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Suffolk County Water Authority reports failure to get grants: Cites problems with leaks, well issues

It was all smiles in June when the Town and Suffolk County Water Authority signed an agreement for the SCWA to manage the West Neck Water District. But Tuesday, SCWA Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Operations Joseph Pokorny brought some disconcerting news to the Town Board about grants and system difficulties.

The SCWA has failed to secure grant money that customers hoped would offset the $1.7 million they would have to pay for infrastructure upgrades necessary to comply with the terms of the agreement.

Unlike other grant periods when scores have been made public for all applicants, this time no scores were listed. Generally, each application is given a score for how well it meets the requirements of a particular grant.

Those that are judged to best meet the requirements get funding while others are eliminated. But even if eliminated from receiving a particular grant, scores are useful for applicants to know if they were even close to those who got money, so they know to make appropriate changes to their application to raise the possibility of getting money next time a particular grant is offered.

Mr. Pokorny is hoping to get scores for the grants so he knows whether it’s worth applying the next time particular grants are offered, and if so, what needs to change in the application to better its chances of being funded in the future.

He also noted the amount of grant money available in this round was less than usual.

The one silver lining was Mr. Pokorny’s encouragement to Town officials to work with their own grant consultant, Jennifer Mesiano Higham, who might be aware of other grant sources.

There was more difficult news from Mr. Pokorny about the need to replace one and possibly two or more wells serving West Neck Water, and to replace the distribution system that is a priority for the SCWA.

There are many leaks in the existing distribution system, which are likely responsible for a higher use of water this year than what has been typical.

Also, it was discovered that Well number 5 at Goat Hill is “sucking air” instead of water. SCWA hydrologists inspected the well and found it’s “remarkably clean,” Mr. Pokorny said.

They have taken steps to mitigate the problem temporarily, but the well needs to be replaced. SCWA officials have met with State Department of Environmental Conservation personnel to inform them of the problem.

Another well may also have to be replaced, the SCWA official said, and another needs further testing to determine why its water quality seems to be less than it should be.

The wells SCWA installs will be of a better quality than existing wells, Mr. Pokorny said. On Friday, he is scheduled to meet with the West Neck Water Board.