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SCWA

The Suffolk County Legislature has appointed John Rose of Setauket to the board of the Suffolk County Water Authority. The unanimous vote came at the June 4 general meeting of the legislature. Rose was appointed to a five-year term, succeeding Jacqueline Gordon, whose term expired in April.

“I am very excited for the opportunity to join the Suffolk County Water Authority,” Rose said. “I am grateful to Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey   for putting my nomination forward and all the members of the legislature for their trust in me. Drinking water is so essential to everything we do, and protecting it is the most important job we have. SCWA has always been an exemplary model of what makes Suffolk County great. I am looking forward to being a part of it.”

Rose is a business owner of several enterprises in the Selden area and has extensive knowledge of real estate development, planning, town codes, site work, and building plans. In 1998, he was honored by the Suffolk County Legislature with its Outstanding Volunteer Recognition Award. Rose served on the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency from 2009 to 2015, where he helped encourage businesses to begin operations in or move to Brookhaven. He was appointed to the Suffolk County Downtown Citizens Advisory Board in 2013 and served on the Brookhaven Planning Board from 2015 to 2024.

“John has been civically engaged for more than 35 years,” SCWA Chairman Charles Lefkowitz said. “The Suffolk County Water Authority is all about serving our community, and John brings that experience in spades. I look forward to having his perspective on the board so that we can continue to improve for our customers.”

“Our board members have put forth many of the ideas that have helped shape SCWA,” Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Szabo said. “Each board member has a unique expertise which helps improve our organization. John’s expertise will be a major boost for the organization, and we are excited to benefit from his ideas.”

“We are very fortunate to have an outstanding organization in the Suffolk County Water Authority serving our residents, and I know they are in great hands with John Rose,” McCaffrey said. “I’ve known John and his service to the community for years now. He has contributed to our community for decades through his businesses, his work on the Brookhaven IDA, and other volunteer efforts. I know he will bring that same concern and dedication to the SCWA board. I am proud to have nominated John.”

From left, Joe Pokorny, Deputy CEO for Operations; Charley Golub; Alexandra Bachman; Piper Desoye; Abby Adams; Srisha Dey; and Theodore Kamm. Photo courtesy of SCWA

The winners of the annual student poster contest held by the Suffolk County Water Authority were honored at an event on May 21 at SCWA’s Education Center in Hauppauge. Six students from grades kindergarten through the 8th grade were selected for their artwork that showed the importance of water and ways that it can be protected. More than a hundred entries were submitted by students from across Suffolk County.

Deputy CEO for Operations Joe Pokorny presented the awards and praised the winners, stating, “These young artists have captured the essence of our mission—to safeguard our precious water resources. Although we could only pick a few winners, across the board the students showed their understanding of the importance of water. Their creativity and commitment to environmental stewardship inspire us all.”

Two winners were selected from each age group. Srisha Dey (Parliament Place Elementary, North Babylon) and Theodore Kamm (Park View Elementary School, Kings Park) were selected in the kindergarten to 2nd grade group. Alexandra Bachman and Piper Desoye (both of Lloyd Harbor School, Cold Spring Harbor) for the 3rd to 5th grade group. Abby Adams (West Hollow Middle School, Melville) and Charley Golub (Paul J. Gelinus Jr. High School, Setauket) for the 6th to 8th grade group.

Each winner received a certificate of achievement in recognition of their outstanding work. Their posters will be prominently displayed in the SCWA Education Center throughout the year, helping to educate visitors about drinking water and how to best protect this critical resource.

The Suffolk County Water Authority celebrated Drinking Water Week (May 5 to 11) with the opening of a new expansion of its state-of-the-art laboratory. The expansion will support SCWA’s mission of providing its customers with high quality drinking water.

SCWA’s water quality testing laboratory is recognized as one of the top groundwater laboratories in the nation. With the 191,047 tests performed last year producing 1.7 million results, it is at the front line of ensuring that SCWA is delivering high quality water. With a growing number of contaminants that water providers are required to test for, SCWA began an expansion of its laboratory in 2023.

