The Route 25 entrance to the Calverton Enterprise Park. File photo: Peter Blasl

Riverhead Town is demanding that the Suffolk County Water Authority “rescind” an 11-year old letter the water authority wrote to the State Department of Environmental Conservation opposing the town’s application to extend the Riverhead Water District’s boundaries to include the EPCAL site in Calverton.

The October 2009 letter, written by SCWA general counsel Timothy Hopkins, alleges that the Riverhead Water District’s existing service to the EPCAL site at the time was not “legally established,” as it was built without benefit of permit.

The water authority maintains that EPCAL site is within an area “assigned to” the water authority.

But Riverhead’s position is that, under state law, the Town of Riverhead Water District can be extended to serve people who need water anywhere within the boundaries of the town.

The DEC says it will not approve the town’s application for a Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act permit required to subdivide the site for a $40 million land deal with Triple Five Group — unless the Suffolk County Water Authority withdraws its objection to the Riverhead Water District serving the site. The water district must also demonstrate it has “sufficient capacity” to serve not just the EPCAL site but its entire service area, the DEC said.

The town says the 2009 SCWA letter is “disrupting the lawful sale of the property at EPCAL” and is “causing an inverse condemnation of all of the existing facilities of the Riverhead Water District” currently serving the site.

“Public Authorities Law section 1078 specifically prohibits the Water Authority from condemning property the legal title to which is vested in a municipality without the consent of the municipality,” the town board wrote in a letter dated Jan. 19 to the water authority.

“The Riverhead Town Board does not, and will not, consent to the condemnation of the property of the Riverhead Water District by the water authority,” the letter states.

“Nor does the Town Board consent to the development of any facilities by the Water Authority within the Town of Riverhead,” the board wrote.

“The Riverhead Town Board has actively extended the mains of the district to meet the needs of the residents of Riverhead. The preservation of local town control of local infrastructure has been supported by all Riverhead town boards and our residents since 1916 when the Riverhead Water District was created,” the letter said.

“Time is of the essence for DEC to approve the subdivision and achieve the redevelopment of the Grumman Plant immediately,” the board wrote. “Please rescind the October 2009 letter in writing no later than ten days from the date of this letter.”

Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar has accused the SCWA of wanting to take over the Riverhead Water District, which water authority officials deny.

After the SCWA wrote to the Secretary of the Navy last year to say it is “ready, willing and able” to serve residences south of the former Grumman site with public water due to groundwater contamination emanating from the site, Aguiar said in an interview the town was considering legal action against the water authority.

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Denise Civiletti
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.