Port Washington Water District leaders want to replace a corroding, 80-year-old elevated tank that, if left untouched, risks leaking contamination into the water supply.
The 102-foot-tall steel tank on Longview Road between Hillcrest and Beacon Hill roads was last repaired in 1999. District officials are evaluating three options: fixing the existing structure; constructing a new elevated tank of the same size; or replacing the structure with ground-level storage tanks.
Residents of the 30,000-member district can weigh in on the plans at upcoming public hearings, the first of which is scheduled for Tuesday at the Port Washington Library. Officials in the district have recommended borrowing $5.1 million for a new elevated tower, but will discuss the finances of two other options during the meetings. Fixing the existing tower would cost $3.2 million, officials said. Adding storage tanks is expected to cost $6.3 million.
The current tank “is at the end of its useful life,” District Superintendent Paul Granger said. “It’s an old design. As the corrosion gets older, you’re not going to get to 20 years, 10 years.”
The district, formed in 1913, serves the villages of Port Washington North, Manorhaven, Baxter Estates, Flower Hill, Plandome Manor and unincorporated parts of Port Washington. The North Hempstead Town Board authorized the district in 2010 to borrow $18.4 million for infrastructure projects, including the tower project. The total borrowing is expected to cost taxpayers between $53 and $133 a year over a 20-year period, based on the assessed value of their homes.
The water tank holds 250,000 gallons and uses gravity to maintain a high water pressure critical to serving multi-floor homes and fire hydrants.
Pressure is strongest in an elevated tank. Having the tank higher than the structures it serves “creates a greater pressure level in the system” than ground-level storage, said Sarah Meyland, director of the Center for Water Resources Management at NYIT in Old Westbury. “Elevated tanks create what is called a head pressure that moves the water and gets it to people’s homes, up several floors, and buildings.”
The tall tanks are often considered eyesores and difficult to maintain. Old Westbury Mayor Fred Carillo said repainting the village’s elevated tank at the Old Westbury Country Club costs taxpayers as much as $2 million every 10 years.
He said his village is considering adding wells and ground storage tanks to meet increasing demand for water.
“In open hearings, typically people are against elevated tanks” and usually cite concerns such as the potential for reduced property values, Carillo said.
Replacing elevated storage tanks elsewhere has proved controversial on the North Shore, where high-use lawn irrigation has started straining many municipal systems. The Village of Munsey Park sued the Manhasset Lakeville Water District in 2014 after district officials proposed replacing a 500,000-gallon tank with a 750,000-gallon tank. The lawsuit failed and the project is expected to be completed by next year.
While residents might not like the appearance of elevated tanks, they are “a necessary part of how they get their water,” Meyland said.
“They do have a life expectancy,” she cautioned. “I think it is reasonable to think in the coming years we will see more systems.”
Options to replace Port Washington Water District’s aging municipal water tank:
Replacing the 102-foot-tall steel structure with one of the same size. Cost: $5.1 million
Replacing the structure with ground-level storage tanks. Cost: $6.3 million
Fixing the existing structure. Cost: $3.2 million
A public meeting on the issue is to be held March 15 at 7 p.m. at the Port Washington Public Library.