June 07, 2006

Riverhead's Water Supply Addressed

Looking to the future, the members of the Riverhead Town Board learned what the town's water district's needs will be over the next 20 years.

The information came last week in the form of a report, rendered by town-hired consultants H2M Management.

According to Dennis Kelleher of H2M, the town will need to increase its water supply by eight million gallons per day in order to meet future demands.

Under the existing system, the Riverhead Water District, on average, pumps 7.1 million gallons a day through its 223 miles of pipeline. And during peak times, another 10 million gallons are sent through the system.

"Nearly 75 percent of the water pumped through the system during peak times goes on the lawns," said Kelleher.

And while the town has been advised to consider kicking off a public education campaign to teach residents to conserve water — or to even regulate water usage by putting in place laws that would restrict water usage for irrigation on odd days just as Nassau County does – Kelleher suggested digging new water wells. Kelleher proposed the construction of four new wells and the rejuvenation of 18 existing wells.

"Those wells," said Gary Pendzick, superintendent of the town's water district, "were built in the 1960s and it is difficult to find parts to repair them."

The repairs and new wells, said Kelleher, would cost the water district a little over $17 million over the next ten years. The money, said Kelleher, is available through bonds, increased water rates, which have not been adjusted since 1988, and through a water tower rental revenue fund that has $360,000 in its coffers.

Despite necessary repairs, Kelleher says the town's water supply is one of the best on the island.

The water, he said, does not need much in terms of cleansing: "You are very fortunate with your water supply."

Right now, the water district, said Kelleher, only treats the water with calcium hypochlorite, a PH adjustment for corrosion control, calciquest for iron sequestering, and with granular activated carbon.

In also discussing Riverhead's water quality, Kelleher said, the district tests for nearly 140 different parameters, including pesticides and herbicides. But in Riverhead, he pointed out, "hardly any are present."

There is, however, slightly elevated iron levels in wells 4-2 and perchlorate in wells 5-1 and 5-1. The percholorate rate, said Kellerher, is minimal considering that Riverhead is an agricultural community. "It has been discovered in 20 percent of wells in Nassau and most all wells in Southold, but we were surprised to find it only two wells in Riverhead," he added.

The town board said it would be willing to consider any specific proposal to expand the water district in the future.

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