From Orient to Calverton

Residents of a 214-home Calverton neighborhood, who have lived for years with drinking water tinged brownish by its high iron content, got a scare last week when it seemed they might lose almost $2 million in federal stimulus to bring in public water.
But hope flows still.
Here’s the background: After local opposition scuttled a water main project in Orient for which the stimulus money had been allocated, the Suffolk County Water Authority sought to convince the state — which funnels stimulus funds to local projects — to use most of it to fund bringing public water to Peconic Lakes Estates in Calverton. A small amount would also go to a minor water main expansion in East Marion.
That seemed a logical move. The people of Peconic Lakes Estates, a community of low- and moderate-income residents who lack the resources to pay for a main extension themselves, have been asking the SCWA for help for years. The stimulus money would finally answer their pleas.
The scare came last week when the state Department of Health launched a bombshell, saying that redirecting the money to a new water project in Calverton was not allowed under the guidelines of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The good news now, according to Congressman Tim Bishop’s office, is that state officials never called the feds on the matter, but instead made their own assumptions about the rules. He says they are wrong. All along, Mr. Bishop has been discussing the issue with the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, which he says is fine with seeing the water authority’s stimulus funding switched from Orient to Calverton.
Governor David Paterson should do everything in his power to help facilitate the switch, which the water authority asked him to do in a recent letter. And the EPA should sign off on the measure, as Mr. Bishop expects it will.
The money would not only bring jobs to the same region of the state for which the funds were designated, but help provide health and normalcy for almost a thousand people. Amending the project — instead of wasting time and money preparing an entirely new proposal for the money — makes sense, too. Let’s keep this money where it belongs.

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