Health department warns of untreated wastewater entering Peconic River

A break in a sewer line on Raynor Avenue Tuesday night has led to approximately 4,000 gallons of untreated wastewater entering the Peconic River, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

The health department issued an advisory Wednesday afternoon for residents “to take precautions before recreating on the fresh and tidal portions of the Peconic River, which runs east of Raynor Avenue to river mouth, due to the possible residual effects of approximately 4,000 gallons of untreated wastewater entering the river stemming from a pump station failure on Raynor Avenue.”

“Corrective actions were taken immediately, and the situation was resolved. Suffolk County Health officials are working closely with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which has jurisdiction over the permitting, enforcement and management at the Riverhead sewage treatment plant and its collection system.”

Michael Reichel, the Riverhead Sewer District superintendent, said the incident occurred about a 5:37 p.m. Tuesday on Raynor Avenue between West Main Street and the railroad bridge. 

“It was a malfunction of the control panel on the West Main Street pump station,” Mr. Reichel said. “Both pumps had tripped out and the alarm system failed at the same time. So the alarm never went out to the alarm company to notify us that there was a problem at the pump station. If the alarm was working correctly, we would have been notified before the spill happen.”

Everything has since been fixed, he said.

The health department issued the following warning: “Contact with waters in this portion of the Peconic River should be avoided for a minimum of 48 hours, four tidal cycles, unless testing indicates that it should be extended.  If contact does occur, rinse off with clean water immediately. Seek medical attention if after exposure you experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea; skin, eye or throat irritation, or allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.

“SCDHS has initiated sampling of the river and will lift this advisory once sampling results indicate the water is safe for contact recreation.”