There are Islanders whose properties were so severely affected by Superstorm Sandy that residents are unable to drink water from their wells.
So said Water Advisory Committee Chairman John Hallman to his colleagues Monday night, speaking about some of the low lying Island areas typically affected by storms washing salt water into wells. The town has to take action and supply those families with drinking water, Mr. Hallman said.
He suggested setting up a pump system, but committee member Ken Pysher warned that could start out well, but eventually become a problem.
Maybe use of cisterns that could collect roof water for purification might be a means, Mr. Hallman suggested. But Will Anderson Jr. pointed out that cisterns are expensive.
“But what’s a house worth if you can’t drink the water?” Mr. Hallman responded.
Mr. Pysher pointed out that a survey of Silver Beach residents shows that at least 40 percent of residents have at least some minor concerns with their water and many report ongoing problems.
“We have a lot of filtration systems in Silver Beach” to improve the water, Mr. Pysher said.
Committee members hope March numbers provided by the United States Geological Survey will show increased water levels in Shelter Island test wells. With heavy snowfalls this winter, they expected the melt would result in improved numbers in February. But five wells were still trending downward and Mr. Pysher said the Rocky Point well was at its lowest point since testing began.
The intense winter freeze likely contributed to a lack of recharge into the aquifer, Mr. Hallman said. With some warmer weather, the hoped for recharge could happen, he said.
Mr. Pysher took issue with Irrigation Committee consultant John Benvegna’s recent report that said water levels were trending upward. He said he doesn’t believe that’s the case.
“That’s an engineering firm,” Mr. Hallman said about Connecticut-based Leggette, Brashears & Graham, Mr. Benvegna’s employer. “They’ll tell you one thing, but then they go off on tangents” and it costs a lot of money, he said.
That drew a nod from Supervisor Jim Dougherty, who has been trying to determine why the town got a bill an unexpectedly large bill for field tests conducted in January. Irrigation Committee Chairman Thom Milton is trying to resolve the bill of $10,000, which had been expected to be $5,000.
At the same time, Mr. Hallman acknowledged he thought the report from the field tests was “a little bit better” than the Irrigation Committee had received from the consultant back in November 2013.
“I think he understands that water levels are important,” Mr. Hallman said about Mr. Benvegna.
Mr. Pysher said he saw holes in the data Mr. Benvegna shared with the Irrigation Committee that Mr. Hallman, in turn, shared with the Water Advisory Committee. That report, in draft form, hasn’t yet been released to the public.