Town of Hempstead forms community-oriented brown water task force

Nassau County residents will help identify hot spots and patterns

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Saying that her office was flooded with telephone calls from residents concerned about brown and discolored water, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said that she is forming a new community task force.

The task force will include 10 residents from the communities of Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Inwood, Lakeview/West Hempstead, Lawrence, Lynbrook, Malverne, Oceanside, Valley Stream and Woodmere, along with town and New York American Water officials. American Water is the company responsible for the distribution of water for a substantial portion of Nassau County. The community representatives are people who have been reporting that brown, discolored water is coming from their faucets.

Town officials said the task force, whose formation was spawned from a letter Gillen wrote to American Water in May, is expected to meet monthly and is charged with identifying hot spots and patterns where water discoloration is occurring to help American Water respond to and repair the problem quicker. The first meeting is anticipated to take place before the end of this month, where the task force will create an agenda, establish guidelines and benchmarks and timelines to measure progress.

“I am glad that residents will have a direct pipeline to New York American Water officials to get the information they need and provide feedback on the problems they are facing,” Gillen said in a news release. “Many ratepayers have been disgusted by bathtubs filled with brown water and the feeling that their concerns have been ignored. This will help customers hold New York American Water’s feet to the fire and lead to quicker and more sustainable solutions.”

Higher levels of iron resulting in brown, discolored water has been a recurring problem in several communities across the county because of aging water mains and corrosion in the pipes, according to American Water.

Lee Mueller, an American Water spokeswoman, said that the company has invested $66 million to replace 55 miles of water mains in Service Area 1 from 2012 to 2018. That includes the Five Towns, Lynbrook, Malverne, Valley Stream and other communities. There are 16 iron filtration plants in the county, 13 in Service Area 1.

Mueller said that American Water supports these type of community-oriented committees and the company aims to ensure that the money is spent in the areas where discoloration is happening and is working closely with the county’s Department of Health.

“We have conducted a corrosion control study and found that the iron was entering the water from the distribution system,” she said. “We invested millions in water treatment and we are treating the water and removing the iron at the filtration plants. There is zero iron as the water enters the system. As it is traveling it is pulling up iron through the pipes and we are working to change that with a corrosion coating on the inside to stop the flakes [of iron].”

Cedarhurst resident Tova Plaut, who is also on the Lawrence Board of Education, said that she has endured a two-decades long battle with brown water. She is one of the task force community representatives. Plaut said that she and her neighbors must buy “drinking water, postpone baths and showers, and endure additional maintenance and cleaning procedures for laundry and our homes.”

“I am cautiously optimistic that a task force will have a positive impact on the water quality in our community,” she said, adding that she appreciates Gillen’s efforts to give residents a voice and helping to hold New York American Water accountable for what Plaut called their “abysmal care and attention to water quality.”

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