Lakeview residents have had growing concerns with the New York American Water service in recent years, from the quality of water to the rate hike. “The underlying question is: “What happened to the water,” asked Viberta Caesar, chairwoman of Lakeview Council Inc. “When I first moved into the community, the water was not perfect, but it was much better than it is now.”
This was the main concern expressed during a public meeting hosted by the Council at Harold Walker Memorial Park on Feb. 5, and attended by members of NYAW, County Legislator Siela Bynoe and local residents.
Moses Thompson, the NYAW vice president of operations, said that the best way to resolve this issue is for the company to take a “holistic” approach. “You have to fix the source, which are the filters, and then you have to fix the water mains as well,” he said, explaining that some water mains are old.
John Kilpatrick, the company’s engineering manager, said NYAW had installed six new portable iron-removal treatment plants in 2016 in the Lynbrook District, which includes Lakeview. The community’s new plant, located on Chautauqua Avenue, provides 2 million gallons of water daily to more than 3,000 homes in Lakeview.
“We’re working from every angle to make sure that people have good water quality,” Kilpatrick said. “Our absolute objective is to help the most customers that we can out here.”
Caesar, who voiced the concerns of many residents, said that, on average, homeowners have used the same amount of water year to year, but the cost has increased “astronomically.”
“It’s not a true representation of how they’re using their water, or the quality of the water that they’re getting for such a high price,” she said.
Kilpatrick said that Lakeview’s plant, which is a part of the added expenses for residents, cost $1.5 million. Additionally, NYAW reported last July that roughly a half-mile of water main was replaced on Langdon Boulevard as part of a $370,000 investment in the community’s infrastructure.
Another part of the new expenses stems from the $3.6 million rate increase that took effect last June, which was granted by the state Public Service Commission.
Mike Nofi, a water-quality manager for the company, said that he has tested water in Lakeview’s service area for more than 25 years. “The total amount of iron that we see in the system is much less than it was 15 to 20 years ago,” he said.
Some residents questioned why pipes were replaced in one area of the community rather than others, where discolored water still exists. “There’s a lot that goes into our water main replacement schedule other than concerns of an old [water] main,” Nofi explained. “It’s about the age of the main, but it’s also about its leak history and the water quality.”
As part of the company’s annual system maintenance program, Kilpatrick explained that American Water does 40 to 50 periodic flushes in Lakeview throughout the year to clean out any buildup in the water pipes.
Lamar Ramsey, a water resources specialist with Aqua Right, who lives in Lakeview, said that as worried as residents are, discolored water isn’t the biggest concern. Ramsey said he has tested water in other communities and has found nitrates, a compound that can be dangerous to a person’s health.
“It’s what you can’t see that you should be worried about,” he said. “American Water is one of the best companies that you guys can have, but we have stay on them because that’s the only way we’re going to get piping in the system changed.”
Bynoe, who helped to coordinate the public meeting, said that some of the company’s recent investments were driven by residents’ complaints. “American Water came out, tested the water, and they modified their plan to make sure they could address the issue,” Bynoe said. “If you don’t call, they’re not going to be aware. We are stronger together, we have to hear your voice.”
“Calling our customer service line definitely helps us understand where those issues are, and we’ll do what we can to address them,” Kilpatrick said.
Any resident with concerns or questions can call New York American Water’s customer service center at (877) 426-6999.