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Water worries in Sea Cliff

Residents worried about contamination

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Many residents voiced concern about the purity of their drinking water at the Feb. 13 Sea Cliff board of trustees meeting. They were responding to a Jan. 29 New York American Water mailer stating that perfluorooctanesulfonic acid compounds, or PFOS, were found in a Glen Head well.

NYAW said it was working with the Town of Oyster Bay to secure permits to set up equipment to purify water in the well, which also supplies Sea Cliff, Glenwood Landing and Old Brookville.

Suzanne Cohen, of Sea Cliff, said she thought the village should have done more to communicate with residents. Since the mailer contained only the NYAW logo, with nothing from the village, many people disregarded it, she said, because of the company’s “reputation for dishonesty in our community.”

Since the announcement, Cohen said, dozens of families, including her own, have spent large sums of money on water delivery services or expensive filters. Many residents emailed Mayor Edward Lieberman and the board of trustees on Feb. 10, she said, questioning the water’s purity. The village, she said, responded by saying it was working with the Town of Oyster Bay to obtain filters to install throughout Sea Cliff.

There was a breakdown in communication, Cohen said, when the village and NYAW started contradicting each other after residents began asking questions. She said that other residents told her that when they contacted Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy and then NYAW, one said they should be concerned, while the other said they needn’t be. Cohen and her husband, Jared, emailed Kennedy, saying they believed the issue was one the village should take the lead on. The village, Cohen said, should have clarified what residents needed to do, because NYAW did not.

Cohen said her frustration peaked on Feb. 13 when she read a letter from Kennedy posted on his Facebook page urging residents to write to the Jericho Water District to ask for clean water. The two disagreed on the appropriateness of the post, with Cohen saying the letter was a statement from the village, and Kennedy insisting that it was from his personal point of view as a resident. Cohen said she also took exception to Kennedy’s perceived tone toward her on Facebook, which she said was too confrontational.

“It’s vital that we know whether information posted [on Facebook] is from our village, or from a resident,” Cohen said.

Lieberman said he was in touch with Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino to ensure that the contamination was contained. He also said the village has worked to communicate better with residents about the contaminated well by posting information on its website and publishing it in the Herald Gazette and Newsday.

“We are deeply concerned with it,” Lieberman told Cohen. “I take into consideration your comments specifically, and I can assure you and every resident that this board and this administration take what’s being presented here very, very seriously.”

Since NYAW is a private company, the North Shore Water District cannot receive any of the $400 million the state has set aside to treat contamination in Long Island’s public water districts. Resident Arthur Adelman asked the board if the district could lobby for any of the funds, because treatment costs could fall to the ratepayers. Lieberman said he was pursuing every possible avenue to ensure the safety of the village’s water.

Kennedy, who is president of the anti-NYAW group North Shore Concerned Citizens, said he and the other NSCC board members were doing all they can to break away from NYAW and establish a public water district. Lieberman said that Sea Cliff has had a private water company of one kind or another since the 1880s.

“As frustrating as you find this, I find this 10 times as frustrating,” Kennedy told Adelman. “We are working and doing everything, we are leveraging every relationship that we have, to make this happen.”

After the meeting, Kennedy and Cohen spoke in order to clarify their points of view. Cohen said she wasn’t angry with Kennedy. “I think things need to be communicated from the village in an even-keeled and professional manner,” she said.

“I try my best to get out as much information to the public as I can,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes written correspondence doesn’t translate well, which is why I encourage people to pick up the phone so we can have a productive dialogue.”