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New developments raise concern about sufficient water availability

With several large subdivisions currently in the application stages before Riverhead’s Planning Board, the question some officials are asking is whether there is enough water to supply them all. 

With that in mind, Riverhead Water District superintendent Frank Mancini and deputy town attorney Anne Marie Prudenti spoke before the Planning Board last Thursday, discussing a proposal to make Planning Board approvals contingent on water availability.

“Quality-wise, we’re perfectly fine,” Mr. Mancini said. “But volume-wise, we’ve been pushed to the maximum. We are a little stronger in the low zone, where downtown development occurs. But the real problem is in the high zone.”

The high zone is in the northwest part of the town, including EPCAL, he said. 

“Moving forward, we are not going to be able to approve these projects immediately with water on hand,” he said. 

Mr. Mancini said it should be made harder to obtain a water availability letter from the town, and the town should be requesting maps and plans for water line extensions from developers more frequently than in the past. 

“All the information we’ve been getting is that there’s a shortfall of the water supply in the Town of Riverhead,” Planning Board chairman Stan Carey said. “This puts us, as Planning Board members, in a tricky position when these projects come to us for approval — unless we get a clear letter from the water district saying you can supply these extensions to the water district.”

Planning Board attorney Richard Ehlers said, “The reality is, if there’s somebody that you couldn’t supply, they would have to get the health department to approve a system, and the health department would never approve that system without proof that the town couldn’t provide water.”

Requests for a map and plan for a water connection would have to come from the Town Board rather than the Planning Board, officials said.

Ms. Prudenti said the town needs to do an immediate review of all pending projects to determine if there is enough water available.

“It seems to me like an infrastructure problem, there’s not enough water,” Planning Board member Ed Densieski said. 

He asked if the town could be sued if it denied an application for lack of water. 

Ms. Prudenti said if a project requires certain infrastructure improvements, and without it there is not enough water supply, the applicant can pay for those improvements. 

“What we want to know is, should we be approving some of these projects with a clear condition in the resolution saying that the Town Board needs to either extend the boundaries of the district or work out any arrangements so that they can meet the capacity or demand for this project?” Mr. Carey said. 

Building and planning administrator Jeff Murphree agreed to work on the proposal.