East Hampton Town Board Approves Wainscott Water District

A map of the new Wainscott Water Supply District.

The East Hampton Town Board unanimously voted to approve the creation of the Wainscott Water Supply District during a special meeting Monday night. The new taxing district will enable the town to extend public water to a large swath of Wainscott as county and state officials continue to investigate the source of chemical contamination that has impacted the private water wells of roughly 140 homes in the hamlet.

The cost of the project is $24.3 million. The Suffolk County Water Authority will extend existing water mains by 45,000 feet to homes and businesses from Industrial Road to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The town and the water authority are applying for an inter-municipal grant through the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation that could cover $10 million to extend the water mains in Wainscott.

During a public hearing on the creation of the district on Monday, Suffolk County Water Authority CEO Jeffrey Szabo said there are approximately 520 private wells south of Industrial Road. The extension of the new mains is expected to begin in August and will take between four and five months to complete, he added.

Mr. Szabo said the water authority will begin where water mains currently exist and expand out from there, reaching out to residents to hook up individual homes as public water becomes available on their streets. He said the water authority will make the homes with traces of perfluorinated chemicals in their water wells a priority as they reach those neighborhoods. In the meantime, the town board earlier this month announced it would make $3,000 in grant money available for homeowners with compromised wells, who cannot immediately hook up to public water, to fund the installation of individual Point-of-Entry Treatment systems while they await the availability of public water. The town board has approved the use of up to $400,000 to fund that effort.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have been investigating the cause of PFC contamination in Wainscott since last fall. The county began looking into PFOA and PFOS contamination at industrial sites like the area around the East Hampton Airport after polluted wells were found at other sites on Long Island, including near the Air National Guard base at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating the source of contamination, and town officials have provided homeowners within the testing area access to bottled water while working towards the creation of a new water district.

To fund the extension of the mains, the town will bond for $12 million over 20 years to extend the water mains, with the cost of that offset by the inter-municipal grant should the town and the water authority be successful. The remaining $12 million needed to hook up the main to individual homes and businesses will be funded through the taxing district over several years.

“To ensure your water quality continues, you should know our state-of-the-art laboratory conducts tests on a regular basis for nearly 400 compounds — that is nearly  250 more than are required under New York State law,” said Mr. Szabo on Monday. “We are also very proud we maintain more stringent internal standards for water quality than we are required to.”

“I am here to commend the town board for being very proactive and deliberate in really safeguarding the drinking water supply in that area,” said Kevin McAllister, the founder and president of the environmental non-profit Defend H2O. “Obviously, with what we are dealing with relative to our sole source aquifer, there are a lot of locations at risk.”

Resident Michael Hansen, who has two young children and lives in Wainscott, also wondered what kind of extended testing the town would perform. His home tested negative for PFCs last fall, but several months have passed, he noted. “And I am a little worried about the water we are drinking,” he said.

Jordy Mark, another resident of Wainscott, asked whether internal equipment that handles water — hot water heaters or water tanks, for example — need to be replaced to ensure a home is safe from PFC contamination after the hookup. She also asked why residents could not opt for grant funding in order to hook up to an existing water main, rather than use that grant money for a filtration system.

“When the town board discussed this, basically the point of entry filtration well treatments are for those who cannot immediately avail themselves to public water by connecting,” said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, later adding that funding is also being reserved for those who have detections of PFCs in their wells. “If you are currently on and able to hook up then you should do so.”