Officials discuss water infrastructure needs at the Feb. 16 water forum meeting in Riverhead Town Hall. Photo: Alek Lewis

The Riverhead Water District is asking for residents with polluted private wells to submit contaminant tests to the district to increase the town’s chances to receive grants for water extensions to their homes.

Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said during Wednesday’s water forum that the town has had a difficult time obtaining contaminated private well data within the boundaries of the Riverhead Water District from the Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Department of Health Services. He said residents sending a copy of the data would allow the water district to more effectively make their case for grant funding, especially if the data shows the well’s drinking water contains manmade contaminants like PFAS and 1,4 Dioxane, which don’t occur naturally in water wells.

“Anybody out there who’s getting their water tested and getting data back from the DEC, we would like you to give us a copy of that,” Mancini said. “I’m having a difficult time getting that data and that if you have detections above the drinking water standard 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 heads the department in change of the town’s grant writing. “If we can’t do that, they’re not going to be motivated, they’re gonna have somebody else that does have data that they can award the money to.”

Mancini said the Water District is working with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and is expected to receive a package of data on Friday, but other attempts for the town to obtain the data through the Freedom of Information Law have been unsuccessful. Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski said he would reach out to the health department to help the town’s efforts.

Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti said residents can call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services at 631-852-5810 to set up testing at fees that are “very reasonable.” She said to make sure residents ask the department to test for manmade contaminants.

During the forum, town officials gave an update on their effort to obtain funding for bringing bringing public water extensions to homes in Calverton and Manorville with well water contamination. 

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

Thomas said the town is waiting for results for the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Grant it applied for in November. The town applied for funding to help cover the $12.9 million estimated cost, Thomas said. The grant’s maximum award would cover 60% of the net eligible cost for the total improvement project— or about $8.8 million. Thomas said if the town does not receive the award, or only receives a partial award, they will apply for the grant again this year.

The town also applied for $7 million in federal funds through Congress’ member community project funds. Rep. Lee Zeldin secured $3.5 million for Riverhead’s water projects in the House of Representatives for the FY 2022 appropriations bills. The bill passed the House of Representatives but has yet to pass the Senate. Congress is not expected to pass the appropriations bills this month, having already passed, last week, a continuing resolution to fund the government until March 11 last week.  

Thomas said the more money the town receives, the higher the town’s chances to get other funding they’ve applied for.

Although the funding may be inbound, Mancini said residents and the Water District should start discussing what costs residents are willing to pay for brining extensions to their homes if the town only receives a partial amount of money in the next year. 

“I’m worried about if the expectation is you want it completely for free, we can wait forever,” Mancini said. He proposed sending a survey to residents in affected neighborhoods asking what an acceptable cost would be if the town receives only half or three-quarters of the full money.

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

“When the first money is received, then we got to look at the status of the other grants and also determine how they’re coinciding in the timing of them as well,” Rothwell responded to Kreiger. “And so if it’s a long distance and we’re still going to be years out, then maybe we have a discussion and say, ‘Okay, let’s utilize and let’s get a mainline going as close as we can’ simply so that we make progress and we utilize $3.5 million that we get.”

John Collins of H2M, the water district’s consulting engineers, said the process before the extensions were installed would be around six months, which includes time for design, regulatory approval and bid approval. Prudenti said the process could possibly be fast-tracked if the town posts bids for long-term construction and material contracts for the projects in advance of the funding.

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

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

Prudenti said the town could explore that use of the funds, but favors the already existing data. She said the money generated by the CPF is currently going towards paying large bonds borrowed by the town against future CPF funds before the 2008 housing crash.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: