Suffolk County Water Authority is one of the largest sole-source water aquifer providers in the United States with 1.2 million customers. The company is set to pump somewhere between 70 and 75 billion gallons of water this year, all coming from the ground.
However, according to the SCWA chairman Charles Lefkowitz, some of the largest obstacles the company faces is not the amount of water, being that the aquifer has plenty, but rather meeting the pump requirements during the dog days of summer with aging infrastructure.
At the height of the summer, they pump 500,000 gallons a minute. The company also regularly replaces old pipes and upgrades systems.
“Which, is a lot of water,” he said, noting that customers are encouraged to conserve using odds and even days and check leaky faucets during peak periods.
To further protect conservation, they are also working with municipalities to place bans on open geothermal systems, which use large amounts of water in comparison to close-looped systems.
The water authority has also recently applied for $100 million in grants towards implementing a NAOP, an advanced oxidation system developed internally to help fight ageing infrastructure and emerging contaminants.
With these systems, forever chemicals—polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—are put below federal standards. According to Lefkowitz, the SCWA checks for over 400 chemicals on a daily basis at their state-of-the-art lab in Hauppauge. He said that they use 140 tests over state and local health department standards. They also exceed standard testing by 253 chemical compounds, testing a total of 403.
The company owns a total of 592 active wells, 59 water storage facilities (towers), and a production-control site in Bay Shore, with 24/7 monitoring for irregularities in flow and quality.
“When one well is shut down, we pull from another well,” Lefkowitz said.
The company works on an almost $300 million revenue budget with no government funding as a public benefit corporation. However, for infrastructure improvements, the company is eligible for federal and local funding.
“We try to deliver the highest-quality water at the most affordable price, while some companies have doubled or tripled their per-gallon charge,” Lefkowitz explained.
In an effort of keeping bills low, the company has also developed a two-tier system for billing with larger costs for higher use, also further promoting conservation. Lefkowitz said they are also considering adding a third tier.
SCWA has also issued 2030 strategic plan to continue with their goals.
“I think that the company is in a much better place today looking back 25, 50 years, and I want to put it in a better place looking forward to that same 25, 50 years,” Lefkowitz said.
As part of the plan, the company is also hoping to accomplish a consolidation of their Bohemia campus to implement a better workflow and workplace. Some of the current buildings are from the 1940s. This project is a $20 to $25 million undertaking.
For more information, visit the SCWA website.
ABOUT THE CHAIRMAN
Charles Lefkowitz took over as chairman of the SCWA from former chairman Patrick G. Halpin who retired in May of last year.
Lefkowitz is a Setauket resident and has been the president of CALCO Development and Louis Lefkowitz Realty, Inc. since 1994. In total, Lefkowitz now leads five companies that own and manage millions of square feet of commercial properties and oversee a portfolio of more than 3,000 multi-family units. The companies’ combined have an estimated value of more than one billion dollars.
A Brookhaven Town councilman from 2000-2003, Lefkowitz as a councilman helped attract hundreds of jobs to the town’s Empire Zone, led the upgrade of the town’s website and technological capabilities and played a key role in the relocation of Town Hall to a modern facility. He currently serves as president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and has served on the boards of various community organizations, including the Three Village Civic Association and the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. He was named Person of the Year by the Three Village Historical Society in 2015 and by The Village Times/Beacon in 2017 as well as Member of the Year by the Three Village Chamber of Commerce in 2015.
A 1980 graduate of Ward Melville High School, Lefkowitz went on to earn an A.A.S. in hospitality management from SUNY Delhi, a Bachelor of Science degree in management from Florida International University and a graduate degree in real estate studies from New York University.
PFAS are found in hundreds of consumer and household products sold across the United States and over the world—in everything from Teflon-coated cooking pans, plastic drinkware, contact lenses and coated food wrappers to clothing, carpeting and building materials, fire damaged building debris. n
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