Water district gets pumped up — by 23% — for summer

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Workers at the site of a future well site at County Road 105 and Northville Turnpike.
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Workers at the site of a future well site at County Road 105 and Northville Turnpike.

Thanks to a very busy off-season, the Riverhead Water District’s pumping capacity is approaching 23 percent higher than it was at the start of last year, town officials said.

The district already has a new pump station up and running at Plant 15 on Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue that will produce 750 gallons per minute of water. And officials expect to have another new pump station operating soon near where Northville Turnpike meets County Route 105, district superintendent Gary Pendzick said at last Thursday’s Town Board work session in Town Hall.

The water district also has another new pump station close to being up and running along Edwards Avenue in Calverton, he said. The town began that project in January.

Mr. Pendzick told the Town Board the district’s pumping capacity is 23 percent higher than it was at this time last year.
“Our total capacity will be up to almost 24 million gallons per day, we were at the beginning of last year at 19.5 million gallons per day,” Mr. Pendzick said. “That’s a nice chunk of change, as they say.”

“See what happens when you set goals,” said Supervisor Sean Walter, who had listed improvements at the water district as one of his goals when he took office.

“We were able to get thousands of gallons per minute online very quickly,” Mr. Pendzick said.

The three new pump stations cost about $2 million apiece and are being funded through bonding that is paid off with water district funds. The district also has a new booster station on Dogwood Drive in Wading River that cost about $300,000, officials said.

Mr. Pendzick had declared a water emergency throughout the town last July while supplies were running “dangerously low” during a prolonged heat wave.

The district broke all its records for gallons pumped during the stretch of summer.

The Suffolk County Water Authority, which has made no secret about the fact that it would like to take over the Riverhead system, has repeatedly over the years criticized the town water district’s ability to provide enough water to its customers.
But don’t go crazy watering your lawn just yet.

“We still ask residents to be water smart, and don’t waste water,” Mr. Pendzick said.

He has frequently cited the increase in commercial irrigation systems as a main reason for water shortages.

“One thing I’ve learned from being in the [River & Roots] community garden is that overwatering is bad too,” Councilman Jim Wooten said.

Overwatered plants tend to get fungus and weak roots, he said.

Mr. Pendzick said the water district’s goal is to reach a capacity that’s 124 percent higher than the peak capacity, and which would require that it pump about 26 million gallons per day. He said the district will probably need one more major pumping station to do that, and that officials are searching for a site for that station now.

“That’s what we need to meet our demands due to irrigation,” he said.

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