Village of Dering Harbor Trustee Patrick Parcells, who has been overseeing the updating of the village’s water system, gave a comprehensive report at the Board’s December 8 meeting.
The Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA) has now been managing the water system for six months.
A new water tank was placed into service on November 1. The SCWA estimated that excess demands on village wells from leaks in the old tank were more than 10,000 gallons per day.
The average water usage per person per day in the U.S. is 80-100 gallons, so this represents the water usage of more than 100 people.
In the four days following the disconnect, wells did not run at all, since all water demand was satisfied from the tank, and chlorides dropped in half from 240 to 120.
The SCWA has changed the way that water distribution is monitored and operated. These changes have significantly mitigated the chloride problems experienced in the last 18 months, yet it seems clear now that the chloride problem cannot be entirely cured without an additional new well or wells. The SCWA believes the existing wells will never fully recover from the damage done to them in June of 2017, when a substantial leak occurred and water usage spiked.
It took nearly two months to discover and correct the source of the problem. In that period, the village pumped more than 3.5 million gallons of water, approximately equivalent to an entire year’s output. The overuse of the wells, especially Well #2, created an “up-coning condition” in the aquifer. This condition results in saltwater displacing or mixing with fresh water at the well screen and is the primary source of the elevated chlorides in drinking water that village residents have experienced for the past 18 months.
The SCWA will install meters at each home at the insistence of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The meters will allow for quick identification of leaks and expose residents who misuse village water for irrigation or pool fills. The cost will be $650 per household. Funding for the project and charges for usage will be a subject in upcoming trustees’ meetings.
Last August, the DEC threatened the village with substantial fines if it didn’t identify the cause of the chloride problem and produce a plan for immediately correcting it. The SCWA responded with a report on November 17 with a short-term proposition to drill new wells.
The village has been working with the SCWA to identify new well sites for the last two months and has identified a prospective site. The comprehensive report, which is available on the Village of Dering Harbor website, also outlined the sources for water tank financing, primarily through New York State’s Environmental Facilities Corporation.
The short-term agreement with the SCWA has resulted in meaningful operating savings — approximately 40 percent less than previous average annual costs — significantly reduced operating risk, created efficiencies and vastly improved water quality, according to Mr. Parcells.
When a long-term agreement is in place, the operating costs for the water distribution system will be paid through fees for water usage measured by new meters at each residence. The SCWA estimates that the average annual cost for water usage will be $480 per household.
Estimates of the cost for the wells and a control facility will be developed in the coming months and the board will share them when available.