Residents seek access to natural spring in Cold Spring Harbor
Spring water enthusiasts from across Long Island rallied Sunday in Cold Spring Harbor to urge Huntington and the Suffolk County Department of Health to restore access to a spring on Route 25A that has served the community for more than 40 years.
Last month, the town cut two pipes that had been set up by residents to allow access to the unauthorized water source on town-owned property across the street from the Cold Spring Harbor Public Library. That was after the county health department sent a letter to the town advising officials that the public should not have access to it because the water is unregulated.
"We want our water back," Joe Oliva, 63, a Huntington resident and protest organizer, said Sunday. "The government should give the people what they want."
James Meyers, principal public health engineer for the county health department, said on Friday that county sanitation code does not allow a natural spring to be used as a water supply.
"It's an unprotected, untested source of water that's the concern," Meyer said. "We sample public water supplies and this is not an official water supply."
About 35 people showed up at the spring Sunday to get people to add to the 300-plus signatures on a petition to be presented at Tuesday's Huntington Town board meeting. It asks that access to the spring be restored and periodic testing and monitoring of the water be provided.
Protesters said people from as far away as Connecticut come to use the spring's water.
They also said they have never heard of anyone getting sick from the water.
"I've been drinking it since the '50s and never had a problem," said Lois Newman, 66, of Glen Head, Sunday.
The spring, the namesake of the hamlet, according to Oliva, was tapped around 1965. Residents said the town has periodically removed the access pipes, citing public safety.
"You can't taste contaminants in drinking water so you don't really know what you are getting out of that source of water," Meyer said. "The public water supply comes from the same general area, but it's well tested, regulated and monitored, and that's what we want people drinking."
According to the county's May letter to the town, the spring was last tested in 2003 and revealed the presence of 1,2 dichloropropane, a colorless, flammable liquid with a chloroform-like odor, at a concentration that exceeded federal and state standards for public drinking water.
But proponents have the results of a water test conducted this spring showing some contaminants, including 1,2 dichloropropane, were "not above the referenced standard" as defined in the EPA's primary and secondary drinking water regulations.
John Lovell of Syosset said if it's liability the town and county are worried about, they should just keep it simple.
"Restore access and put up a sign that says 'Drink at your own risk,' " Lovell said Sunday.