Federal representatives have secured a $3.5 million grant for Riverhead Town to help offset the cost of bringing public water to more than 60 homes in Manorville.
The federal grant marks the first funding to come in for one of three major water district extension projects identified by the town to connect the homes with contaminated private wells to the Riverhead Water District.
“This is great. It’s the first real step to getting the funding and ensuring that the residents of Manorville have a peace of mind when they turn that water on,” said Kelly McClinchy, a vocal Manorville resident, who for years has led her neighborhood’s efforts to lobby the town for the extension.
Some homes in Manorville south of the Enterprise Park in Calverton are contaminated by man-made contaminants like PFOS and PFOA, which were commonly used in firefighting foam. The town board in 2020 had the water district consulting engineers develop a map and plan for the Manorville extension, which is estimated to cost $5.8 million.
The money, through the Environmental Protection Agency’s State and Tribal Assistance Grant, was earmarked in both chambers of Congress by Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Lee Zeldin.
Riverhead Town originally requested $7 million for the project in formal requests to federal representatives. Suffolk County Water Authority, which also requested $6.6 million, will receive $3.5 million to provide public drinking water to homes in Manorville in Brookhaven Town.
Both chambers of Congress passed the massive $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill last week that included the grant. The bill also funds the government and includes $13.6 billion in emergency funding to boost assistance to Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion. President Joe Biden is expected to sign off on the appropriations this week.
The bill passed with bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, although Zeldin voted against the bill.
“I appreciate the efforts of the Senator Schumer for securing the funds to continue addressing this important public safety issue. I also want to thank Congressman Lee Zeldin, NYS Assemblywomen Jodi Giglio, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski and the entire Town Board, who all have rigorously petitioned their support in Washington for this effort,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said in a press release. “The Town of Riverhead will continue to seek further funding to ensure we are able to move this effort forward as quickly as possible. We are all committed to finding the best possible solutions and it is my hope we will continue to work cooperatively with our federal, state and county partners towards this important, mutual goal.”
Zeldin, Schumer and local advocates have previously called on the Navy, which formerly owned the Grumman site in proximity to the polluted homes, to assume responsibility for the cost of extending public water to homes near the site. The Navy has not accepted responsibility for any off-site contamination.
Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, celebrated both the Riverhead Water District and Suffolk County Water Authority grants in a press release.
“This is a great clean water victory! This community worked hard to come together, fight together and now have succeeded together,” Esposito said. “Nothing could mean more to a community then clean, safe drinking water. Turning on your tap should never invoke fear of getting sick. Now, with these federal funds, community members will be able to connect to the public water supply and be able to make coffee, cook and shower without fear that they are being exposed to dangerous toxic chemicals. I am so thankful to Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Zeldin for hearing the communities concerns and for fighting for the funding to protect their health. This funding will make a lasting, significant change for Calverton residents.”
In addition to the extension in Manorville, the Town of Riverhead is seeking grants to fund two other major projects in the water districts service area in Calverton. The first is an extension east of EPCAL for residents in the River Road area at an estimated cost of $3.1 million. The other is for properties on Middle Road, South Twomey Avenue and Deep Hole Road — an area which also includes significant amounts of industrially zoned land — and is estimated to cost around $13 million.
Riverhead Town applied for the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Grant to cover a $12.9 million estimated project cost. The grant’s maximum award would cover 60% of the net eligible cost for the total improvement projects.
The cost of a water district extension project is typically borne by the property owners served by the extension, however, advocates like McClinchy and Esposito have pushed for the extensions to be installed at no cost to the neighborhoods.
Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said during the town’s water forum last month that residents and the water district should start discussing what costs residents are willing to pay for bringing water to their homes if the town only receives partial funding for the projects in the next year.
McClinchy said she still expects no cost to come to the residents for the extension in Manorville. “The elected officials are going to work hard to figure out a way so that this burden is not placed on those residents, because we’re not the ones that contaminated the water,” McClinchy said. “I understand fully well that Riverhead’s Town Board is also not, however, they are in the position to protect the residents. So my expectation is that we’re going to keep moving forward, we’re going to come up with creative ways to be sure that residents are not responsible for the cost of this.”
She said the next step for the neighborhood will be to meet with the town in the next few weeks to come up with a plan “that works for everybody” and “that gets this project done as soon as possible.”
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