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Committee gets water updates from town engineer

While information about improving water quality on Shelter Island has been shared at public forums and the annual Green Expo, a major event is planned by The Nature Conservancy to train leaders on ways to address the problem.

Town Engineer John Cronin reported on the plans to the Water Advisory Committee (WAC) at a recent meeting.

A group of 19 people have been invited to a training session at Mashomack Preserve on Nov. 14 and 15 to learn how The Nature Conservancy trains its personnel with an eye to expanding those methods to a wider group. They will learn the best strategies of reaching residents and engaging them in the process of taking necessary steps to upgrade water quality.

At the same time, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Bureau of Drinking Water is planning a presentation, which will likely be at a Town Board work session, explaining the county’s role in testing water quality and methods it uses to remediate problems.

While much of the county is focused on protection of The Peconic Estuary, Shelter Island’s main concern is safe drinking water, since it depends on private wells and is not connected to the Suffolk County Water Authority.

Over the past several years, efforts have been made to meet the requirements of the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program, which involves towns taking steps to avoid harming surrounding waters. Methods involve replacing inadequate septic systems and avoiding runoffs from fertilizers and animal wastes, plus other negative factors.

Working with former Public Works Commissioner Jay Card Jr. and his successor, Brian Sherman, Mr. Cronin has helped them put in place recharge systems meant to capture 150,000 gallons of water that would otherwise evaporate or run into the estuary, instead of recharging the Island’s aquifer.

Mr. Cronin updated the WAC on several other water-related issues:
• The town is awaiting a review by the county health department of plans to deal with high nitrate readings in water at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church.
• The town has received permission for a new well at the American Legion Hall with stipulations that include abandonment of the existing well once a new well is installed; use of a Suffolk County approved well driller; placement of the new well within 2 to 5 feet of where the old well sits; non potable water signs posted in the building until the new well is fully operational with all necessary water quality testing completed; and other stipulations set by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.