Madeleine Hinkis spent recent weeks visiting her pregnant daughter, Caitlin Hinkis, of Glen Head, to help her during the last days of her pregnancy. On the morning of Sept. 29, while Caitlin was in the shower, Madeleine ran water from the kitchen faucet into a pot to cook. She walked away for a moment, and when she re-turned, she discovered that the water had turned black.
Shocked and disgusted, Madeline recalled, she rushed to tell Caitlin to get out of the shower. The water was full of sediment, which she worried might affect her daughter’s pregnancy.
The quality of Hinkis’s water was a result of a water main break on Kissam Lane in Glen Head. Resident Bill Mozer, who spoke with a New York American Water representative at the site of the break, said that higher water pressure in the lines caused the break. The increased pressure came because Sea Cliff’s water tower must now provide water to Glen Head, after Glen Head’s tower recently closed. The increased water pressure from the Sea Cliff tower was too much for the old pipes to handle, and they burst, Mozer said.
According to New York American Water, members of the company’s customer service department visited affected homes on the day of the break, providing bottled water and information.
“The main break was isolated quickly, and customers that were impacted by the shutdown to make the needed repairs were notified by New York American Water personnel who went door to door on Kissam Lane,” Lee Mueller, NYAW’s external affairs manager, said in a statement. “In addition to in-person notification, alerts were placed on New York American Water’s social media sites, and our customer service center was provided with information to address any customer questions.
“New York American Water’s priority,” Mueller continued, “was to connect in-person with customers directly impacted by the service shutdown to ensure they had information on the planned repair and estimated time for service renewal, and were provided with bottled water in the interim. Our customers are at the center of everything we do, and New York American Water strives to provide excellent customer service and inform customers of impacts from unanticipated water main breaks.”
Madeleine Hinkis, however, said she thought NYAW had not done enough from the beginning, because neither she nor her daughter was notified about the state of their water before they turned it on. “How was it that my nine-month-pregnant daughter is up and showering with no notification that there was dirty water?” she asked. “In 2019, we should have been instantly notified through a text or an email. I was more upset about that — the lack of caring to notify families.”
Madeleine said she called the company many times and spoke with several people, all of whom gave different answers to her questions about what she should do next.
Agatha Nadel, of Glen Head, head of the anti-NYAW group North Shore Concerned Citizens, said some residents did not have water for 48 hours. She said she had an experience similar to Hinkis’s with NYAW’s customer service.
“It’s not accurate, it’s not up front, it’s not consistent,” Nadel said. “It’s like if you don’t know who to call or who to contact, you’re not going to get the right information.”
Caitlin’s daughter was born healthy a few days later. While the joy of having a granddaughter has lightened Madeleine’s mood, she is still frustrated by NYAW’s reaction.
“It wasn’t about the act of [the main break] happening, because stuff happens,” she said, “but they need to get their act together.”
Residents of the North Shore Water District pay more than any district on Long Island for water, which Nadel said should be reflected in better customer service.
“For the amount of money that we’re paying, it should be much more professionally and smoothly operated,” she said. “We’re always left in the dark.”