Editorial: Precious Water


Since the Suffolk County Department of Health Services announced back in October that it had found elevated levels of perfluorinated compounds, commonly known as PFCs, in a number of wells in Wainscott, East Hampton Town has found itself facing a serious public health threat.

Earlier this month, the health department reported that in the interim it had tested 246 of the 399 private wells in an area south of East Hampton Airport. Of those tested, nine were found to have concentrations of PFCs — chemicals that are found in firefighting foam, degreasers and other industrial compounds — above the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s threshold for public safety. Another 109 wells showed lesser amounts of the contaminants.

As the health department concludes its testing, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is trying to pinpoint the source of the pollution. Although the investigation is still in the early stages, Wainscott residents are concerned, as well they should be. In fact, the hamlet’s citizens advisory committee this week asked that the town request that all homes and businesses using private wells in the hamlet be connected to public water as soon as possible.

While that may be the final solution to this problem, the cost, estimated at $10 million or more, is high, and one the town may try to defray by seeking aid from the state before issuing bonds to pay for such a major public works project.

In the meantime, the town has been supplying homeowners with bottled water, but it need to do more. At the very least, those homeowners whose water has proven to be contaminated above the EPA’s threshold, should be provided with home filtration systems, which are capable of removing contaminants from their water, so they can live with some peace of mind until a more permanent fix can be found.