COVID-19

Water officials: Taps are safe during coronavirus outbreak

As the coronavirus continues to spread across Suffolk County, many residents are stocking up, wiping shelves at grocery stores clean of essential home commodities including toilet paper and bottled water.

But officials at both Suffolk County Water Authority and Riverhead Water District say that’s not necessary. Seeing an influx of customers panic-buying plastic water bottles, both utilities are reminding residents that their water service and quality will not be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s important for residents to know that water provided by the Suffolk County Water Authority is and will remain perfectly safe to drink during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pathogens such as COVID-19 would not survive the chlorine disinfection process that occurs at our pumping stations prior to drinking water,” SCWA Chief Executive Officer Jeff Szabo said in a statement Friday.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 virus is not waterborne, meaning it cannot be transmitted through tap water. Officials also noted that all SCWA water is already disinfected as it undergoes chlorine treatments.

Mr. Szabo said their supply chain is “fully intact” to ensure water service continues amid the pandemic. The water authority serves approximately 1.2 million Suffolk County residents, including customers in Southold and Greenport.

Riverhead Water District Superintendent Frank Mancini said Saturday morning that his department has been reduced to just the essential service of treating water and cleaning their facilities in order to limit person-to-person contact among employees.

“We have stockpiled enough chemicals to last well into the summer but we ask that the residents of Riverhead use water for essential purposes only and hold off on putting sprinkler systems online. This will help me keep staffing levels as low as possible,” he said.

Mr. Szabo also announced that water service shutoffs for failure to pay will be temporarily suspended “to give those of our customers who may be suffering financial hardship during the COVID-19 outbreak one less thing to worry about,” he said.

Offices across Suffolk County are all limiting public access and customers who wish to pay their bill are urged to do so online at www.SCWA.com.

In addition, the SCWA has put the following policies in place:

• All non-essential in-home service appointments are currently suspended until further notice in order to limit contact during the outbreak.

• The Westhampton office will not allow any non-SCWA employees into the building unless the individual has an appointment. A box has been placed in the vestibule to allow customers to leave correspondence for SCWA or the Central Pine Barrens Commission.

• All tours of the SCWA Education Center and Laboratory located in Hauppauge have been cancelled for the month of March.

• Inspections of trucks requiring hydrant permits will continue on an appointment basis.  People requiring an inspection should contact SCWA when they arrive at SCWA at their appointment time. An SCWA employee will go into the parking lot to perform the inspection.

Customers with questions are urged to contact the water authority by calling 631-698-9500.