The new area consolidates the collection of samples collected from SCWA’s public supply system around Suffolk County and distributes them throughout the laboratory so testing can occur for pesticides, herbicides, emerging contaminants, bacteria, metals and many other compounds. It also provides ample room within its existing laboratory to prepare for the future testing requirements. It is the laboratory’s largest expansion since it moved to its current location in Hauppauge in 1994.

SCWA Chairman Charlie Lefkowitz cut the ribbon on the new expansion, remarking “We are so proud of our state-of-the-art laboratory and the staff that makes it the finest in the nation. Wherever I go, I always talk about its importance so our customers will know the rigor and attention that goes into making sure their drinking water is of the highest quality. This expansion sets us up for the future and I am thrilled to be here to celebrate it.”

Firefighting foam erupts from fire hose a product that is a regular host of PFAS chemicals, resistant to oil and water. Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Forever is wonderful when it comes to love, but not so much when it comes to chemicals that don’t break down and stay in the human body, accumulating over time and threatening people’s health.

In a move applauded by environmental advocates and health officials, the Environmental Protection Agency last week set a limit on the amount of so-called forever chemicals, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, called PFAS, of four parts per trillion in drinking water.

Water companies have until 2027 to complete initial monitoring to reduce chemicals that have been linked to damage to the kidney, testes, liver, thyroid, reproductive and immune system, according to the new regulations. Found in a host of products including fireman’s foam, carpets, clothing, food packaging and nonstick cookware, PFAS are resistant to oil and water.

New York State already had one of the toughest regulations in the country, as the Empire State set maximum contaminant levels of 10 parts per trillion for these chemicals in 2020.

Charles Lefkowitz, chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority applauded the EPA for this new national standard.

The SCWA has been “preparing for this and we are well on our way to meeting all regulatory requirements within the time frame laid out by EPA,” Lefkowitz said in a statement. “Since 2020, when New York enacted its own PFAS rules, SCWA has been meeting or surpassing all standards. It has given us a great head start on the new rules, but there is still work to be done.”

Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott noted that the state’s water standards for emerging contaminants are among the most protective in the country.

“The new federal measures will have the greatest impact nationwide and will also further protect our drinking water on Long Island,” Dr. Pigott explained in an email.

Environmental groups recognized the ongoing work at the SCWA to meet these standards and appreciated the authority’s public disclosure of its testing results.

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, described the SCWA as “ready” for this rule change and “poised for action.”

Since 2016, the SCWA installed 27 new Granular Activated Carbon treatment systems that remove PFAS from drinking water, The authority expects to install as many as 80 new GAC systems to meet the new regulations.

“We are well within our way to achieving that within the timeframe set by the EPA,” Jeff Szabo, Chief Executive Officer of SCWA, explained in an email. 

Each new system costs about $1.5 million to install. SCWA had already instituted a $20 per quarter water quality treatment charge to customers in 2020, when New York State established its PFAS limits.

SCWA has also secured $9 million from New York State for GAC treatment, which, Szabo explained, would help reduce the cost to customers.

Rates won’t be increasing in the next fiscal year. The rates, which are based on the budget, may change in future years, depending on the operating budget, a spokesman said.

SCWA tests all of its wells at least semi-annually for PFAS. If the authority finds a well with these chemicals, it retests the well at least quarterly and, in some cases will test it every month or every two weeks.

Private  wells

Esposito urged people with private wells to test their water regularly.

“People think when they have a private well, it comes from a mysteriously clean spring,” said Esposito. “They must get their wells tested. Ignorance is not bliss. If there are PFAS, they must call and report it and see if they’re eligible to get federal funds for filtration.”

Esposito estimates the cost of testing for private well water could be $200 to $250.

Carbon filtration, using a process called reverse osmosis, can remove PFAS.

The cost of installing filters depends on the home and the type of filter. Several online providers estimate a cost between $800 and $3,000, although specific costs from different providers may vary.

Residents can call the Department of Health Services Office of Water Resources at (631) 852-5810 for information on testing by either the health department or a local contract laboratory. Health department staff are also available to provide treatment recommendations.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has provided alternate water supplies to a limited number of private well owners on a case-by-case basis over the last several years.

