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Riverhead board to vote on plans that could result in new hookups to public water supply

Riverhead officials will vote Wednesday on whether to take a key step toward eventually providing public water from the Riverhead Water District to homes and businesses east of the former Grumman naval weapons plant.

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to vote at its Jan. 20 meeting whether to authorize the preparation of a map and plan to provide public water to residents southeast of the facility near River Road. Officials could not say how many homes and businesses would be affected.

The water district last year extended service to the Shultz Road area and the Riverhead Sportsman’s Club, east of the former Grumman plant, after residents complained about water-quality issues potentially stemming from contaminants there. However, town officials said they had become aware of additional contamination east of the facility, making a second extension necessary.

Riverhead Water District superintendent Frank Mancini said Friday that approving the map and plan would help the district determine how many other homes and businesses in that area require connection to public water.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said Friday that the map and plan would also place the town in a better position to apply for federal funding for the project, the final costs of which have not been determined.

"We’re being proactive," Aguiar said. "This is long overdue and this is the town’s proactive approach to move the hookup [in the area] as soon as possible and be ready."

The Suffolk County Health Department released data last month revealing that perfluorinated compounds were found in nearly 15% of private drinking wells tested near the plant. The class of chemicals has been linked to reproductive, endocrine and other health impacts.

The Suffolk County Water Authority in a Jan. 12 letter to Navy officials recommended they provide area residents with public water. The water authority alleged Riverhead’s water district lacked the manpower to manage such a task and that its project costs would be more expensive than the water authority’s proposal, among other reasons.

Mancini said he disagrees with the water authority’s assessment. He said it was important for Riverhead to maintain its control over its local water supply, adding he was concerned the water authority could use the town’s supply for other areas around the North Fork.

"It’s the town’s wish that they provide safe drinking water to all residents within Riverhead, and we have no aspirations to spread past the borders of the town of Riverhead unless it was in agreement with our neighboring water suppliers to protect public health," Mancini said.

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