East Hampton Town Board Declares State of Emergency in Wainscott

East Hampton Town Hall.

East Hampton Town officials declared a state of emergency in the hamlet of Wainscott on Tuesday, earmarking $400,000 in funds for the installation of individual filtration systems for homeowners whose private water wells have been impacted by chemical contamination. At the same time, the town board continues to push forward with plans to connect homes in the hamlet to public water through a new water district. A special public hearing will be held on Monday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. on the establishment of the Wainscott Water Supply District.

“For some properties, it may take three, four, five months to hook up at the extreme ends of the [water main] extensions and to assure those who have defects in their wells that the water will be safe and clean to consume or bathe in, we feel it is the most expedient way we can address some of those concerns,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc during Tuesday’s work session about the funding for in-home, Point-of-Entry Treatment systems.

Under the resolution, any resident of Wainscott whose private wells have been found by health officials to contain perfluorinated chemicals of any amount will be eligible for a rebate of up to 90-pecrent of the cost of the installation of those systems, up to a maximum of $3,000. Qualifying residents should contact the East Hampton Town Purchasing Department at (631) 324-4183.

The town board on Tuesday will hear from the public on the establishment of the Wainscott Water Supply District, a new taxing district that would allow the town to extend Suffolk County Water Authority mains for public water to homes and businesses from Industrial Road to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The project could cost as much as $24.3 million, although the town and the water authority will jointly apply for an inter-municipal water infrastructure grant from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation. If successful, that grant could cover up to 40-percent of the project cost, or $10 million.

According to a press release issued by the town on Monday, a bill sponsored by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle will “clarify the possible use of Community Preservation Funds earmarked for water quality improvements for the water supply district project.” If the town board and trustees grant an easement to Deepwater Wind to land the proposed South Fork Wind Farm cable off Beach Lane in Wainscott, the firm will earmark $1 million for Wainscott water infrastructure improvements as a part of its larger community benefits package. A public hearing on that easement will be held Thursday, May 17, at 6:30 p.m. at LTV Studios in Wainscott.

According to town officials, if it moves forward the town will bond for the cost of the project, with the cost of the main extension covered by taxpayers throughout the town. The cost to taxpayers has been estimated at $35 to $38 a year for a home with a market value of $1.2 million.

The portion of debt created by hooking up individual private residences to the water main will be paid for by the individual homeowners, although the town will pay for the upfront cost, which will then be added to Wainscott resident tax bills and amortized over the life of the town’s 20 year bond.

East Hampton Town officials have been working with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation since the county discovered a private well in Wainscott was contaminated with PFCs, specifically PFOA and PFOS, last fall. That was part of a larger water quality testing initiative launched after polluted wells were found at other sites, including the Air National Guard base at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach. PFCs were largely used in degreasers, lubricants, carpet cleaning products and in firefighting foam.

While only deemed “emerging contaminants” by federal and state officials, with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listing a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion, a level that was exceeded by over a dozen homes in the test area with more than 100 additional residences and businesses showing some level of contamination in well water samples. 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.