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Riverhead receives $3 million for water improvements

Riverhead Town will receive $3 million in state funding to help with water infrastructure projects, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

According to Mark Conklin, Riverhead Water District Superintendent, the funds will help the department address manganese concerns at Plant No. 5, located on Middle Road just east of Northville Turnpike.

Mr. Conklin said that well 5-1 has a current manganese level of three parts per million. “You can still drink it,” he said, noting that it’s considered a secondary contaminant and not a serious health issue.

A 2004 study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a guideline of five parts per million to address “aesthetic” issues such as discoloration. There are no federally enforceable drinking water standards for manganese in terms of health. Down the line, Mr. Conklin said he thinks manganese will be considered a primary water contaminant.

Currently, Mr. Conklin said water from well 5-1 is being blended with water from another onsite well to reduce the presence of manganese. The long term filtration project will not only address those concerns, but improve capacity as well, he said.

The $5.1 million project is expected to take approximately two years and be completed by 2021, Mr. Conklin said.

“This is a big plus,” he said of the grant. 

Last month, Riverhead Water District officials outlined 18 projects that are part of 10-year to-do list that must be completed to keep the district functioning.

The projects would involve addressing aging infrastructure, identifying additional water sources and working alongside the United States Geological Survey on mapping the saltwater interface.

The projects were estimated to cost $23 million.

“Water quality was the biggest concern,” Mr. Conklin said, over other infrastructure improvements. 

Three of the projects are already close to 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.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith was thrilled by the news. “Since coming into office, I have made ensuring that our residents continue to have clean drinking water a priority. This grant money will go towards much-needed improvements so that we can continue that mission,” she said in a statement.

In October, water district supervisor Mark Conklin said the planned projects were 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.”

Riverhead’s grant is part of $36.1 million the state has pledged to support 13 municipal water projects on Long Island.

Investing in water improvements is “critical to regional growth,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “By improving our water infrastructure, we are protecting our natural resources, laying the groundwork for future prosperity and helping to create a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

According to the governor’s office, the Suffolk County Water Authority will also receive grant funding totaling $9.7 million.

Statewide, $270 million was awarded to communities. Of that, $19 million will support projects that address cyanotoxins associated with harmful algal blooms. Other projects, identified as part of the governor’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017, will target emerging contaminants such as PFOA, PFOS and 1,4 dioxane.

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