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Water Advisory Committee reviews updates

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An update on the Town Engineer’s initiatives and an Island water quality and quantity update were some of the subjects discussed at the Water Advisory Committee’s meeting on June 17.

Town Engineer John Cronin reported that nitrate hot spots have been mapped in the Center and that the Melville engineering firm H2M might study the feasibility of installing 500 new septic systems. He also noted that the nitrate issue at the Presbyterian Church should be “O.K. by October 1 but there will be fines.”

According to numbers furnished by Suffolk County Department of Health Services to the Reporter in November, water tested in the first quarter of 2018 exceeded the allowable 10 milligrams of nitrates per liter, testing at 10.3 mg. In the third quarter, nitrate levels were at 14.9 mg. and the number in the fourth quarter was 16.3 mg.

The initial reason the town became involved with the project was that it uses church facilities to conduct its senior nutrition program that provides lunches for seniors twice a week as well as food for Meals On Wheels. The church also provides space to the private Early Childhood Learning Center preschool for 2- and 3-year-old students.

Mr. Cronin also said that there is well failure at the Legion Hall and a new well will have to be installed with a disinfection mechanism. A joint wastewater treatment project with the school is being investigated. Additionally, saltwater intrusion in Montclair Colony and nitrates at Sylvester Manor are a concern, he said.

The engineer explained that, in another water-related matter, predictions about water demand for a house would be evaluated before a building permit could be issued. He said he had just heard of a case on the Island where the county health department refused to give its approval for a house to be built because well and septic were too close to neighbors.

“The person who bought the property is fuming,” he said, adding, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it happen.”

While talks are ongoing with representatives of the Town Board, the Shelter Island Country Club and the Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation about using HPOC water treatment effluent to irrigate the the country club grounds, no agreement has yet been reached.

Committee members noted that water quantity on the Island is very high, according to test wells. The quality of Island water is not at a bad level, but there is definitely a septic influence in the wells. Tests are coming up with nitrogen and pharmaceuticals.

According to committee member Peter Grand, the recent U. S. Geological Survey visit showed no tidal influence in the well on Menantic Road. A data logger was used which also gives a baseline study. He also said that a satellite goes over the Island every two weeks and can track activity in Fresh Pond. “And we have to be concerned about contaminants of emerging concern,” Mr. Grand added.

The data logger will be employed next on Little Ram Island, the committee agreed.

The committee is planning a visit to the Suffolk County Water Authority in July to gather information about managing the Island water supply.

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