One well re-opened after 2 months of 'undetectable' Freon levels

City submits plan to avert shortage, aims to have 5 of 6 wells open by mid-summer


The news about Well 30 reopening broke minutes after the Herald Gazette went to press. The online version of this article has been updated in the coming days to reflect this breaking news.

Since Jan. 22, water testing at Well 30, one of the Duck Pond Road wells has consistently reported “undetectable” levels of Freon 22, a chemical byproduct of refrigeration systems that caused two wells to be closed down in December. As of March 28, Nassau county has approved the City of Glen Cove to re-open that well, while adhering to a strict set of guidelines, including more frequent testing, more stringent county oversight and a lower Freon threshold that would trigger deactivating the well again.

In a letter sent to the City, Robin Putnam, director of the county's environmental protection bureau, recommended that usage of the other Duck Pond wells be minimized "to reduce potential migration of Freon 22 to both wells."

Mary Ellen Laurain, spokeswoman for the Nassau County health department, explained, "Generally, when a well pumps, it affects the directional flow of groundwater, and it tends to pull water toward the well." By minimizing the usage of the Duck Pond wells, the department hopes that the city can avoid re-contamination.

The current state of the city's water infrastructure

Well Name Current Status Plans
Kelly Street Inactive - Struck by lightning, summer 2017. Should be operational by mid-April, following electrical repairs. This well is already treated with an air stripper.
Seaman Road Inactive - Freon 22 detected in 2009. Should be operational by summer 2019, following installation of an air stripper.
Nancy Court Active No actions planned
Duck Pond (30) Re-starting after Freon "undetectable" for since Jan. 22. Subject to increased monitoring. A temporary air stripper is expected to be installed in mid-summer 2018.
Duck Pond (31) Inactive - Freon 22 detected late 2017. A temporary air stripper is expected to be installed in mid-summer 2018, at which time the well could be re-started.
Duck Pond (32) Active A permanent air stripper is expected for all three Duck Pond wells by summer 2020.

The Glen Cove City Council voted on March 27 to approve a $404,000 deal with two contractors as part of an emergency plan to fabricate a special type of filter to make certain that the city will have enough water to get through the peak demands of the summer.

The filter — which is meant to be a temporary two-year stopgap while a permanent one is procured — is just one part of a compliance plan recently submitted to the Nassau County Health Department outlining how the city will avert a water shortage following the closure of two wells at the facility on Duck Pond Road where contaminants were found late last year. One of the Duck Pond wells has since been cleared to be re-opened.

Because the contaminant — Freon 22 — can’t be sufficiently removed by the wells’ existing carbon-based filters, it requires a special “air stripper,” which pumps air bubbles through the water. The Freon, which evaporates easily, travels with the bubbles up and out of the water supply.

At a pre-council meeting in early March, the city council discussed a plan raised by Bill Merklin, of the engineering firm D&B, to build an air stripper from a used aluminum shell that could address the Freon contamination at the Duck Pond well site.

“Basically, everything inside is going to be new,” said Mayor Tim Tenke of the piece of equipment. “That’s our short-term solution.” The temporary filter would be used until the city can obtain a permanent filter through a normal procurement process, which could take up to two years, Merklin said.

From the $404,000 that the city appropriated Tuesday evening for the air stripper, $285,000 will go to Phillip Ross Industries, the engineering firm currently in possession of the air stripper shell, for equipment and installation.

The remaining $119,000 will go to D&B Engineers and Architects, who have been working closely with the city on water related projects for years. This includes $12,000 for preparing the compliance plan submitted to the county, and the remaining $107,000 to develop an installation plan, and to inspect and oversee the installation of the air stripper.

With three of its six wells currently closed, the city would face a shortfall of about 21 percent of the water it has historically needed during peak summer demand, according to data included in the compliance plan submitted to the county.

If the city can successfully install a working temporary air stripper, the re-started Duck Pond well would eliminate the expected shortfall, and create a surplus able to meet a demand almost 5 percent higher than the historical peak.

If the project began immediately, Mike Colangelo, the water department supervisor said at a pre-council meeting on March 20, the engineering and installation of the filter wouldn’t be completed until late June or early July, already well into the summer season.

“[The Nassau County Department of Health] has to approve the plan,” said Mary Ellen Laurain, department spokeswoman. She said that the department received design documents for the temporary air stripper on March 28, and would take about a week to review them before it would issue an approval. Laurain said that the department is expected to officially respond to the plan within the next week.

City spokeswoman Lisa Travatello said that the department had verbally given the plan “positive feedback,” and that in the interest of time, the city had to get the ball rolling in lieu of official approval.

The temporary air stripper is just one piece of the city’s compliance plan. By the end of April, the city expects to complete repairs on the electrical equipment at the Kelly Street well, which has been closed since lightning struck it last summer. Even without the Duck Pond air stripper, that would bring the city up to four of six wells in operation, and would bring the city's water supply within 1 percent of its historical demand.

If necessary, city could also turn to its neighbors to supplement its water supply. The county had stated in a letter that relying on nearby water district’s instead of the city’s own infrastructure would be unwise but suggested in a January correspondence that officials should “determine the availability of emergency interconnections should the need arise,” and find out how much water could come from the surrounding area.

Given the anticipated re-opening of the Kelley Street and Duck Pond wells, Tenke said, “We should have sufficient water to not have to purchase water from our surrounding communities, but we have to look at all the possibilities.”

The Locust Valley Water District said that they could offer about one million gallons per day, which, along with the other measures would provide the city with a supplemental supply of water. Other nearby water districts said that they could not provide supplemental water to the city.

Once the plan is reviewed by the county, Tenke plans to invite a county expert to discuss the history of the problem, share the city’s plan to prevent a shortage and assuage residents’ concerns about the safety of the city’s water.

According to a water quality report put out by the city last May, “The Glen Cove Water Department conducts over 5,000 water quality tests throughout the year, testing for over 130 different contaminants.”

Laurain said that Freon 22 is “not a regulated contaminant,” and added that there’s no requirement for suppliers to test for it.

Tenke said that the process that led to the recent closure of the two Duck Pond wells was an indication of the “very high standard” the city has for its water quality. He added that if someone buys a bottled water, “they probably cannot tell you when that water was tested for contaminants. I can tell you when our water was tested,” he said. “It’s tested regularly, and I can tell you exactly what’s in it.”