Public Water for Contaminated Zone

Water mains will be extended and bonds issued in a $24.2 million project

With the Suffolk County Water Authority’s chief executive officer and general counsel on hand, the East Hampton Town Board followed through Monday on a plan to create a water supply district in Wainscott, where private wells were found to be contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, last year.

The district is to encompass much of the hamlet south of East Hampton Airport, from Industrial Road on the north to Town Line Road to the west, Daniel’s Hole Road and Georgica Pond to the east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. 

At an ad hoc board meeting, Jeffrey Szabo, the water authority’s C.E.O., summarized a plan to connect about 520 properties south of Industrial Road that are  served by private wells to public water. 

Beginning this summer, existing water mains will be extended, along with service lines to connect them to residential and commercial properties, and existing private wells will be disconnected from internal plumbing systems, Mr. Szabo said. The project will take four to five months to complete.

The water authority will begin making individual connections based on the configuration of existing mains, said Timothy Hopkins, its general counsel. “We will start from those water mains and then move out into areas based on what is the most logical construction schedule.” The authority will require homeowners’ cooperation to schedule the installation of private service lines, as that will require access to residences, he said. “As soon as the first main gets put into service, then we’ll start taking calls, coordinating.” The Water Authority will focus on residents whose wells tested positive for PFC contamination, he said, “so we can try to prioritize them along those stretches of main” already in service.

The town will issue bonds to pay for the project, estimated at $24.3 million. The water authority and the town are jointly pursuing an intermunicipal application, through the State Environmental Facilities Corporation, for a grant of up to $10 million to offset the cost.

The cost of extending the water mains will be repaid by property taxes on parcels townwide, excluding the villages. The portion of debt attributed to the cost of connecting individual residences will ultimately be borne by the particular property owner. Charges apportioned to the specific cost of connecting each house will be added to Wainscott residents’ tax bills, to be amortized over the expected 20-year life of the bond. 

“When the project is completed, you’ll have a water supply that meets all drinking-water standards,” Mr. Szabo said. 

The well fields that serve the affected area are generally north and east of the airport and adjacent industrial zone, the chemicals’ suspected points of origin, Mr. Szabo said. As groundwater generally flows to the south, “it’s not anticipated that the wells will be impacted by any of these contaminants,” he said. The water authority’s wells are also generally deeper than private wells. 

Monday’s action follows last week’s declaration of a state of emergency for the hamlet in order to direct $400,000 to residents whose wells have been found to be contaminated. The money will come in the form of rebates of up to 90 percent of the cost of a point-of-entry water treatment system, to a maximum of $3,000. The filtration systems are a short-term measure to ensure the safety of drinking water while the water authority completes its extension of mains and connects them to residences and businesses, which may not be completed before year’s end.