Now that we are a few months into the Orient water project, I wanted to give you an update on our progress.
As you know, we started this project with the goal of assessing, now and in the future:
- Ground water quantity: is there enough water in our aquifer to serve Orient’s needs?
- Ground water quality: are there any wide-spread impairments to our freshwater supply?
- Surface water health: what is the state of health of Orient Harbor and Hallocks Bay?
In each case, we wanted to know whether there are steps that should be taken to improve and protect our water resources.
We kicked off the project with CDM Smith (“CDM”) in April. CDM is a large environmental engineering firm with expertise in hydrology, water management, and wastewater management and long experience in Suffolk County and the towns of the East End. They started with data collection and an initial assessment, including:
- Ground water quantity: CDM created a water balance for Orient and also updated and refined their model of the aquifer underneath Orient. They created projections to 2050 and 2100 for fresh water availability based on state and federal sea level rise expectations (sea level rise is expected to push the interface between saltwater and groundwater inland) and also modeled the impact of a “full build-out” scenario based on available land and zoning to gauge the effects of future development.
- Ground water quality: CDM was able to obtain all of Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ private well testing data from 1997 through 2022.
- Surface Water Quality: CDM’s team collected data focused on Hallocks Bay and Orient Harbor from a wide variety of sources, including NOAA, USGS, Stony Brook University, SCDHS Peconic Marine Data, and NYS DEC.
By the end of May, CDM was able to provide us with preliminary answers to our three key questions. However, before moving on to the next stage of the project (prioritizing issues, identifying solutions) the OA water committee paused CDM’s work. We did this in order to test the conclusions they had come to against the experience of local experts (fishermen and farmers, well digging contractors, water testing companies, septic system installers). We wanted to know, for example, whether the CDM’s modeled well depths in waterfront lots coincided with actual recently drilled well depths, as this is a critically important piece of information when predicting saltwater intrusion due to sea level rise. It is very important to us to make sure that CDM’s conclusions, derived from various government and academic sources, agree with actual experience on the ground.
We expect to complete our conversations with local experts in July and to recommence work with CDM Smith in August. We look forward to sharing our findings with the Orient community in a series of presentations in early fall.
On the financial front: to date, we have raised $57K and we have pledges for an additional $13K. That puts us close to our total goal of $80K to cover CDM’s fee of $64K and additional third-party consulting. Given the strong positive reception to our initial outreach, we believe we will raise the full amount this summer.
Thanks again for your generous support. Now that we’re in the midst of this project, I believe more strongly than ever that this is a crucial time to know what is happening with our most critical resource–our water–and to understand what we need to do to protect it for years to come.
Please reach out if you have any thoughts or questions about the project.
All my best,