The New York State legislature is considering proposed legislation to provide grant funding to private well owners with impacted wells to connect to public water or install treatment.

The county health department coordinates with the DEC and the state Department of Health when they receive information regarding water that exceeds PFAS containment levels.

People interested in further information about the health effects of the PFAS are urged to reach out to the New York State Department of Health.

Jaymie Meliker, Professor in the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine in the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University, added that private wells have numerous potential contaminants in part because Long Island has so many septic systems.

These wastewater systems are a source of nitrogen for waterways, leading to fish kills and can also add contaminants to drinking water.

Wastewater treatment is “vastly under resourced,” said Meliker. The county and the state need infrastructure investments.

As for PFAS, they can vary from one neighborhood to the next.

On the manufacturing side, companies are working to lower the toxins of PFAS, creating shorter chains that provide the same benefits without the negative effect on health.

Meliker was pleased that the EPA had established low level limits for these chemicals that accumulate in the human body.

The studies and concerns have been “going on for a couple of decades,” he said. “There’s enough evidence to suggest it’s prudent to do something.

SCWA staff explains the water distribution cycle as the display illustrates. Photo by Samantha Rutt

By Samantha Rutt

The Suffolk County Water Authority Education Center & Laboratory, located in Hauppauge, offers an immersive experience that invites visitors to explore the world of water management, conservation and purification.

Opened to the public every second Thursday of each month, the Education Center & Laboratory serves as a hub for educational outreach and research initiatives aimed at promoting water awareness and sustainability practices within the community. Its state-of-the-art facilities showcase the intricate processes involved in delivering safe and clean drinking water to homes and businesses across Suffolk County.

One of the highlights of the Education Center is its interactive exhibits, which provide visitors with hands-on learning opportunities. From water cycle and watershed protection to understanding the importance of water quality testing, visitors of all ages can engage with informative displays that make learning about water conservation both educational and enjoyable.

Exhibits include the evolution of water main, water quality/quantity monitoring technology, advanced oxidation process display, water testing and lab technology, as well as advancements in meter reading. 

Also at the center is an interactive water testing display allowing visitors to learn about Long Island’s aquifer and its role in the water cycle, while also examining real aquifer sediments extracted from the various geologic layers of the aquifer system. 

Guided tours of the laboratory are also available, allowing for a behind-the-scenes look at the rigorous testing protocols employed to ensure the safety and purity of the county’s water supply. Led by knowledgeable staff members, these tours provide valuable insights into the science of water treatment and the vital role that water quality plays in public health.

In addition to its educational offerings, the SCWA Education Center & Laboratory also hosts various community events and workshops throughout the year. These events cover a range of topics, including water conservation strategies, environmental stewardship and the latest advancements in water technology.

For schools and educational groups, the Education Center offers tailored programs designed to complement classroom curricula and provide students with real-world examples of environmental science in action. Through engaging activities and demonstrations, students are encouraged to think critically about water-related issues and explore potential solutions to environmental challenges.

To learn more about the Suffolk County Water Authority or to sign up for a tour, visit the website at www.scwa.com/educationcenter.

By Samantha Rutt

Suffolk County Water Authority hosted the next installment of its WaterTalk series on Feb. 20 at Amityville Public Library. The event allowed customers to learn more about their drinking water and engage in open dialogue with their water provider. 

“Our drinking water continues to be a topic of discussion in the media, and we believe it is important for residents to have an open dialogue with their water provider to learn more,” SCWA Chairman Charles Lefkowitz said.

The WaterTalk series features a panel of experts who discuss various topics, including the quality of drinking water, the implementation of new infrastructure to enhance water service and quality, and the importance of conservation. 

SCWA’s water quality and lab services director, Tom Schneider, and customer growth coordinator, John Marafino, represented the authority at the event. 

“Suffolk County Water Authority is an independent public benefit corporation operating under the public authority law,” Marafino stated to open the meeting. “We serve about 1.2 million customers, and we began operations in 1951. We operate as a nonprofit, and we’re one of the country’s largest groundwater suppliers.”

Following the opening remarks and brief background of the authority, Schneider made a PowerPoint presentation to discuss the current infrastructure plans around the county, touching on water main management and emerging projects, and pump station projects.

