East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc announced Tuesday the town is moving swiftly to create a water district in Wainscott to extend public water to over 870 homes and businesses as an investigation continues into the source of chemical contamination in private water wells in the hamlet. At the same time, Mr. Van Scoyoc and Councilman Jeffrey Bragman clashed over the town’s short-term solution for homeowners impacted by perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), with Mr. Bragman calling on the board to create a grant program for homeowners who want to immediately install filtration systems at their homes.
On Tuesday, town planning director Marguerite Wolffsohn explained to the town board that the water district boundary would be Industrial Road to the north, Daniel’s Hole Road to the east, Georgica Pond to the ocean to the south and Town Line Road to the west and would encompass 872 properties — more properties than the area currently being surveyed for contamination by the Suffolk County Department of Health and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
“This is a much greater area than the survey area, but we felt to ensure public confidence in the quality of their drinking water and given the fact that irrigation wells can draw contaminants outside of the normal flow of water, which is southerly and somewhat easterly to the pond and ocean, that this was the prudent thing to do,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc.
Mr. Van Scoyoc added that affected homeowners who have already hooked up to public water may be reimbursed by the water authority, which is holding their money in escrow while the town works to establish the water district.
According to Ms. Wolffsohn, if the town moves forward with the district and pays to connect each residence and business, it will cost $26.3 million. The cost without the individual hookups is $11.4 million, she said. The town is applying for a state grant in June that would cover $10 million, or 40-percent, of the overall cost. Ms. Wolffsohn said the town would bond for the money, meaning as soon as it is through the required environmental review, public hearing process, adoption of the district and approval from the state comptroller, the Suffolk County Water Authority could begin to extend water mains in the hamlet. She said the board could sign off on the environmental review of the district, led by the water authority, as early as Thursday.
While the board had previously discussed funding the installation of point of entry filtration systems for homeowners, Mr. Van Scoyoc said there were legal issues providing public funds for private well installation, especially since the contamination level has not been formally established in the state.
Mr. Bragman said he believed the town was directed, in a letter to Mr. Van Scoyoc from the DEC in November of 2017, to install point of entry systems or other means to provide an alternative water supply for residents in Wainscott. The town has spent roughly $30,000 providing bottled water for residents who request it in the survey area. Mr. Bragman said that after looking into opinions by the New York State Attorney General, he believed the town could provide the funding with a grant if the town board declared a state of emergency.
“We have elderly people who have trouble handling 40-pound jugs of water,” he said. “They have been on public water since October, and we have known about this problem probably since before October and I say it is time to act,” said Mr. Bragman.
Mr. Van Scoyoc countered that the DEC was installing point of entry systems at homes it deems contaminated.
“I think to be as expedient as we can to bring public water to Wainscott has to be priority number one,” he added, noting that was a long-term solution to the crisis. He suggested Mr. Bragman submit the Attorney General’s opinion to town attorney Michael Sendlenski to review.