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The Suffolk County Water Authority has offered to assist Riverhead Town in the construction of a water main extension to the Manorville area south of the former Grumman facility, where residential private wells are impacted by or threatened by chemical contamination.

Suffolk County Water Authority CEO Jeffrey Szabo wrote to Supervisor Yvette Aguiar last week to extend the offer.

Aguiar said yesterday she has set a tentative meeting date with water authority representatives for May 9 at Riverhead Town Hall.

There are 124 homes in Manorville whose wells are affected by or at risk of being affected by groundwater pollution, including contamination by cancer-causing chemicals called PFAS (which stands for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances.) Half of those homes are located in the Town of Brookhaven, which is served by the Suffolk County Water Authority, and half are located in the Town of Riverhead, served by the Riverhead Water District.

To undertake the public water extensions, SCWA and Riverhead Town each sought and received $3.5 million in federal funds from the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress in March. Both the water authority and the town also sought state grant funds through the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. The town’s application was not funded, but the water authority received $2.7 million for its Manorville extension.

“SCWA stands ready to move quickly once funding has been disbursed by our federal and state partners,” Szabo wrote to Aguiar in a letter dated April 26. “While we await further guidance on funding, we think that that this time may provide us the opportunity to discuss how we can work together to complete these important projects expeditiously.”

Aguiar said the town has requested additional federal funding for the Manorville extension and has the “full support” of Rep. Lee Zeldin and Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand.

“We’re going to get the money,” she said. “The process is already started.”

Riverhead is also preparing to submit a new grant application under the state’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act program, according to Riverhead Community Development Director Dawn Thomas, whose office handles grant writing for the town.

The Manorville public water extensions “present an opportunity for SCW A and the Town of Riverhead to collaborate to potentially reduce costs and ensure that work is completed as quickly as possible,” Szabo wrote.

Providing public water to the area is a priority for the Riverhead Water District, Aguiar said. Further, she said, the town wants to bring public water directly to the homes in the area, at no cost to the homeowner — rather than putting the mains in the roads and requiring homeowners to bear the cost of running a line to their homes, which could cost them each thousands of dollars.

Aguiar said the town is willing to meet with SCWA to discuss potential cost savings that might result from some type of collaboration.

The town and the water authority, while they have collaborated on other public water projects of mutual benefit, have been at odds over the past decade, with town officials expressing concern that the water authority was looking to take over the much smaller town water district. SCWA officials have repeatedly denied those allegations. Aguiar in her 2019 campaign to unseat former Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, accused the Democratic incumbent of having cut a secret deal to sell the town water district to SCWA, which both Jens-Smith and the water authority denied.

In addition, the SCWA asserts that its state charter makes all areas of Suffolk County not within another water district part of the water authority’s service territory. The State Department of Environmental Conservation has informed the Town of Riverhead that it must obtain a waiver from the water authority in order to extend the town water district into the undeveloped area of the Calverton Enterprise Park. SCWA has refused its consent to the town’s proposed extension in the enterprise park. The standoff over water supply to the enterprise park has held up a key DEC permit, which in turn has held up a $40 million land deal between the town and a subsidiary of Triple Five Group subsidiary.

To date, the water authority has not expressed a similar objection to the town’s plans to extend its water district to the Manorville area within the Town of Riverhead.

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