April 8, 2020 05:30 PM

Pump Station Mechanic Rich Omelchuk (left) tapping into Southside Hospital's private fire hydrant in order to supply water to the new surge hospital for COIVD-19 patients.


Suffolk County Water Authority Pump Station Mechanic Rich Omelchuk was called out to a special assignment this morning: helping Long Islanders hospitalized from COVID-19 get access to public water.

Southside Hospital in Bay Shore is nearing completion on a 60-patient “surge hospital” in their south parking lot to treat overflow COVID-19 patients.  PSEG was on hand to hook up the facility’s power, but hospital emergency managers weren’t sure how to tie the new facility into the hospital’s water supply.  That’s when they reached out to SCWA Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Operations Joseph Pokorny.

After meeting with SCWA Emergency Managers Phil Thompson and Rich Bova, Omelchuk was able to tap the hospital’s private fire hydrant and connect a hose leading to a manifold, supplying all of the facility’s portable bathrooms and washrooms. 

Since the outbreak began, health experts have stressed the importance of frequent hand washing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, meaning reliable access to clean water is critical for medical facilities now more than ever.

“They were very appreciative for the quick response,” Thompson said. “We wanted to make sure we got the surge hospital hooked up to water as soon as possible. The peak of this outbreak has yet to hit Suffolk County so we need to be as prepared as we can.”

Before the connection could be made, Omelchuk flushed the hydrant to ensure there would be no sediment in the line.  He also installed an RPZ device to prevent backflow and a hose bib, in addition to providing instructions on how to turn the system on. Thompson, who has made himself available to the hospital for any future questions, said Southside officials expect the surge hospital to be ready to accept patients by the end of next week.

The Suffolk County Water Authority is an independent public-benefit corporation operating under the authority of the Public Authorities Law of the State of New York. Serving approximately 1.2 million Suffolk County residents, the Authority operates without taxing power on a not-for-profit basis.

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