East Hampton Town Board Favors Water Filters For Contaminated Wells

East Hampton Town Hall.

Members of the East Hampton Town Board said Tuesday they would support plans to install water filtration systems in Wainscott homes where groundwater testing has shown levels of chemical contamination in private wells.

The discussion came as the town explores plans to work with the Suffolk County Water Authority to bring public water to neighborhoods in Wainscott that do not already have access to it.

“I strongly believe we cannot just wait for public water, and I don’t mean we are sitting around doing nothing because we are all working to bring this together, but it involves a lot of government agencies and it is a lot of money,” said Councilman Jeffrey Bragman. “Meanwhile, there is effective filtration available. There are home systems that can be installed.”

According to Mr. Bragman, in-house filtration system cost about $3,000 to install and require about $1,000 in annual maintenance to replace used filter. Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said the cost could be reduced through a public bidding process. Mr. Bragman argued the town should push forward with plans to install those systems at all 118 homes in Wainscott where wells have shown any level of contamination. There are 398 private wells in the test area, with 244 already tested.

Mr. Bragman and Councilman David Lys said if the town moves forward with paying for the installation of filter systems, it should do so for all affected homes, including those owned by second homeowners who may not have had their well water tested yet. “We have a responsibility to act decisively and protect human health,” said Mr. Bragman.

“I think it is really important we take whatever steps we can and that we assure the public they have safe drinking water,” added Mr. Van Scoyoc. “That has been a primary focus of this town for decades, whether it be purchasing open space to prevent pollution of groundwater and overdevelopment, and we find right to this very moment that everything we do does have a direct impact on our groundwater, so with that in mind I do support the councilman’s suggestion that we should take some immediate action by making available point-of-entry well treatment.”

Mr. Van Scoyoc said the town would likely have to declare a state of emergency in order to subsidize the filters, but agreed waiting for public water was not an option. That said, board members remain supportive of long-term efforts to bring public water to the hamlet — a project that could cost in excess of $10 million.

On Tuesday, town grant writer Nicole Ficeto walked the board through the process of applying for a state grant that, if awarded, could cover as much as $10 million or 40 percent of the cost of bringing public water to Wainscott. The town would need to partner with the Suffolk County Water Authority on the application, and would have to form a water supply district in the hamlet. Ms. Ficeto told the board the grant is competitive — only $30 million is available annually. If awarded the grant, the town would not likely receive the funding until the fall. Mr. Van Scoyoc said that while the town could pursue the grant, he did not want the town to wait for its application to be successful before moving forward.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services began testing for chemicals — namely perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) — in private wells in October and expanded the testing area in January. At the same time, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation began its own investigation into the source of contamination. Mr. Van Scoyoc said that investigation is ongoing.