The Bethpage Water District was formed in May 1923 as the Central Park Water District. The Town of Oyster Bay gave permission to form the district and sell bonds to fund the construction of two water wells and a water tower for the small predominantly farming community. The first Commissioners of the Water District were George Baldwin, Robert Chappell and Harry Stolz. The district’s counsel was Stoll & Lawrence from New York City, and our first engineering firm was Sidney Bowne of Long Island.
Property was purchased at the intersection of Jackson Avenue and North Sheridan Avemue, just south of the railroad tracks, for 2 wells and a water tower. Well #1 was drilled at a depth of 104 feet and Well #2 at a depth of 220 feet. These wells supplied 200 to 235 gallons per minute each, translating to a maximum capacity of 600,000 gallons per day. The water storage tank was 125 feet high and held 100,000 gallons of water. This system supplied 65 lbs of pressure to the customers of the district. Due to enlargement of the district and the increased demand for water, Well #3 was drilled in June 1924, adding an additional 500 gallons per minute. At the same time, an office and garage building was built at the Jackson Avenue location. The district had 85 fire hydrants in service at the time.
In 1926, George Baldwin was given the title of Superintendent of the District, and Charles Romscho Sr. became a member of the Board of Water Commissioners. A full-time clerk was also hired to work in the District office. In 1927, Superintendent Baldwin’s salary was $35 per week, and the clerk’s salary was $20 per week. Much of the water sold during this time was to local farmers. In 1929 Central Park Water District had 425 residential customers. Residential rates were $3 minimum rate for 6,000 gallons of water each quarter year. 100,000 gallons of water per quarter cost $40 at this time.
Henry Holzmacher was elected to the Board of Water Commissioners in 1930. In 1931 the District bought its first truck, a half-ton Chevrolet, at a cost of $536. In May 1932 another new Commissioner was elected. Albert Lang replaced Robert Chappell. During this time of the Great Depression, customers who didn’t pay their water bills were referred to the Town of Oyster Bay or to the Town of Hempstead for application to the delinquent tax rolls, as opposed to having their water shut off. In 1937 the District bought a new half-ton ton truck for $390. It had the lettering "Water District – Bethpage" painted on the doors, reflecting the recent name change of the community.
As the years went by, rates changed every few years, and the district grew. In 1947 a new well, Well #4, was installed on Haypath Road. In 1949 the Water District moved its office from Jackson Avenue to an office located in the new firehouse that had been built on Broadway. Well #5 on Haypath Road was put in service in 1950. In 1951 Well #4 was shut down and dismantled. In June of 1952 the name of the water district was changed to read "Bethpage Water District".
The District experienced rapid growth in the years following World War II and expanded its facilities to provide water to the numerous new home developments that were being constructed in the Bethpage area.
In 1952 a new well, Well #6, was put into operation at the end of Park Lane, west of Stewart Avenue. This well had a capacity of 1,400 gallons per minute. In December of 1952, Wells 1, 2 and 3 on Jackson Avenue were recommended to be shut down due to chromium found in the water, apparently from contamination from the neighboring Grumman Corporation.
Property was purchased on Adams Avenue for new water wells and a new 1,250,000-gallon elevated storage tank. This would become the new headquarters for the Bethpage Water District when an administration building and garage were built at 25 Adams Ave, in 1956. A new water plant, Plant #4, was built in 1961 on the east end of Sophia Street, which included 2 high capacity wells and a new concrete ground level storage tank holding 1,500,000 gallons of water. In 1965 Well #5-1 was installed on Broadway, south of Wilson Lane.
During the 1960s and 1970s wells were improved and deepened to improve water quality. In 1976, Well # 6-1 on Park Lane was shut down due to contamination, which was ultimately shown to have come from the Grumman site. New property was secured from New York State Parks on Plainview Road, and a new well, BGD #1 was built in 1979 in an area far away from the Grumman property.
In the 1980s and 1990s the district spent much time and energy in securing firm financial commitments from Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy to install water treatment equipment to protect water plants 4, 5, and 6 from the effects of pollution from the Grumman property. New air stripper towers were installed to remove the volatile organic compounds that threatened these public supply wells. Grumman and the Navy paid for the construction of the stripping towers and for the improvements made to reconstruct these plants to protect our public water supply.
In the late 1990s, Grumman Corporation decided to sell large portions of its Bethpage property to private concerns. Since Grumman had previously supplied water to this property, this created a need for Bethpage Water District to supply water to new commercial customers in this area. Grumman paid for new water mains, new fire hydrants and a new 1,500,000-gallon water tower to supply these new commercial customers, again, at no cost to Bethpage customers.
Currently, the Bethpage Water District continues to aggressively monitor the pollution from the former Grumman plant and to improve our facilities to provide high quality water to our customers, which meet all federal and state regulations.
In 2005, a new Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) water filtration plant was built at our Adams Avenue location to protect the two deep wells at our headquarters facility. We will continue to investigate future technology that can be used to protect our most precious natural resource.
In recent years, the district has added a Nitrate Removal System to the wells at Plant 1. Nitrate levels had been increasing slowly and steadily throughout the years; however, the water quality was never in danger and the district opted to install the Nitrate Removal System in keeping with its dedication to non-detectable contaminants in their system.
In 2011, the district added Granular Activated Carbon (GAC) to its facilities at Park Lane and Sophia Street to handle potential impact to the water from the Grumman plume. At no time was the water in danger, and these new facilities will have the district ready with a plentiful, safe supply if and when the contamination impacts those sites.