Pictured Above: Riverhead is still working through the federal paperwork to receive grant funding to bring clean water to its residents in Manorville, after the Suffolk County Water Authority began work last fall bringing public water to the Brookhaven side Manorville.

Riverhead Town announced Jan. 18 that it has been awarded another $5 million in funding to connect residents with wells contaminated by perfluorinated compounds to public water, as the town continues to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to receive $5 million in federal funding already allocated in the spring of 2023 for water hookups in contaminated areas.

Town Supervisor Tim Hubbard announced that the New York State Department of Health has awarded the $5 million in new funding to the Riverhead Water District through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Emerging Contaminant Funds.

The grant money will be used to “provide potable water to 73 single family homes and six industrial
properties with contaminated private wells to public water,” according to the town.

The areas that will be connected are known as “Extension 95 and 96.”

Extension 95 is located in the southwest portion of Riverhead Town along roads in Calverton, north of the Peconic River, east of Connecticut Avenue, and west of Edwards Avenue. There are approximately 28 homes in Extension 95 along River Road, Railroad Avenue, Private Road and Canoe Lake Drive, according to the town. Extension 96 is along including Middle Road, Deep Hole Road, Twomey Avenue and Middle Country Road in Calverton, and consists of approximately 45 single family homes and six industrial properties.

This funding is in addition to $5 million in federal funding promised to the town in 2023, to be paid from the EPA’s Community Project Funding grant program to be used to connect 64 homes in the portion of Manorville in Riverhead Township, and homes along Forge Road in Calverton, to public water, and $3.5 million in 2022 from the federal government’s omnibus spending bill.

The Suffolk County Water Authority began hooking up Manorville residents on the Brookhaven side of the town line to public water last fall, leading many Riverhead residents with contaminated water wondering why the town was taking so long to begin to provide relief to residents on its side of the town line.

“The process is complicated,” said Riverhead Community Development Administrator Dawn Thomas at the Riverhead Town Board’s Jan. 3 meeting, after Toni Pawson, a resident whose well is contaminated, asked what was taking so long. “We have to process the application through the EPA.”

“I wish we could make it quicker. It’s not within our ability to control,” she added. “We’re working through the process.”

“We are doing everything we can. We have not slowed down at all on any of this,” added Mr. Hubbard. “Our hands are tied. We didn’t cause the water problem up there. We’re solving the water problem up there. We’re doing everything we can to make this happen. We want your water clean as much as you want it clean.”

Many residents in the area believe the contamination, from compounds used in firefighting foam discovered in their drinking water in 2017, is due to historic activities at the nearby Enterprise Park at Calverton, which was formerly owned by the Navy and used by Northrop Grumman to manufacture airplanes. The Navy has denied its property is the source of the contamination. Airports are a frequent site of contamination with perfluorinated compounds, which were only recently found to cause significant human health problems including cancer, developmental disabilities and compromise of the immune and cardiovascular systems, as well as liver function.

“I’ve had MTBE fuel additives, mercury from Brookhaven National Lab, now PFOS and acetone,” said Ms. Pawson. “You guys didn’t cause it but neither did I. We’ve been waiting over 30 years for water. You need to step it up a little bit. You’re always welcome for a spaghetti dinner at my home.”

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Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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