The East Hampton Town Board is expected to vote to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with the Suffolk County Water Authority during its Thursday night meeting, which will allow the town to partner with the water authority on a project to expand public water mains in Wainscott, as an investigation into groundwater contamination in the hamlet continues.
In May, the town board approved the creation of a Wainscott Water Supply District, a new taxing district that will enable the town to extend public water throughout the hamlet as county and state officials investigate the cause of private well contamination by perfluorinated compounds.
The cost of the project is estimated at $24.3 million. The Suffolk County Water Authority will extend existing water mains 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 of the project, or 40-percent, whichever is less, according to Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.
Since PFOS and PFOA were first detected in private wells near the East Hampton Airport last fall, the town has provided bottled water to residents who have shown any level of contamination in their private water wells. In May, the town board also approved up to $400,000 in rebates for affected homeowners wishing to install individual point-of-entry (POET) filtration systems while they wait for public water to become available.
During a work session on Tuesday, Councilman Jeffrey Bragman encouraged residents with wells that have shown even small traces of contamination to take advantage of the rebate system. According to Mr. Bragman, only 11 homeowners have taken advantage of the program, while more than a hundred properties in the hamlet have shown some trace of PFOA or PFOS. He questioned the town’s requirement for an affidavit by the installer of the POET systems; an affidavit that states the filtration system is “designed for or capable of filtering perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFO) contaminants from potable water entering the dwelling …” He said the language was preventing one company from participating in the program and suggested instead the town should suggest a DEC-approved schematic of a system shown to be effective.
Mr. Bragman also suggested that some residents were concerned they would be taxed on the rebate; an issue that has resolved. The funds are not taxable, said Mr. Bragman.
“Minute amounts can spike and cause harmful impacts and these point of entry systems are urgently needed to minimize exposure,” said Mr. Bragman of PFOA and PFOS. “We want our residents to have the least exposure to these chemicals.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc said he agreed with Mr. Bragman that bringing safe drinking water to Wainscott was critical but disagreed about changing the affidavit.
“We have a responsibility to ensure the resident, the consumer, is getting something that is taking out the PFOA,” he said, “not just a water softener someone sold them. There has to be some sort of acknowledgement that the system that has been installed actually does what they say it will do.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc said he believed it was one installer out of five companies that can provide the service to residents that was concerned. He also said some residents were choosing to continue to use the town’s bottled water program, instead of the rebate program, while they wait for public water.
“My point is it is not a sensible decision to delay putting in a filtration system because public water may be coming in months,” said Mr. Bragman. “The town has done a good job about expediting that but there is no guarantee when that is going to happen. This is about risk reduction, exposure reduction, and if we can simplify the language and get one of the larger companies to participate here I think we should do it.”
Mr. Van Scoyoc remained steadfast that the affidavit was important, and was supported by town board members Kathee Burke-Gonzalez and Sylvia Overby. Councilman David Lys said he would generally support a change if it meant a large firm could offer more services, but would also defer to the town attorney.