There are approximately half a million children ages 1-5 in the U.S. with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the reference level at which public health actions be initiated, according to the CDC.

Riverhead has inked a grant agreement with the State of New York for more than $627,000 in funding to replace water service lines in downtown Riverhead that contain lead.

The $627,327 grant award, one of 18 made to municipalities statewide as part of the State Department of Health’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program, was announced by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July 2019.

Riverhead met the state’s eligibility criteria for the program — percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels; median household income; and number of homes built before 1939 when lead service lines were used.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated.

“No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized,” the CDC says.

Approximately 35 lead service lines, pipes that provide drinking water to homes — will be replaced with the grant funding, according to the work plan in the grant agreement, which was signed by the supervisor and ratified by the town board at last week’s regular meeting.

The cost of the work will be $550,961, to be performed by contractors yet to be determined, according to the agreement. The town’s water and sewer district engineering consultants, H2M Architects and Engineers, will perform engineering services at a cost of $30,000, the agreement states, and H2M and a subcontractor will perform consulting services at an additional fee of $15,000. The balance of the funding, $31,366, is set aside for contingencies.

The homes that will have water lines replaced are not identified in the agreement ratified by the town board Sept. 21. Community Development Administrator Dawn Thomas said during the meeting that the water district will determine the location of homes with lead in their drinking water lines that are eligible for replacement under the state program’s criteria.

According to the state’s Lead Service Line Replacement Program, it is up to the municipality to identify and prioritize the lead lines to be replaced. It is not required that children presently live in a home selected for line replacement. The only requirement is that some portion of the service line must contain lead. This includes the “gooseneck” connecting the municipal water main to the service line, the service line from the curb stop to the building, or both.

“There was a lot of paperwork that was required before we could even get to this point,” Thomas said at the meeting. She said she has already been working with Riverhead Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini and H2M engineer John Collins to get the program up and running.

The Lead Service Line Replacement Program is a component of New York’s $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017.

Riverhead was one of two municipalities on Long Island to be offered the $627,327 grant in round two of the program funding in 2019, when a total of $10 million was awarded. The other was the City of Glen Cove. In round one, the towns of Southold, Hempstead and North Hempstead, and the City of Long Beach were each offered grants of $611,363. There was no round three announced in 2020. See all awards.

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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.