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Top Stories 2021: For these residents, clean and safe water can’t be counted on

For residents in parts of Manorville and Calverton, clean water is something they don’t take for granted, because for many it’s something they don’t have. 

For much of 2021, as well as in past years, these residents have been asking the Riverhead Town Board to do something about their contaminated well water and to connect the area to the Riverhead Water District. 

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Water Authority said in 2021 that it is “ready, willing and able” to bring safe and tested public water to 128 homes in the Calverton and Manorville communities whose private wells are threatened by PFAS contamination.

About half of the homes are in the Riverhead Water District and the other half are in Brookhaven Town, which is covered by the Suffolk County Water Authority. The water authority said it can do the job “so long as there is a funding source.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar is opposed to allowing SCWA inside the town’s boundaries and said the Town Board had a proposal “to provide clean, safe water east of EPCAL.”

“They’ve been trying to take over our water district for years,” Ms. Aguiar said of SCWA.

At year’s end, neither the town nor the SCWA has found a funding source for the project. 

The U.S. Navy, which leased the site inside the fence at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to the Grumman Corporation, has admitted to causing water pollution inside the fence but it has denied responsibility for polluting groundwater outside the fence.

The Grumman Corporation built and tested fighter planes in Calverton from 1956 to 1996. Riverhead Town took title to the property in 1998.

The Suffolk County Health Department had tested 95 private wells in this area at no cost in November 2020 and detected contaminants in 14 of them, officials said.

SCWA estimated the cost to hook up 128 homes in both Brookhaven and Riverhead towns that rely on private wells at $12.15 million. For just Brookhaven, the authority said, it would be $6.3 million and for just Riverhead, the estimated cost would be $5.8 million. Riverhead Town devised a map and plan that showed it would cost $4.8 million to connect the homes in Manovrille and Calverton to the water district.