Calverton neighborhood hopes for clean water

A house in the Peconic Lake Estates neighborhood in Calverton, where residents have long complained of brown well water. Local officials believe they could be close to securing federal funding to bring public water to the area.

A Calverton man who has already invested thousands of dollars in pumping clean water into his house said he would be willing to sign on for a public project in his neighborhood — even if it meant he’d be forced to spend more money.

That’s how badly his brown-water plagued community needs such a project, he told the News-Review.

Chart Guthrie lives in Peconic Lake Estates, a neighborhood near Pinehurst Boulevard and South River Road that consists of about 215 houses, all served by polluted well water.

Residents there have complained for years about the quality of their water, which is brown in color and heavy in iron.

“The neighborhood should have public water,” Mr. Guthrie said, adding that he’s willing to foot the initial cost all residents would have to share to pay the Suffolk County Water Authority for establishment of a public water system.

Elected officials are making a push to redirect $2 million in stimulus money – funds that were slated to run a water main through a 24-home Orient neighborhood called Browns Hills – to help pay for the project.

Residents in the isolated Orient hamlet rejected the federal funds, fearing the infrastructure would lead to increased development.

But even if a project is undertaken in Peconic Lake Estates, residents there would still have to pay a private plumber to connect their homes to the public water system — a step Mr. Guthrie said he’ll forgo for now.

He’s willing to contribute his share of the initial cost, he said, though he wouldn’t be interested in paying a plumber about $12 per foot to run pipes from the public water system to his home — which has a 300-foot driveway.

“If and when my well goes bad, then I’ll hook up,” said Mr. Guthrie, who about 18 months ago spent about $3,000 for a revamped well and filtration system.

Another community benefit to the public water system would be the installation of fire hydrants, which the Peconic Lake Estates area lacks.

Officials at the Suffolk County Water Authority, which is not a county agency but a state public benefit corporation for water service, said they are interested in the Calverton project, but couldn’t comment further until a decision is made about stimulus funding.

Water authority attorney Timothy Hopkins said that, typically, if 40 percent of a residential area is in favor of public water, the SCWA would move forward on a project.

There have been several attempts to bring public water to Peconic Lake Estates, but past efforts have been defeated. While many homeowners want public water, they can’t afford the authority’s initial costs for a public system.

Mr. Guthrie said the community’s last attempt involved a $5,500 cost per resident. When the authority asked residents for $1,000 down, he said, it counted the number of checks received and determined that approval for the project at Peconic Lake Estates was less than 40 percent.

On Monday, Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) sent a request to the state Department of Health that was written jointly with state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), state Assemblyman Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham) and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko (D-East Setauket).

The request asks the Department of Health to instruct the Environmental Facilities Corporation — a public benefit corporation that provides funding and technical support to municipalities — to shift the $2 million in stimulus money from the Browns Hills project to the Calverton neighborhood.

Jeffrey Hammond, a spokesman for the state health department, said once his office receives the letter it will respond to the request.

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