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New eight-mile water main proposed between Flanders and Laurel

The Suffolk County Water Authority presented a plan for a new water main, stretching a little more than eight miles from Flanders to Laurel, at a Southold Town Board work session Tuesday. 

The main would allow for “aquifer restoration and long-term preservation of the fragile aquifer within the Town of Southold,” according to a fact sheet distributed at the work session. The proposed project is part of a resource sustainability plan to meet peak demand in the future while protecting the aquifer. 

“This is a really unique opportunity. The water authority provides safe affordable drinking water to about 9,500 customers in Southold and over the years, there’s a series of relatively small drinking water wells scattered on the town line out to the furthest point that we serve,” said SCWA CEO Jeff Szabo. 

The project, according to the fact sheet, would “pipe high quality drinking water from west to east” to serve Southold residents and supplement the existing water supply. Its installation would reduce the need for additional well fields in town and allow the water authority to “reduce the use of several wells and curtail the use of others,” leaving more groundwater available for other uses such as agriculture.

The fact sheet notes that the North Fork aquifer has been “significantly impacted by the presence of nitrates, pesticides and chlorides,” requiring SCWA to install “costly treatment systems at some of its well fields to remove these contaminants.”

“There have been, historically, issues with quantity and quality,” Mr. Szabo said, listing water availability and salt water intrusion among the problems the water authority has dealt with. “The aquifer here is very fragile and we’re cognizant of that … We’ve been looking for a long-term solution.”

The water main at Flanders Road and White Brook Drive in Flanders would be connected to the existing water main at Franklinville and Main roads in Laurel. The project is expected to cost approximately $27.5 million.

“The other unique thing about the project is that there’s New York state funding that’s available,” Mr. Szabo said. “About three or four years ago, the state Legislature approved a rolling, annual allotment for water infrastructure projects. And we’ve been very successful working with other townships and communities to secure these funds.”

The deadline for an intermunicipal application to the state is Monday, Nov. 22, he added. The grant would cover a portion of the water main, with the rest funded by the water authority at no cost to the town. At a regular meeting later that day, the Town Board approved a resolution authorizing Supervisor Scott Russell to execute an intermunicipal agreement with the water authority and coordinate on the grant application, subject to approval from the town attorney.

According to a draft agreement presented at the work session, SCWA reserves the right to cancel the project if it doesn’t win any grant funds.

Supervisor Scott Russell requested a timetable once the water authority hears from the state to communicate with residents about impact.

“When you look at the aquifer and you look at the long-term benefits, I think it’s a win-win,” Mr. Szabo said. 

According to the fact sheet, the new water main would be constructed on Flanders Road, Cross River Drive, Hubbard Avenue/Edgar Avenue/Overlook Drive, Meeting House Creek Road, Peconic Bay Boulevard, Laurel Lane and Main Road.

At regular session on Tuesday night, an Orient resident questioned the resolution. 

“It may be great for Southold but, I don’t know there is no environmental review or public discussion, or for that matter, much discussion among the town board members from what I could tell,” he said.