Riverhead Water District seen on Aug. 21, 2021. Environmental advocates are...

Riverhead Water District seen on Aug. 21, 2021. Environmental advocates are urging lawmakers to demand that the Navy and Northrop Grumman provide money to connect 64 homes in Riverhead Town to public water.

Credit: Randee Daddona

An environmental advocacy group is calling for elected officials to push the U.S. Navy to pay about $3 million to address water quality issues affecting dozens of homes near the former Grumman naval weapons plant in Calverton.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, wrote a letter dated April 21 to U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Gov. Kathy Hochul urging them to demand that the Navy and Northrup Grumman provide the money for the Town of Riverhead to connect 64 homes.

In 2020, Suffolk County Health Department officials found traces of perfluorinated compounds — which have been linked to reproductive, endocrine and other health impacts — in nearly 15% of private drinking wells tested near the former Grumman facility.

Navy officials did not return requests for comment.

Esposito told Newsday on Friday that she was prompted to write the letter after learning that Riverhead Town lost its bid to get grant funding through the New York State Water Infrastructure Improvement Act to connect the homes to public water.

“I track the grants, and as soon as I got the list of grants that came out, I looked for Riverhead, and my heart sank because it was clear they didn’t get it,” Esposito said.

The Suffolk County Water Authority recently received $2.7 million to connect Manorville residents in Brookhaven Town who live near the former Grumman plant to public water as part of $19 million the state Environmental Facilities Corporation awarded the agency. Esposito said affected Riverhead residents need relief quickly, and if the town cannot obtain enough funding to connect them to public water, the water authority should be allowed to do so.

“They’re so adamant that they want to provide the water main extensions, but yet they haven’t proven the ability that they can succeed,” Esposito said. “And if they can’t succeed, they should allow the water authority to come in and get the job done.”

Riverhead Town officials estimate the total cost to connect those homes is about $11 million.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town “is exploring all appropriate opportunities for clean water funding,” including reapplying for the state water grant and having asked the Navy 10 days earlier to assist with funding on the project.  

“We are working closely with Senator Schumer and his office, along with Congressman Zeldin and Senator Gillibrand, all who have also made this effort a priority,” Aguiar told Newsday on Friday.

Riverhead Town was awarded $3.5 million earlier this year in federal aid through Schumer, Gillibrand and Zeldin, to go toward connecting affected residents in Calverton and Manorville to public water. The town this week requested an additional $7.5 million, Aguiar said.

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