegation as false. Aguiar reiterated it several times last night, both during the public meeting and in an interview afterward.

Aguiar described the measure to authorize a map and plan for the extension as an effort “to derail” SCWA’s plans to extend a main into Riverhead to serve the Manorville area.

“We want to keep the water district in Riverhead and we don’t want the county to take it over,” Aguiar said during last night’s meeting in response to a resident’s question about water contamination in Manorville, just south of the former Grumman industrial site.

“Apparently there’s a meeting tomorrow that we weren’t invited to at the Suffolk County water department and we found out and so we’re trying to play chess a little bit,” she said. “What’s happened in the past, people take control, it gets managed and the prices go up tremendously. Then we have no control over prices — and also water quality. We have the best water in Long Island,” Aguiar said.

Kelly McClinchy at her kitchen sink. Her family uses only bottled water. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Last month, Manorville resident Kelly McClinchy, who has repeatedly come to board meetings to ask the town for a water district extension to serve the area, delivered a petition to the town board signed by nearly every resident in the area asking the board to extend the Riverhead Water District to serve their homes.

Testing of residents’ private wells in the area has indicated the presence of contaminants such as PFOS, MTBE, benzene, isopropylbenzene and acetone.

Monitoring by the Navy of sites on the former Grumman property that lies north of the residential area in question has disclosed the existence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 1,4 dioxane and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Halpin said he considered the situation “an emergency,” and would ask SCWA staff to reach out to set up a meeting to get the process moving.

The water authority has previously extended its main into a small portion of Manorville in Riverhead Town along Wading River-Manor Road.

“We feel we want to address the issues that are in front of our residents,” said Councilman Frank Beyrodt, town board liaison to the Riverhead Water District. “We feel we’re the best water district to do so. We feel that SCWA really doesn’t have any reason to be in our water district so what we want to do is to start the process moving forward.” The water district has the capacity to serve the area, he said.

The board last night took the action to authorize the map and plan without any previous public discussion. The resolution was not in the packet made available to the public at last week’s work session.

“It only came up in a meeting yesterday,” Beyrodt said after last night’s meeting. He said he and the supervisor, along with the water district superintendent met with Legislator Al Krupski to discuss water issues and learned of the SCWA meeting set for Thursday. That meeting reportedly will include representatives from the offices of Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Lee Zeldin, as well as Krupski, Beyrodt said.

Beyrodt described the resolution authorizing H2M Engineers to prepare the map and plan as “exploratory” and a “feasibility study” to figure out what the extension would cost and how the town could pay for it. The cost of the study, according to the resolution, will be $9,500.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said the water district superintendent told him the cost of the extension would be about $3 million.

Town officials say they hope the Riverhead Water District will be able to secure state and federal grant money to help with the cost.

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