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Malvernite Urges Commission to Deny LIAW Rate Hike, Says Water Still Brown

Thomas Grech, of Malverne, says Long Island American Water should fix brown water problem before asking for customers to pay more.

Malverne residents outraged by the fact that they may be charged more money for tap water they say is still brown, are anxiously awaiting a decision on Long Island American Water's proposed rate increase.

Monday was the deadline for customers of LIAW to make their voices heard to the NYS Public Service Commission regarding the proposal, which originally requested a (In December, a lawyer representing the village of Lynbrook, said LIAW agreed to lower it to 7.5 percent, which would translate to a 2.17 percent in 2012, 2.64 percent in 2013 and 2.77 percent in 2014 for the typical customer.)

Still, it's the Public Service Commission that will have the final say on the matter. 

"[They] will consider the joint proposal that the parties signed but the commission is free to adopt, reject or modify the proposal in part," Anne Dalton, spokeswoman for the commission, told Patch. She said they anticipate discussing the proposal at their next monthly meeting, tentatively scheduled for March 15. 

"At this juncture, the normal process would be for the commission to further consider all comments they received from customers," she added.

The commission has been collecting customer feedback regarding the proposal since early December when it held and requested input via letters, email and phone calls. Among the correspondence the agency received was an email from Malverne resident, Thomas Grech, which he shared with Patch.

As the creator of the "I Love Malverne...but hate the brown water (from LI Water)" Facebook page, Grech has become one of the most vocal advocates for residents outraged about the quality of their tap water. Their main concern is the "naturally-occurring" iron in the water that turns it a brownish color when heated over 120 degrees, because a chemical used to sequester the particles breaks down. The iron is not a health hazzard, according to the Nassau County Department of Health, and LIAW President Bill Varley, who did admit it can be "a nuisance," as it can stain laundry.

LIAW has been filtering four million gallons of water in its iron filtration plant, located next to , since it came online March 8, 2011, and , but Grech told Patch, "At the end of the day, the water is still brown."

"There is a continued brown water issue in Malverne, West Hempstead and some surrounding areas," he wrote in the email to Judge Rafael Epstein, of the commission, on Feb. 27. In it, he explained that he still gets complaints of brown water from residents on the Facebook page, where just last week a woman posted that her tap water is "still brown, smelly, and getting worse!" and that she must run the hot water at least 3-5 minutes before using. 

Grech goes on to say that he's "exhausted all methods and means to get LIAW to supply the ratepaying public with clean, clear water and nothing else," adding, "In the year 2012 in the State of New York, I do not think this is an unreasonable request." 

Working with the Malverne Civic Association, Grech helped coordinate between local residents and LIAW officials last February and independent testing of the tap water flowing into people's homes.

, released last March, showed that samples taken from five homes in the village - located on Oak Street, Scarcliffe Drive, Walker Street, Rider Avenue, and Nassau Boulevard - had iron levels below the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 1.50 mg/L set by health authorities. The highest level, 1.15 mg/L, was taken from a kitchen faucet in a home on Walker Street. The samples also fell within the acceptable water color standards with none meeting the criteria to be being considered "discolored" or odorous, and were within the pH range of 7.5 to 8.5 units that the health department recommends.

As for oxidized iron levels, there were a couple of samples that came back higher than the standards, but according to LIAW, this is a guideline it sets for itself, not governed by any health agency. Grech pointed out that "oxidized, when in the context of iron, is another word for rust," and "gives our water that brown color."His research on this topic led him to the New York State Department of Health Web site, which lists, under "Drinking Water Regulations" for public water systems, that iron levels should be no higher than 0.3 mg/L, but that "higher levels may be allowed by the State when justified by the supplier of water." 

Grech has several concerns about the standards LIAW is using to determine its water quality, which he expressed in his email to the commission. "My belief is that not all parameters were given for some of the substances tested, such as Total Hardness, Total Alkalinity and Silica, so that I don't know what their numbers are telling me," he wrote. "Also, as far as metals go, there is only information about iron and not anything else."

He closed his email by urging the commission to deny the LIAW's request to raise its rates "until the water in these communities flows clear and clean, as it does in some many other adjoining towns and villages on Long Island."

Varley has said LIAW needs to raise rates so it can "continue to invest in infrastructure to meet water quality requirements," but Grech questions the timing, given LIAW is in the process purchasing Aqua New York.

"I find it disingenuous that they are looking for an increase at the same time they are looking to aquire one of their competitors," Grech told Patch. "Fix the problem you currently have first."

Bill Breuer March 02, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Has Malverne's Mayor and/or any member of the Board of Trustees appeared before the Public Service Commission on this matter?
Concerned Resident March 03, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Water in Lynbrook for the last week has been brown. Not paying any increase, they should refund us instead!!
Tom Grech March 03, 2012 at 09:21 PM
The Mayor and the Board of Trustees of Malverne have been incredibly supportive; not only attending the PSC meeting but working to get other local reps as well as State and Federal reps engaged, too.

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