Water quality

During Schneider’s presentation, attendees could ask questions, some of the most frequently asked centered around drinking water quality and what the authority adds and detects within our drinking water. Concerns for fluoride inclusion and potency arose from several attendees. Schneider eased the worry by explaining what the water authority does to regulate water quality.

“We add very small amounts of chlorine to our water. The chlorine kills any germs or bacteria that might be present in the water mains and as the water is delivered to you. The water as it comes from the ground is free of harmful bacteria,” Schneider said. “We also add a chemical called [hydrated] lime. The water we pump from our aquifers is slightly acidic, which can damage the pipes in your home over a long time. [Hydrated] lime makes the water less acidic, protecting the pipes in your home from corrosion.”

Schneider continued explaining the danger of the bacteria that are commonly found in untreated water:

“It’s keeping water safe. You don’t want to grow bacteria — bacteria is the stuff that will get you sick. There are no bacteria in the groundwater, and we want to ensure that the distribution system is safe. That’s why the chlorine is added, by law.” 

The director recommended using filtration systems like ones built into refrigerators for those who are more sensitive to the added chemicals.

Schneider continued his presentation by touching on the groundwater laboratory — what it is, what it does and how it tests Suffolk County’s groundwater.

“We are consistently considered the largest groundwater laboratory in the country because we have 600 wells. We have 600 wells on 240 pieces of property,” Schneider explained. 

“We test samples at the wellhead. We’re testing what’s in the source water and what’s in the groundwater before we do anything to it,” Schneider said. “Last year, we did 91,000 samples for about 190,000 different tests. We tested for 414 different parameters, more than what’s regulated. We have such a great laboratory, we have a lot of technical equipment, we have a lot of good scientists, we’re doing more than what’s required.”

He mentioned that if there is an environmental concern near any of SCWA’s wells or if traces of a regulated constituent have been found at a well site, SCWA will test at a greater frequency.

Schneider explained that when wells are in need of remediation, SCWA will use treatment systems, such as granular activated carbon, to remove contaminants from the water supply so the water SCWA serves always meets state and federal regulations. 

In addition to the monitoring that SCWA does on a regular basis, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services also routinely performs tests of the public water supply at the wellhead and at various parts of the distribution system. The purpose of all this monitoring is to ensure that the highest quality water is served to consumers.

Another topic of concern addressed by the director was how safe is bottled water, a question the water authority has been addressing on a more regular basis. 

“Bottled water actually has less regulation than drinking water,” Schneider explained. “It’s not regulated by the EPA, it’s regulated by the FDA but they have different rules. They’re not required to test for a lot of the emerging contaminants like we do in New York state.”

“Now there’s the concern about bottles — so when they manufacture the bottle, the manufacturing process imposes plastic microbeads in the water when opening and closing the tap and also releases plastic in the water,” he added. 

Schneider urged everyone to be mindful of consuming plastics, reminding attendees that it is more cost-effective to get your own container and not deal with the waste from plastic.

“Plastic is not really recyclable like they say — it ends up in our landfills and oceans,” Schneider said.

The SCWA encouraged all interested residents to participate in their events in person or virtually, emphasizing the importance of understanding and safeguarding the community’s drinking water, as it is one of Suffolk County’s most precious natural resources.

Residents interested in attending a WaterTalk can register by emailing [email protected]. The WaterTalk is also accessible virtually through a link available on SCWA’s website for those unable to attend in person. For more information about the event, visit SCWA’s website, www.scwa.com.

Crew members excavate a trench in Huntington to install 4,600 feet of new ductile iron water main. Photo courtesy Suffolk County Water Authority

By Samantha Rutt

In a bid to enhance water service reliability and meet the growing demands of its customers, the Suffolk County Water Authority has embarked on a substantial water main replacement project in Huntington. The project, currently underway near West Main Street, involves replacing over 4,600 feet of old, undersized water main with a larger ductile water main.

The new 12-inch main is poised to significantly improve water flow in the system, allowing SCWA to deliver a more dependable and efficient service to its customers in the area. SCWA Chairman Charles Lefkowitz emphasized the importance of maintaining the integrity of the water main system, particularly during the winter, which experiences the highest incidence of water main breaks. 

