The water district building in Riverhead on Aug. 21, 2021.

The water district building in Riverhead on Aug. 21, 2021. Credit: Randee Daddona

 

The Town of Riverhead and Suffolk County Water Authority officials say they have agreed in principle to work together to bring safe drinking water to the homes of dozens of residents in the town’s section of Manorville whose private wells have been found to contain toxins.

Officials from both sides said in a news release Tuesday that they held a meeting on Monday and are feeling "optimistic" that they can work together in connecting 64 homes in Riverhead to public water as quickly as possible.

“There are a lot of legal components that need to be addressed in terms of size and costs, but we did agree to come up with an understanding and we’re hoping they keep their word and we can move this forward as quickly as possible,” Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar told Newsday in an interview Wednesday.

The Suffolk County Health Department in 2020 found traces of perfluorinated compounds — which have been linked to reproductive, endocrine and other health impacts — in nearly 15% of private drinking wells which they tested near the former Grumman naval weapons facility in Calverton. About 124 homes in Riverhead and Brookhaven towns have been affected.

Jeff Szabo, CEO of the water authority, told Newsday Tuesday that the meetings were “productive and informative to both sides.” A proposal is expected to be drafted in the next few weeks that will be sent to the town outlining how the agreement could move forward, Szabo said.

“Essentially, we plan to supply Riverhead with the water they need so they can extend the water main to the subject area,” Szabo said.

Under the potential arrangement, which officials from both sides said was discussed in "broad strokes,” the water authority would supply and meter the drinking water to residents in the affected Riverhead area and install approximately 3,000 feet of water main and serve those residents from its system. The town would pay the water authority for the work, but the residents would be considered customers of the Riverhead Water District.

Aguiar said the town had insisted on residents being part of its water district in the preliminary discussions.

While the news release said there are still certain issues that need to be worked out for an agreement to be finalized, Szabo said he preferred not to discuss specifics at the moment because talks were ongoing.

Aguiar said a letter of understanding could be drafted as soon as within the next two weeks. However, Aguiar added, the town still needs to discuss where the funds for the project would come from, as well as implementation plans, a cost analysis plan and other details.

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