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Smithtown residents press town for groundwater fix

About 100 people showed up at the Smithtown town board meeting Thursday night to complain about the town's effort on groundwater flooding.

Residents have showed up in force for the past few Thursday night town meetings and vow to continue to speak up until the problem is solved.

Here's more from a June 9 Newsday story:

After years of their homes being ruined by rising groundwater from the Nissequogue River's northeast branch, hundreds of Smithtown residents finally met face-to-face with officials from all branches of government who agreed to cooperate with one another to address the problem.

The meeting last week at Branch Brook Elementary School, moderated by Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), was attended by several hundred residents plus representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Town of Smithtown, Suffolk County, Suffolk County Water Authority, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's office, and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Hundreds of area homes have experienced flooding and compromised cesspools caused by rising roundwater, exacerbated by heavy rain in April.

The agencies, which have been operating mostly separately to this point, agreed to tackle the problem in a coordinated multi-jurisdictional way.

Smithtown has tried different ways to relieve the flooding.

The town dredged 1,200 feet along the Nissequogue's tributaries, from Brilner Drive to Harcourt Avenue. Town engineer Ted Sanford said removing years of silt from storm runoff has allowed previously stagnant water to start moving. Now the town plans to ask the DEC for permission to continue dredging north of Route 347 along the river.

But DEC Regional Director Peter Scully said that minimal relief will come from dredging, citing field research done by himself and his staff. He said the problem comes from unmaintained drainage systems, put in place decades ago when the homes were built.

"The drainage infrastructure is not functioning. It has to be restored through rehabilitation or replacement," he said.

The town plans to do some of the work with $1.5 million of federal transportation money secured by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) to reconstruct drainage systems that are inadequate or not working properly.

Sanford cited more than 16 inches of rain and three feet of snow melt over a six-week period this spring, a record high.

Stephen Terracciano, a hydrologist from the U.S. Geological Survey in Coram, pointed to a different weather pattern over the past few years, of extended droughts interrupted by intense rainstorms.

In April, the water level was about two-and-a-half feet higher than last year at the same time, he told the crowd. The area also has a lot of clay and rocks, he said, which impede absorption into the ground. USGS monitors more than 600 wells on Long Island and New York City, and plans to put out a report on them.

The data is available online at

Residents welcomed a proposal by Kennedy for more sewers, which would help lower the water table. Most of Smithtown depends on storm drains and cesspools.

Lowering the water level of Millers Pond was dismissed as too costly by officials, who added it wasn't clear whether that would ease the problem.



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