“During the winter, we see the busiest time of the year for water main breaks. Being proactive and replacing aging infrastructure ensures that we can reliably serve our customers with high-quality water without interruption,” Lefkowitz said in a statement. 

He explained the proactive approach of replacing aging infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted access to high-quality water for customers.

“Our water main system is one of the most important parts of our infrastructure, making it crucial for SCWA to ensure its structural integrity,” Lefkowitz said.

The significance of this project is amplified by its location in one of Huntington’s busiest areas. West Main Street, a bustling thoroughfare that hosts numerous businesses, restaurants, residences and the renowned Paramount theater, attracts many visitors daily. Ensuring a robust water distribution infrastructure in this area is essential in minimizing the risk of main breaks and water service disruptions.

“The part of Huntington in which this project is taking place is one of the village’s busiest areas, making this project especially important to our residents,” Lefkowitz explained.

The project, which is expected to be completed by mid-February, aligns with SCWA’s commitment to providing water that can be trusted and service that can be relied upon. It reflects the authority’s dedication to modernizing infrastructure to meet the evolving needs of its customers while ensuring the continued prosperity of Huntington’s vibrant community.

Residents and businesses alike can look forward to a more resilient water system that supports the thriving energy of West Main Street and SCWA’s ongoing efforts to deliver water service to the Huntington community.

As the project progresses, SCWA plans to continue to keep the community informed about any developments or potential disruptions, prioritizing transparency and collaboration throughout the process.

For more information and updates on the water main replacement project, residents are encouraged to visit SCWA’s official website (www.scwa.com) or contact their local SCWA office.

Suffolk County Water Authority officials say Advanced Oxidation Process systems, such as those seen above, will help flush out 1,4-dioxane and other emerging contaminants from local drinking water. Photo courtesy SCWA

By Raymond Janis

[email protected]

In a secluded residential block on Northport’s McKinney Avenue lies an advanced water treatment center masquerading as a barn.

At this site, representatives from the Suffolk County Water Authority joined state and local public officials for a press event on Thursday, Aug. 24, announcing eight new high-tech water filtration systems for local drinking water.

THIS IS NOT A BARN: The exterior of the SCWA’s new state-of-the-art water treatment plant. Photo courtesy Suffolk County Water Authority

Charlie Lefkowitz, chairman of the SCWA Board, said the eight systems employ Advanced Oxidation Process, or AOP, technologies capable of treating and removing emerging contaminants — such as 1,4-dioxane — from the groundwater.

“I’m always asked by the media what is our biggest threat,” he said. “Aging infrastructure and emerging contaminants,” both of which are areas addressed through the AOP systems.

The SCWA Board chairman also noted the measures taken to comport this industrial complex with the surrounding area.

“Just look at the historical character of this building,” Lefkowitz said. “It doesn’t look like your normal commercial building throughout Suffolk County.”

He added, “This is a great moment for water treatment overall, for the Huntington community as well as every resident of Suffolk County.”

New York State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James), who has previously served on the SCWA Board, emphasized the continual need to invest in and develop aging water treatment systems.

He pointed to the recently passed $4.2 billion New York State Environmental Bond Act [see page A12] as a potential funding source to keep this infrastructure up to date.

“We want to make sure that we received our fair share,” the state senator said. “Clean air, clean water and green jobs — that is so important that we receive the money.”

New York State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) also attended the event. He detailed the lifespan of the process from its planning stages to its completion.

“It’s very special when you get to see something that goes from some blueprints and some pipes to a plan and watching it through the policy effort to ultimately being able to make it happen and cut the ribbon,” Stern said.

Town of Huntington Supervisor Ed Smyth (R) tied the announcement to an ongoing local initiative to modernize infrastructure.

“Whether it’s on the highways, the roads or the waterfront, it’s all about infrastructure and maintenance, and I know everybody in the town is pulling in the same direction,” he said. “All you have to do is look around at this state-of-the-art facility to know that this money is well spent.”

