Riverhead Town officials remain hopeful additional federal funding could eventually allow for homes in Manorville to connect to the Riverhead Water District after the town did not receive funding as part of the $638 million allocated to 199 water infrastructure projects through the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation.
The Suffolk County Water Authority announced last week it had received a $2.7 million grant toward its project to connect homes in the Brookhaven Town side of Manorville that have private wells. However, officials in Riverhead Town confirmed that they had applied for the same grant but were not among the selections.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town last week requested $7.5 million as part of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act that could cover the remaining cost, estimated at about $11 million. In March, the town announced it would receive $3.5 million in federal funding for the project. The SCWA received the same total for its side of the project.
“I’m confident we’re going to resolve this soon,” Ms. Aguiar said in an interview Friday. “If we receive the $7.5 million that we’re requesting, we’ll have enough funds to hook up the Riverhead-Manorville residents to their doors.”
Ms. Aguiar said she was unsure why the Riverhead portion of the project did not receive the state funding when the SCWA did.
“I’ll inquire and see if we received any feedback,” she said, adding that the town has been in contact with the offices of Senators Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Lee Zeldin.
The SCWA received funding for 12 projects, totaling $18.9 million, for across the county.
Kelly McClinchy of Manorville, who has been an advocate for the community members affected by contaminated water stemming from when Grumman owned the property at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, said she was disappointed to learn that Riverhead did not receive the state funding, but was still happy that the Brookhaven Town side is now at least one step closer.
“It’s very frustrating,” she said. “To watch that SCWA gets this money and the Riverhead section doesn’t get this money, it’s bizarre, because the Riverhead section is actually closer to the site of the possible contamination.”
She said while the town can apply again, “that means another year of waiting” and residents remain in a holding pattern.
“Something is wrong here when one half of the section gets it and the other half doesn’t,” she said.
Ms. McClinchy attended last Tuesday’s Town Board meeting and requested an update on the water project following federal funding that was announced in March. At the time, she was unaware that the town would not be receiving the state grant, which was formally announced two days later.
“Since I was notified by Senator Schumer’s office [of the federal grant], we haven’t really had any communication between the residents and the Town Board,” Ms. McClinchy said to the Town Board, requesting an update.
Deputy town attorney Annemarie Prudenti said the $3.5 million announced in March was “fantastic news” but it “wasn’t by any stretch the full amount of the award that we have requested and required.”
She said a week after the award was announced, the town put together an internal team that includes the supervisor, Dawn Thomas, the town’s community development administrator and H2M, an engineering consulting firm, and others.
She said the town gave H2M assignments to begin planning how the $3.5 million could be spent. She said the U.S. Navy also approached Frank Mancini, the town’s water district superintendent, to request a map and plan.
“We took that as possibly a good and helpful sign,” Ms. Prudenti said.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, wrote a letter dated April 21 to both New York senators, Mr. Zeldin and Gov. Kathy Hochul, requesting they help secure $3 million in funding from U.S. Navy and Northrup Grumman. She noted they have already agreed to pay $49 million to address contamination caused in Bethpage.
“These entities caused these toxic plumes, put the public at risk, then lied about it for decades,” Ms. Esposito wrote. “$3 million is a small price for them to pay but would be life-changing for the impacted residents of Calverton.”
Ms. McClinchy remains skeptical that the Navy would chip in funding.
“We’ve tried the Navy route before and they were insistent that they were not paying for anything and it was not their responsibility,” she said. “I’ll eat my sock if I’m wrong, but I think it’s a far stretch to expect them to put in any money.”
Ms. Prudenti said last Tuesday that she had just completed a two-hour meeting with top officials at H2M, Mr. Mancini and others to discuss “some of the things that the internal committee had discussed.”
She added that options would be presented soon to the Town Board and then possibly to the residents.
“We need the options, we need to know the dollar amounts, we need to know the best way to get us the closest to the end goal,” she said.
Ms. McClinchy, who has lived in her home for nearly nine years, said it was unclear what the plan going forward is, noting the residents can’t afford to pick up a portion of the bill.
The residents in the area who have private wells have maintained that it does not matter whether they connect to the SCWA or Riverhead Water District. The goal has always been to connect to whichever utility could provide the service quickest and for the most cost effective price.
Ms. McClinchy said she estimates residents in the Town of Brookhaven could be connected as early as summer or fall.
“It seems to me like they probably have full funding of their project and we’re still waiting for Riverhead to have internal meetings,” she said.