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Detection of contaminants means Calverton Sewer District upgrades to cost $300K more than expected

Riverhead Town’s plans to upgrade its antiquated Calverton Sewer District will cost a little more than originally expected. Officials have discovered the presence of PFAS and PFOA in the groundwater there, according to Tim Norberg, an engineer for H2M who is working with the town on the upgrade.

The additional cost of $305,404 will bring the total cost of the upgrade to $10,869,592.

PFAS and PFOA are artificial compounds that were used in firefighting foams and have been known to have adverse health affects such as increased cholesterol levels, changes in growth, immune system changes and increased risk for cancer, among other things.

They are frequently found near former airport sites, such as Calverton, which was used by the Grumman Corporation for many years, under contract from the Navy.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation wants the town to remove the PFAS and PFOA from the site to undetectable levels, he said.

“This is a Navy issue,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. 

“Now we are in the middle of a capital project and we detect PFAS, and the levels are not acceptable,” she said.

Mr. Norberg said the levels are above state levels — which is 10 parts per trillion — but below federal levels, which are 70 parts per trillion. He said the water they tested at Calverton Sewer Plant site ranged from 25 to under 70 parts per trillion.

Michael Reichel, the town’s sewage department superintendent, said the town reached out to the Navy to see if they would help by providing manpower and equipment and they declined, saying they are required to meet the federal drinking water levels, not the state levels.

He said the town may pursue a lawsuit. 

Several business owners in the Enterprise Park at Calverton said there are only about 15 to 18 property owners in EPCAL, and those property owners will have to pay the entire cost of the $10.9 million upgrade.

“All of the costs are being imposed on 15 to 18 property owners and our sewer rates have tripled,” said Christopher Lynch of Island Companies, which is based at EPCAL. He said the upgrade is being done to make the property more attractive so it can be sold.

“It’s easy to spend other people’s money,” said Edgar Goodale of Riverhead Building Supply, which has a site at EPCAL. “We will be on the hook for the whole thing for decades.”