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, highlighted the various threats against Long Island’s sole-source aquifer, referring to the new treatment center as “a needful clean water victory for the public.”

“1,4-dioxane is a highly toxic chemical,” she noted. “Having Suffolk County Water Authority be an aggressive partner to make sure they’re filtering that water for Suffolk residents is a pleasure, and it’s a gift.”

Despite the eight new treatment systems in Huntington, Lefkowitz suggested the work of SCWA to be “far from done.”

He indicated that the water authority is simultaneously completing nine other AOP systems throughout the county, with hopes to bring these online soon.

Suffolk County Water Authority Board Chair Charles Lefkowitz, at podium, urges residents to adjust their watering patterns. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Raymond Janis

[email protected]

Tucked away on 5th Avenue in Bay Shore, just south of Sunrise Highway, lies the heart of the Suffolk County Water Authority’s operations.

Data streams into this control center around the clock, funneling information from each of the water authority’s myriad wells and pumps from Melville to Montauk. Amid these summer months, that data indicates Suffolk residents are overloading the system through excessive water consumption.

SCWA officials held a press conference at this site Thursday, July 13, sending a singular message to Suffolk County residents: Conserve water.

“We’re pleading to the public at this point to conserve,” said Charles Lefkowitz, chair of the SCWA Board. “We need all the residents to participate in these conservation efforts.”

Lefkowitz attributes the problems with overpumping primarily to irresponsible irrigation practices. “It starts with the irrigation systems,” he said. “Lawns do not need to be watered every single day.”

Joe Pokorny, deputy CEO for operations at SCWA, indicated that county residents are pumping 500,000 gallons per minute during peak irrigation periods during this summer season. By contrast, peak levels are around 100,000 gallons per minute during non-irrigation months.

“This time of year, people are using about five times as much water during the peak as they would in the off period,” he said.

He added that if residents en masse do not begin to curtail their water consumption, they may begin to experience issues with water pressure. This phenomenon impacts those on the East End most markedly.

“When demand outstrips supply, our tank levels fall,” the deputy CEO noted. “When our tank levels fall, the pressures in our system go down. And if the pressure in your water system goes down, the people that are irrigating are not going to get much irrigation on their lawns at all.”

To counteract these challenges, SCWA is encouraging residents to adopt an odd-even watering pattern, that is, irrigating their lawns every other day. 

“This will theoretically divide up the water usage by half,” Pokorny indicated. “That will then allow more people to water during those periods … and they will have green lawns as a result.”

But the problems associated with overconsumption continue beyond the front lawn. With too much stress on the tanks and diminished water pressure, there could be public safety repercussions as well.

“If firefighters need to fight a fire and a water tank is low, that means there’s less water available for fighting fires,” he added.

Along with the odd-even irrigation schedule, Lefkowitz implored residents to avoid watering during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The SCWA Board chair also announced that it has instituted up to $250 per year in “water credits” for residents who use rain sensors, irrigation timers, leak detection and compliant faucet heads.

To learn about SCWA’s water credits program, visit www.scwa.com.

The Suffolk County Legislature has appointed John M. Porchia, III of Wading River to the Board of the Suffolk County Water Authority. The unanimous vote came at the June 6 general meeting of the Legislature. He will serve the remainder of a five-year term that expires on May 28th, 2027. The seat was vacated by Charles Lefkowitz when he was appointed as Chairman of the SCWA Board.

“I am honored to be chosen by the Legislature to serve in this important position and am excited to get to work, serving the customers,” said Porchia. “We live in a great place that I am proud to call my home. We need to keep Suffolk County affordable for everyone and maintaining the already very low rates on our water bills is a part of that. I also know there are huge tasks ahead for SCWA to keep our water free of contaminants and protect our aquifer for future generations. I plan to bring my experience and knowledge to help tackle those challenges.”

Porchia is a practicing personal injury attorney with 20 years of experience. He specializes in motor vehicles accident, premise liability and job site accidents. 

“John is going to bring an important perspective to the SCWA Board with his extensive experience,” said SCWA Chairman Lefkowitz. “He has a record of success throughout his professional career, and I am confident he will bring that skill with him to SCWA. I look forward to seeing his contributions to the organization.”