The Suffolk County Water Authority broke ground this Thursday, Sept. 21 on a project to extend more than 20,000 feet of water main to homes on the Brookhaven Town side of Manorville impacted by PFAS contamination, as Riverhead awaits grant funding to connect more homes on the Riverhead Town side.

“These families have been living with the burden of unsafe drinking water for far too long,” said SCWA Chairman Charles Lefkowitz at the ceremonial groundbreaking. “I am happy to report that safe, high quality drinking water is on the way. Thanks to the efforts of our federal elected officials, New York State and the Town of Brookhaven, this project is fully funded. Without their leadership, this may have never happened.”

The announcement comes after a years-long effort by residents to get high quality public drinking water to the area, after the Suffolk County Department of Health Services found the carcinogenic chemicals PFOA and PFOS in the water there in 2017, which many residents believe 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.

PFOA and PFOS are fluorinated organic chemicals used in treatments to protect carpets, clothing, furniture fabrics, paper packaging for food and non-stick cookware. They are also used in firefighting foams. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “human studies have found associations between PFOA and/or PFOS exposure and several types of health effects including the liver, the immune system, the cardiovascular system, human development (e.g., decreased birth weight), and cancer.”

The first phase of the project will extend water main along Halsey Manor Road to reach homes in the vicinity of Primrose Path. Construction is expected to take about three months to complete. In the next phase, SCWA will connect residents to its system and supply them drinking water. The Water Authority believes 116 homes could be connected through this project by the end of the year.

The project is funded by grants procured by the Water Authority, including $3.5 million dollars from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, made available by Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and former Representative Lee Zeldin, a $1.6 million Intermunicipal Grant from New York State, and $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds made available by Brookhaven Town.

Riverhead has raised $7.4 million in state and federal grant funding for its side of the project, which is estimated to cost about $10.85 million to connect 64 homes, and is awaiting word on more grant funding through New York State’s Water Infrastructure Improvement program administered by the Environmental Facilities Corporation.

The Water Authority authorized a new policy this spring that would allow new customers in areas with contaminated wells to receive up to 75 feet of water main extension to their property to make up part of the $2.8 million shortfall, but would not cover the tap fee and service line to connect homes to the water main, which could cost more than $10,000 per customer.

“Today, we are seeing the fruition of that work with the Suffolk County Water Authority bringing clean, public water to these Manorville residents after years of contamination threatening their private wells,” said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. “Once this project is complete, the quality of drinking water will be vastly improved, and residents can be assured that they will have clean, uncontaminated water for years to come.”

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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