During Thursday's brief public hearing on the 2011 tentative budget at the Eugene A. Cannataro Senior Center, local groundwater levels were the main topic of concern among Smithtown residents.
"Schools have been adversely affected by higher groundwater elevations, which caused the system to flood and become ineffective," said Gladys Waldron to the board. "This can't happen again, we can't afford it. I am asking you for your support and additional funding for groundwater relief."
Waldron has served on the Smithtown Board of Education for 33 years and she is concerned how this is affecting three schools and numerous homes in the area.
"Some of those homes in those areas are running pumps 24-7," she said. "Branch Brook septic system was excellent and between Exxon Mobile pumping over 500 thousand gallons of groundwater every day made our septic system at Branch Brook ineffective, we almost had to close the school. It cost us $600 thousand for a new septic system and we still have groundwater."
Waldron also said she has concerns for the quality of life of those affected by the groundwater, especially the kids who attend school in the area.
"Psychologically kids they are upset, pumps are going on 24-7, rodents are coming into the houses from the drains," she said. "Social workers are telling us these problems. Kids sleeping with these motors going on during the night, it's not right, not in Smithtown."
Last year Rep. Tim Bishop, D-Westhampton, got $1.5 million to allot to this issue.
"With the grant money that Mr. Bishop gave last year, I haven't seen anything astounding. It is very disappointing," she said.
"Last year we allocated Mr. Congressman Bishop's money which he obtained for us from the federal government a million-and-a-half dollars what was put into the future budget, the 2010 budget, it's allocated to the town," said Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio. "Next year when we begin that phase we begin to draw down that money and the $300 thousand from the federal government that's required as a match."
Vecchio also said that phase two of the plan to rectify the groundwater issue, which consists of dredging the streams, is currently in progress, and the government money will go towards phase three of the groundwater removal plan.
"They're dredging streams and we have an extension by the department of environmental conservation that we can continue until next April," he said. "Streams get cleared, more water flows out, less water stays in the ground. We have a million-and-a-half dollars that we can access from the government, $300 thousand to match the million-and-a-half dollars, and that will be a part of phase three which we hope completes whatever efforts that will work."