Written by Carol Frank Friday, 16 July 2010 00:00
He is a young man with a big job. But having worked at the Water Authority of Great Neck North since 1996, working his way up over time from a laborer to supervisor to assistant superintendent, provisional superintendent and, now, superintendent and having practically teethed on the business of providing high quality water to Great Neck, he is up for the task.
Chairman of the Authority Michael Kalnick says, “The directors of the Water Authority of Great Neck North, including myself, are thrilled to have Greg Graziano as our superintendent. Greg follows in the footsteps of his father, our prior superintendent, who has mentored him over the last 13+ years. Greg’s knowledge, skill and experience will serve as an invaluable asset to all of our residents.”
Gregory Graziano, 39, knows the Authority from the depths of its underground piping systems to its treatment plants that scrub the water to exceed New York State standards to its computer systems that monitor the pumping rates and back-up security systems. He knows what it is like to work in the field doing the hard work of installing fire hydrants and repairing pipes in all kinds of weather and road conditions and he knows when it is a job well done.
Water management is a highly specialized field. It requires knowledge of water chemistry, electrical systems, mechanical systems, and a facility with ever more complex computer systems and programs. It also requires an ability to supervise and motivate an effective work force, cope with governmental regulations, prepare operating budgets, strategize for long range planning, oversee capital improvement projects, negotiate skillfully with corporate polluters, communicate effectively with the public and work well with a diverse and astute board of directors.
Overall, the mission of the authority is to deliver the cleanest, purest water to their service area that is possible, given current knowledge. And they are the stewards for protecting our underground water supply from getting contaminated. After all, it is much more economical and efficient to protect the water supply than to have to treat it.
In the week that the Record was scheduled to meet with Mr. Graziano to interview him for this article about his May 17 permanent appointment to the role of superintendent, information about the significant Exxon Mobil gasoline leak at 788 Middle Neck Road had just come to light. His focus was on trying to obtain more information from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation about the leak and to impress on all involved in “mapping” the plume that the direction of aquifer flow in Great Neck is not always in a north/northwest direction. There are exceptions to general patterns of aquifer flow that local water suppliers know that flies in the face of common knowledge or computer modeling programs.
“This is why,” he said, “there needs to be some way that the DEC can inform local water suppliers when there is any kind of spill, even a small one.” During those weeks, Mr. Graziano was called on to steadfastly work with the DEC and answer concerned calls from the public to assure them that no contaminants have yet reached water wells and that, as always, the Authority is closely monitoring water quality before it is pumped to homes and businesses for consumption.
It is a constantly changing and challenging set of responsibilities and one that he takes very seriously.
Mr. Graziano received a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Business, Management and Economics with a concentration in water utility management from SUNY Empire College. He has taken numerous supplementary courses from the New York State Department of Health and received certifications in the National Incident Management System and Incident Command System. These last certifications are important. Since 9/11, the Water Authority has stepped up its security procedures to meet the highest levels of national standards.
Sometimes protecting our underground water supplies, raising treatment standards and maintaining infrastructure systems is a two-edged sword. While the public understandably wants the best, cleanest water that can be provided, they may balk at the costs involved or the restrictions imposed. Some upgrades have an extended pay-off. For example, the automated meter reading system is a tremendous time saver for personnel and, in time, with attrition will lead to reduced ongoing employee costs, but the savings do not happen overnight.
The Authority works closely with villages and utilities to dovetail pipe repairs and upgrades with scheduled road work. Working in conjunction with each other saves money on road restorations.
The results of the day-to-day maintenance costs are not evident to the public and they’re not as exciting as cool technology upgrades. When we read of communities that have deficient water delivery systems or remember that Citizens Water Company, which was essentially purchased by the villages and town (an expense we are still paying off), was a system with corroded piping and extensive and expensive leaks, we can more fully appreciate a well-maintained system, confident that when we turn on the tap, clean water will flow or that when firefighters connect their hoses to a hydrant there will be strong water pressure to protect life and property.
Mr. Graziano urges all customers to sign up for the Swift 911 Emergency Notification system. It is a system that makes phone calls to specific people or areas in the event of an emergency or for sharing important information. For example, if there is a water shut-off due to a main break, you would be instantly notified if you have given the Authority your contact numbers. Go to the website to enter your data at www.waterauthorityof greatnecknorth.com/swiftreach.html.
On a personal note, Mr. Graziano and his wife Sandra have a busy home with three children, Julia, 9, Sean, 7, and Christian 15 months. Mr. Graziano enjoys coaching Julia’s soccer team and Sean’s soccer team, tournament soccer team and baseball team.