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Editorial: Securing funding to connect Manorville homes to clean water remains top priority

Both the Suffolk County Water Authority and Riverhead Town applied for a grant from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation to connect homes with contaminated private wells to safe sources of drinking water.

Officials in both towns saw the grants as critical in connecting homes with wells that have tested positive for contaminants such as perfluoralkyl and polyfluoroalkyl that exceed state limits. 

The presence of these substances in private drinking wells has been tied to the use of firefighting foams when Grumman owned the vast piece of property that is now the Enterprise Park at Calverton. One of the things the U.S. Navy left behind when the property was transferred to Riverhead Town was groundwater contamination.

The residents impacted by this contamination have lived with this issue for too long. Here we are in 2022 and across America there are scores of communities that don’t have reliable and safe drinking water. That parts of Manorville — which straddles the town line — have been dealing with this and asking government to intervene appears to many to illustrate how painfully slow officials at multiple levels of government are to deal with what is clearly a health emergency. 

In its efforts to deal with this crisis, Riverhead officials applied for the grant that, if funded, would have helped move along the process to connect 64 homes to clean water supplies. The SCWA, which services the homes on the Brookhaven Town side, also applied to connect an equal number of homes.

Last week, the SCWA announced it had received a $2.7 million grant for the work — but only to connect homes on the Brookhaven side of the line. Riverhead was shut out. This is good news for homes in Brookhaven, bad news for homes in Riverhead. In this case, a line on a map seems like an impediment to good government policies. The state officials who sort through awarding these grants should make clear why one half of the project received funding but the other did not.

As Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment pointed out, Northrup Grumman and the U.S. Navy will pay nearly $50 million to provide safe water to the Bethpage Water District in Nassau County. Homes there have been impacted by a large groundwater plume that contains 1,4-dioxane contamination. 

The effort to clean up the plume and secure funding to connect impacted homes in Bethpage has gone on for decades. We wonder why any health emergency in America involving the water we drink could possibly have taken so long to resolve.

Which brings us back to Riverhead. As Ms. Esposito summed it up in a news release, “… Riverhead residents are still in limbo and still have no clear timeline for access to clean water.”

As we report in the Riverhead News-Review, Riverhead officials have their fingers crossed that additional federal funding could eventually — not a good word in this context — allow those homes in Manorville to hook up to the Riverhead Water District.

As Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said, the town has asked for $7.5 million from the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act that would go toward this hook-up.

“I’m confident we’re going to resolve this soon,” she said.

On behalf of the residents of Manorville who have long worried about what they are drinking, we certainly hope so. In a time when government at the national level is paralyzed by lies and destructive partisan warfare, we hope local government can solve problems critical to our wellbeing.