Riverhead officials pursue lawsuit against Southampton

The Riverhead Town Board passed a resolution last Tuesday to retain counsel and commence legal action against the neighboring Town of Southampton.

Riverhead Supervisor Tim Hubbard said he was hoping not to have to file the lawsuit.

“We met with the county executive, and we met with Southampton, together and then separately also, and we just weren’t able come to any reasonable agreement,” Mr. Hubbard said. 

“It kind of forced our hand to go this way,” he added. “I don’t think any one of us wanted to sue Southampton to stop a sewage treatment plant from being built. But with the way it’s being done, we felt this is the only way we could legally address it.”

The dispute centers on Southampton’s proposal to create a Riverside Community Sewage Treatment Plant, including the adoption of a Riverside Sewer District. It is expected to cost $35 million, which Southampton officials said would be entirely funded through grants. 

“Riverhead has expressed numerous concerns to the Town of Southampton related to direct and negative impacts that the proposed project will have upon the Town of Riverhead,” the pending lawsuit states, “as well as negative impacts on the school district.”

The hamlet of Riverside is part of Southampton Town but draws many of its municipal services, including schools and libraries, are provided by Riverhead. 

Southampton Town has been trying for years develop plans to revitalize Riverside, one of the poorest hamlets in Suffolk County, but officials say they have been hindered by the lack of sewage treatment. 

Riverhead currently supplies sewage treatment for the Suffolk County Center, the jail and the court facilities that are located in Riverside.

“I’m very disappointed that they’re pursuing this,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Maria Moore. “I don’t know what their claim will be. The Town of Southampton hasn’t done anything wrong. We’re just trying to lift up our community, just like Riverhead is doing with theirs.” 

The Riverhead Town Board is hiring attorney Steven Barshov to handle the lawsuit.

Southampton’s plans also have encountered opposition from the wider community, including a recent protest from teachers at the Phillips Avenue School, which is adjacent to the proposed sewage treatment facility, citing concerns about the health and safety of the school’s staff and students.

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