Riverhead Town’s sewer upgrade gets national award

Riverhead Town’s $23.5 million sewage treatment plant upgrade – which uses part of the treated sewer effluent to irrigate Suffolk County’s Indian Island golf course instead of discharging it into the bay – has been awarded the 2017 National Project Excellence Award from the Water Environment Federation (WEF), an award given to only three projects nationally.

Richard Humann, the president and CEO of H2M Architects and Engineers, the town’s consultants on the project, presented the award to the Town Board at its meeting Tuesday.

The WEF, founded in 1928, is a not-for-profit association that provides technical education and training for thousands of water quality professionals who clean water and return it safely to the environment, according to its web site.

“This is a state-of-the-art project and it’s really going to set the standard, not only on Long Island but I think nationally,” Mr. Humann said.

He estimated that 100,000 gallons of treated sewer effluent was diverted from being pumped into the Peconic Bay by the project.

“Just so everyone understands what this award is for, I will give some details,” said Chris Weiss, a wastewater engineer at H2M.

“Each year, only three projects are selected to receive this award, from multiple projects submitted all the way across the United States,” he said.

“In 2017, the Town of Riverhead was selected to receive it. To put this in perspective, the two other award recipients were a 1.5 billion gallon-per-day treatment plant in Chicago, as well as a 35 million gallon-per-day treatment plant in Alexandria, Virginia,” he said.

Riverhead’s sewage treatment plant handles 1.5 million gallons-per-day.

“It may seem small by comparison, but rightfully, it is equal to those big treatment plants out there because of its impact on the sustainability of our water and its impact on saving the environment,” Mr. Weiss said.

The Riverhead plant upgrade, completed in 2016, brought the level of treatment to state of the art levels, and also uses part of the treated effluent to irrigate the adjacent Indian Island golf course in the warmer months, which is a first on Long Island, official said.

Supervisor Sean Walter credited sewer district superintendent Michael Reichel with being the impetus behind the project.

“I don’t think we’re wrong when we say we operate the most advanced wastewater treatment plant in New York State,” Mr. Walter said. “I think this shows that we have a commitment to the environment.”

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Photo credit: Tim Gannon