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Eyes underground: Brookhaven seeks camera to monitor drainage system

Brookhaven Town Highway Department workers clean out drains

Brookhaven Town Highway Department workers clean out drains at the end of Riverhead Road in Sound Beach on Tuesday. The town is hoping to win grant money for an underground camera to locate clogs before they lead to street flooding. Credit: James Carbone

What lurks beneath the streets of Brookhaven? Town officials are applying for a state grant to find out.

The grant, through the  state Department of Environmental Conservation, would allow the town highway department to buy underground camera equipment to keep an eye on its more than 44,000 drainage structures. 

The portable camera is capable of finding connection points, clogs and collapsed pipes. It would be used to inspect the extensive drainage system in the hopes of reducing flooding and unclogging pipes — work currently outsourced, town officials said.

“When we have needed to do this, we’ve needed to hire a company to do a camera inspection. We don’t own that equipment,” Town Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro said.

Town officials unanimously approved a resolution last month  to apply for the $100,000 grant. Brookhaven would receive $80,000 and be responsible for the $20,000 more, if awarded the funding.

Some clogs are caused by tree roots restricting the drains while others come from debris washing into the drainage system, officials said.

Many Brookhaven pipes were installed decades ago without record keeping about locations and concerns, officials said.

“We have a massive drainage infrastructure around town, and the camera will help us head off problems,” said Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, who sponsored the resolution.

Heavy rain in recent weeks, coupled with poor drainage systems in parts of Rocky Point and Sound Beach, has caused minor flooding in her district, Bonner said. She pointed specifically to poor drainage systems along Hallock Landing Road in Rocky Point as among those needing a major overhaul and where the camera would be of good use.

“It’s at the bottom of dozens of streets that drain downhill,” Bonner said of the flood-prone spot.

The robotic camera being sought by the town is a little larger than a shoebox, Losquadro said. It is mounted on four wheels and carries cables that relay data back to the highway department’s command center in Coram. The equipment's small size allows it to navigate through storm drains and detect blockage and areas needing improvement, Losquadro said.

The portable camera is capable of finding connection points and clogs, can determine whether a pipe has collapsed, knows where to dig and measures how far to extend hoses, officials said.

"It would really be a beneficial system for us to have," Losquadro said.

Officials also think the equipment would help them avoid having contaminated stormwater runoff discharging into the groundwater.

"We want the water going into designated catch basins," Losquadro said.

The department, one of the largest in  the state, maintains more than 3,500 miles of roadway.

"Obviously, this is a very competitive grant, but we think we have a strong application given the size of Brookhaven and the amount of aging infrastructure we have, most of which has not been mapped,” Losquadro said.

Crews can pack up the camera system and inspect multiple drains across town in one day.

“Right now, we don't have this capability," he said. "Over the course of a week, dozens of pipes can be inspected.”

Brookhaven Town storm drainage system

  • Brookhaven has more than 44,000 drainage structures.
  • Its highway department maintains more than 3,500 miles of roadway.
  • Town officials are seeking a state grant to buy portable underground camera equipment to locate and map drainage structures, connection points, clogs and collapsed pipes.

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