Water Authority to update Elmont well, raise rates

[via The Island Now]

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The board of directors of the Water Authority of Western Nassau County approved a 7 percent increase in water rates at a meeting last Tuesday, anticipating issuance of a $40 million bond this fall to support long-term capital projects.

Board Chairman John Ryan said the $40 million bond would support a five-year plan for projects that include the rehabilitation of two wells in Elmont and New Hyde Park and treating water in four Elmont wells currently out of service.

“We’ve been basically working through a pretty dated infrastructure so we have a lot of work to update the system,” Ryan said.

The 7 percent increase is effective June 1.

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Ryan said he anticipated the board would approve a similar rate increase next year. The water authority imposed a 6.02 rate increase last year.

“We were originally looking at a 4 percent increase. But that would have meant a double-digit increase next year,” Ryan said.

Average annual residential charges, based on average usage of 104,000 gallons per year, will increase from $377.79 to $404.24, according to the water authority.

Average annual commercial charges, based on average usage of 466,000 gallons per year, will increase from $1,668.17 to $1,784.99. The annual rate charged per fire hydrant will increase from $875 to $936.

The largest project called for under the authority’s plan is a $13 million plan to design and construct two volatile organic compound treatment facilities equipped with air strippers to treat water in the four Elmont wells along Elmont Road, according to Mick Tierney, superintendent of the Water Authority of Western Nassau.

Tierney said water in the wells has been contaminated by gasoline derivatives. The four wells normally supply water to the five-million gallon storage tank located across from Belmont Park.

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“We need long-term borrowing to bring all our wells back into reality,” Tierney said. “If we don’t get those wells back in the next few years, I’m going to run out of water.”

He said no treatment plants currently exist in the Elmont area.

The current system is “antiquated,” and work is needed to update an infrastructure constructed in the 1920s.

The water authority’s system serves 28,000 customers in the Town of Hempstead, the Town of North Hempstead and the villages of New Hyde Park, Bellerose, Floral Park, South Floral Park, Floral Park Centre, Garden City, Stewart Manor, Elmont, Valley Stream and parts of North Valley Stream and Franklin Square.

“Our system’s old. We sometimes cannot find the parts to make our pump stations work,” Tierney said.

Future projects also include replacement of water mains, meters, fire hydrants and the rehabilitation of two elevated wells in New Hyde Park and Elmont.

Tierney said rehabilitation of the 1.7 million gallon well in New Hyde Park located at 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street would cost approximately $2.2 million.

He said the well is leaking in several spots and needs to be welded and cleaned, both inside and outside, and repainted.

“It’s going to be good as new,” Tierney said.

He said a second elevated well in Elmont also requires rehabilitation work.

In the past two years, Tierney said the water authority has constructed two iron removal plants to service water tanks in Franklin Square and Elmont.

He said the water authority is currently replacing 2,000 meters a year. He said the cost of new fire hydrants has escalated with brass and copper prices having risen by 50 percent in the past few years. The higher cost of the hydrants is tied to the new standards from the federal Environmental Protection Agency prohibiting the use of lead in any water system equipment.

Tierney said the rise in pension and health benefits are also a significant factor in the rising water authority costs, with pension contribution costs now at $675,000 a year for the water authority’s 48 employees.

Water authority board member Marianna Wohlgemuth said she’s not happy about the latest rate increase, but said it is needed to keep pace with costs.

“Our goal is to keep the rates down. But increased cost of supplies like brass, it becomes increasingly difficult to do that,” Wohlgemuth said. “We have an aging system and it means to be maintained and upgraded.”

[Richard Tedesco, The Island Now/New Hyde Park]

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Rate information obtained via: wawnc.org.

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