The plan to connect the Riverhead side of Manorville is slated to begin in the fall. NewsdayTV's Macy Egeland reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

Karen Notaro can now drink water from the faucets of her Manorville home without worry.

Notaro had turned to filters and bottled water because her home’s private well had tested positive for PFAS, chemicals the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said are potentially carcinogenic.

Now, she is one of 116 households that were given the option to switch from their private wells to public water after a yearslong effort from residents and others, officials said in a news conference outside Notaro’s home Thursday.

The change came at no cost to the homeowners and will be paid for with about $7 million in government funds. An additional 64 homes in Riverhead Town also will be eligible to take part in the effort.

While public water is regularly treated and tested by a government agency, like the Suffolk County Water Authority, private wells are not.

Tests done by the Suffolk County Health Department in 2020 in Manorville and Calverton — located near the former Grumman naval weapons plant in Calverton — detected the presence of emerging contaminants PFOS and PFOA, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which have been linked to cancers, liver and kidney damage, immune system problems and other health impacts.

Water concerns had galvanized the residents.

There was not “three or four weeks over the course of five years” where “we weren't emailing, we weren't calling each other, we weren’t checking up,” said Kelly McClinchy, who lives in the Riverhead Town section of Manorville.

“That’s really what we had to do to get to this point,” she later added.

McClinchy also reached out to the Citizens Campaign for the Environment with the water concerns.

Adrienne Esposito, that organization's executive director, said the residents had been testing their water even before the county health department tested their wells. “Some of them knew already that the wells were contaminated,” she said

At Thursday's news conference, Suffolk County Water Authority chairman Charles Lefkowitz said the actions taken averted a public health crisis.

“When your drinking water is compromised by contamination, your entire quality of life is threatened,” he said in an earlier statement.

Added Esposito: “There is no greater gift than the gift of clean water.” 

Thus far, about 75% of the Brookhaven Town homes surveyed have connected or have signed up to do so — a figure that officials hope will rise. PFAS were detected in nearly 15% of private drinking wells tested in the survey. 

Construction involved installing the water main and digging up the trench, then connecting the water main to the curb and installing the private service line. 

But for those who have the roughly 25,000 homes in Suffolk County on private wells, officials urged vigilance.

“If you're on a private well, I think you should be testing,” said Lefkowitz.

McClinchy, 46, who tested her water regularly before the survey, said water woes had made her shift to using bottled water for drinking, she said. 

But she said seeing that others have uncontaminated water in their homes has been comforting.

“Now this community can trust what's coming out of the tap and it's really reassuring,” McClinchy said.

With Vera Chinese and Jean-Paul Salamanca

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