New York American Water, a private utility that serves over 4,000 residents in North Shore, sent a postcard to ratepayers last week indicating that work was set to begin to replace the aging water tank on Dumond Place in Glen Head.
The price of the project is $6.2 million, which will be absorbed by the company’s capital investment budget, approved by the state Public Service Commission in 2017. Caldwell Tanks, based in Louisville, Ky., will manufacture the new structure.
Discussions about replacing the existing steel storage tank — which is supported by a series of steel columns and cross braces — began in late 2016. NYAW proposed the construction of a bolted, glass-fused steel tank — supported by a cylindrical concrete tower — to replace it, but residents argued that the look of the new tank would spoil the area’s character. The company held meetings with community stakeholders in order to reach a consensus about how the tank would look and to discuss its cost.
At the time, residents were given an “estimated cost of $3.5 million for the construction of a . . . multi-column tank” — the type stakeholders wanted — according to an email from NYAW’s external affairs manager, Lee Mueller, to George Pombar, president of the Glen Head-Glenwood Civic Council. That estimate, however, did not represent the full cost of the project, nor did it account for other associated costs, such as permitting, design and engineering oversight, Mueller said.
“In 2018, we estimated the cost for the custom multi-column tank that incorporates the community’s requested modifications,” Mueller wrote. “The cost for this tank, plus permitting, design, engineering oversight, etc. is $6.2 million.”
John Kilpatrick, a NYAW engineering manager, explained that the final price of the project was attributed to the state’s steep labor costs. The type of tank and tower residents preferred, he said, also cost more than the design proposed by the company. Kilpatrick also noted that the company completed a competitive bidding process and selected a qualified manufacturer that offered the most reasonable price.
Some residents said they were shocked by the higher price. What was more concerning, however, was a sentence in bold letters toward the bottom of the postcard: “The Glen Head tank will be offline during the summer of 2019.” Once a temporary utility pole is installed (to hold cellular telephone equipment that is stationed atop the tank), removal work will begin around late June, Kilpatrick said. The new tank is anticipated to be in service by next May.
Residents who attended the stakeholder meetings said they were told the company could not, under any circumstances, replace the tank during the summer because of the season’s peak water demand. “Their own engineers said it was impossible,” said Tony LoMastro, of Glen Head. “Originally this was going to be done in the dead of winter, and only take six months. Now all of a sudden it’s going to take a year, and during the warmest months. It’s almost like they’re dragging it out for spite.”
NYAW conducted a hydraulic analysis, using local consumption data from 2017, to ensure that it could meet customer demand while the tank is offline. “2017 was a good representation of current customer water demand, and included several high-demand summer days,” Kilpatrick said in a statement. “The 2017 data was plugged into our model and run against the production capacity [we] will have with the Glen Head tank offline. The model demonstrated that our production capacity exceeded demand.”
In the summer of 2017, NYAW’s Sea Cliff well was offline because it had collapsed, but the company was still able to meet customer demand. NYAW will have two wells online this summer, as well as one tank, “giving us more production capacity than we had in 2017,” Kilpatrick said.
“I think they’re doing this to make the summer difficult for us,” said Agatha Nadel, of Glen Head. “If there’s an emergency, they’re going to have to use the interconnection [with the Jericho and Roslyn water districts], and those municipal savings aren’t going to get passed along to us.”
LoMastro agreed that the company would eventually use its interconnections with those municipal water districts while the tank is offline. He noted that his water pressure was already low, and construction has yet to begin. “I only have 30 pounds of water pressure at the fire hydrant in front of my house,” he said. “I had to install a booster pump — the sprinklers could barely water the lawn.”
Mueller stressed the importance of water conservation as construction begins. In March, NYAW debuted H2O Control, a campaign that offers users tips, tools and technologies to help them save water and money. “We want to ensure [our customers are] irrigating efficiently,” Mueller said, “and that they know they have tools available to them to conserve while the tank is offline.”
Pombar said he asked to be regularly updated on the tank’s progress — even to receive company emails about the project. “We’re going to keep a close eye on it,” he said.