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Officials outline 10 year to-do list for Riverhead Water District

Citing aging infrastructure, the Riverhead Water District has identified 18 projects as part of a 10 year to-do list that officials say are necessary in order to keep the district operating.

Of those, three projects are nearing completion, including a new ground storage tank at Plant 15 on Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue, new emergency generators at Plant 16 on Edwards Avenue and Plant 1, the Pulaski Street facility and water main extensions throughout town, according to H2M engineering consultant John Collins.

Though bond resolutions for the $5.7 million projects were passed, bonds haven’t been secured, Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.

Water district officials are now seeking a nod of approval from the Town Board to begin planning and finalizing cost estimates for 15 additional projects, expected to cost $23 million.

“If we just did a couple of these projects — and there’s no commitment to go through with the other projects — it doesn’t work,” the supervisor explained at a work session Thursday.

The new projects include working with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to map the saltwater interface, identify additional sources of water and upgrade existing infrastructure.

“[The projects] will help the district become more resilient, more reliable,” Mr. Collins said. He said the town will identify two test locations, where they will drill 600 feet into the ground to collect water and test for quality.

Additional projects include tower maintenance and painting, upgrading existing standpipes and making improvements to the “tin man” water tower on Pulaski Street. “That’s a small tank. It doesn’t really do a lot for us but it’s kind of the character of the town,” Mr. Collins said, noting it’s also a revenue generator from leases with cell phone companies, Mr. Collins said.

Water district supervisor Mark Conklin said the projects are overdue.

“They were kicked around for 10 years, 15 years,” he said, adding that they would “keep the infrastructure going to provide the water quality and service to the people of Riverhead.”

William Rothaar, town financial administrator,  said there is sufficient funding for the projects over time with taxes, key money fees and the fund balance, but would have to be managed based on project timelines.

“You can plan the best you want, but when one project leap frogs the other one or if we happen to get grants for one project that we can do sooner … that is what would drive one project to get done,” he said.

Mr. Collins indicated that they would pursue grant opportunities to offset the cost of the upgrades.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said the plan would help Riverhead Town retain its own water district, adding that becoming a Suffolk County water district would be a “very bad” idea.

“Things were put off and now all of a sudden it’s catching up to us,” he said in support of the project.

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