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DEC providing bottled water to homes in Calverton where ‘forever chemicals’ detected; county health department issues water quality advisory

Areas along both Middle Road in Riverhead and Pinehurst Boulevard in the Brookhaven Town section of Calverton are having similar problems with groundwater contamination.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is currently providing bottled water to eight homes on Middle Road and has installed and is maintaining five Point of Entry Treatment systems there, also known as POET.

The DEC is also providing bottled water on a temporary basis to five homes on Pinehurst Boulevard and has installed and is maintaining three POET systems there due to groundwater that exceeds state contamination levels.

The DEC, in concurrence with the New York State Department of Health, says it is offering to connect these homes to an existing public water supply line at no cost to the owners.

David Taylor of Pinehurst Boulevard got his well tested after it came in above drinking water standards about a month ago. 

“I thought it would be a good idea to have it tested,” Mr. Taylor said. 

He said he also wants to get his blood tested to see how potential contaminants have affected him. 

“No one knows how long it was contaminated because no one was tested until recently,” he said.

The Suffolk County Department of Health announced Wednesday it will be conducting a private well survey in the area of Calverton south of the Peconic River along portions of South River Road and Pinehurst Boulevard north of Nugent Drive. The health department issued a water quality advisory and is seeking to sample private wells in the area at no charge to residents. Any residents in the area with questions can contact the health department’s Office of Water Resources at 631-852-5810.

Beginning in December 2021, the DEC began providing alternative water supplies to homes along South River Road and Pinehurst Boulevard. Through the sampling of private wells, those locations were identified as having been impacted by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS and PFOS.

The DEC says that bottled water will be supplied until the POET system is installed and cleared for potable uses.

The POETs work to treat water for use in residential or commercial properties using a “small pre-filter followed by two tanks of granular activated carbon,” according to the DEC. Property owners are not expected to pay the cost of POET system installation and maintenance or pay for water sampling and analysis, the DEC says. The homeowner simply replaces the pre-filter and the DEC provides a free annual supply and shows the homeowner how and when to complete the replacement.

The DEC said the highest levels of contamination detected along Pinehurst Boulevard and South River Road were 180 parts per trillion, which was well above the state drinking water standard of 10 ppt. 

As for Middle Road, the DEC says it began providing alternative water supplies to homes and businesses there, saying that 11 locations were identified as “impacted primarily by volatile organic compounds (VOC), including Freon-12, PFA and 1,4-dioxane, which are often called “forever chemicals” because they linger in people’s systems. 

Although the Middle Road area is in Riverhead Town, it is not served by the town’s water district. 

Frank Mancini, Riverhead Water District superintendent, said the area in question includes Manor Road, Middle Road and Twomey Avenue.

“Riverhead is trying to get as many grants as possible,” to expand the water district, Mr. Mancini said.

PFAS are used in products such as firefighting foam and impact the liver, thyroid, immune system and cholesterol levels, and can pose risks to pregnant people,according to Suffolk County; 1,4-dioxane is a synthetic industrial chemical that’s a likely human carcinogen.

The DEC has not identified a specific source of contamination. A spokesperson said based on the compounds detected, it’s likely that contamination can’t be attributed to one source and the agency will continue to provide alternate water supplies and monitor drinking water as long as needed. 

The county health department detected PFAS in nearly 15% of Calverton wells in a 2020 analysis. The Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Calverton said in April 2021 that a field team was investigating potential on-facility releases of PFAS at the Grumman facility. 

“The Navy is aware of community concerns about private drinking water wells located south of the former NWIRP and has been working with Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) to obtain drinking water data,” a 2021 statement read.

The latest water issues come as Riverhead Town and the SCWA try to work together to bring clean water to residents in Manorville who have long complained about contaminants in their private wells.

“I think the key takeaway is we’re here to help, right,” SCWA chief executive officer Jeff Szabo said during a recent water forum at Town Hall. “We’re working, there’s money available, everyone’s cooperating and there’s a sense of optimism that there’s a bright future ahead for the residents.”