Southampton Town officials have agreed to connect the Poxabogue Golf Center drinking water supplies to Suffolk County Water Authority mains, if the water authority gets enough residents of the nearby neighborhoods to agree to connect as well.
With hundreds of nearby Wainscott homes having been connected to county mains last winter amid fears of health effects of chemical contamination in drinking water supplies in the area, the Southampton Town Board last week authorized spending about $27,000 on what would be the town’s share of the costs of installing the main up Wainscott Harbor Road.
But the water authority will install the mains on the street only if at least 40 percent of the 16 other homeowners on the stretch of road running alongside the golf course and driving range agree to connect to the mains and pay their own connection fees. The water authority has said it must get the buy-in from the neighborhood by July 26 or it will shelve the offer to install the new mains for the time being, town officials said.
In the wake of the discovery of a plume of chemicals called PFOS and PFOA in drinking water wells in Wainscott, there have been concerns that the contaminants may still be spreading in Sagaponack.
“There are no issues with the well water at Poxabogue, but a public facility, with a restaurant, should have public water, because it is tested even more frequently,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. “It just makes a lot of sense since there has been issues in the area. We don’t want to wait until we have a problem.”
According to the Suffolk County Health Department, a test of the wells at the Poxabogue property in June 2018 showed a faint trace of one of the chemicals, PFOA, at a level well below what has been raised as potentially concerning.
The Environmental Protection Agency has officially set a health advisory for concentrations of PFOS and PFOA, which are known as “emerging contaminants” because very is little is known about their potential health effects, at 70 parts per trillion. But health advocates and some states have set their own levels of concern at as little as 10 parts per trillion.
The most recent well test at Poxabogue showed just 2.5 parts per trillion in the water.
While PFOS and PFOA were widely used for decades in thousands of commercial products, from pizza boxes to stain-resistant carpets, the contamination in Wainscott appears to have been caused by the spraying of fire-suppressant foams that contain the chemicals at East Hampton Airport, according to a report by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
The groundwater beneath the East Hampton Airport flows generally southwest, but engineers have said that the meandering nature of groundwater and the pull of irrigation systems sucking from the water table has led to the spotty nature of the detections.
More than 200 drinking water wells in Wainscott in East Hampton Town and at least one across the town line in southern Sagaponack have been found to have at least some detections of PFOS/PFOA thus far. Last winter, the water authority installed some 45,000 linear feet of new water mains beneath dozens of streets in Wainscott, funded with a $10 million grant from New York State.
The Water Authority has said that the concerns of contamination by newly discovered contaminants county-wide could cost as much as $1 billion to address with new mains and advanced new filtration systems for the county wells.
PFOS and PFOA are fairly easily filtered from water by using a carbon, or charcoal, filtering system. But East Hampton Town nonetheless supplied bottled water to Wainscott homeowners for more than a year until the new mains were installed.
The current SCWA mains end at Montauk Highway in the vicinity of Town Line Road and the water authority has offered to extend them up Wainscott Harbor Road if enough property owners, including the town, agree to connect to the mains.
If the mains do go in, the town would also have to connect the buildings on the property to the mains. Parks and Recreation Department Director Kristen Doulos said the town is looking into whether that work could be done by town staff.
Mr. Schneiderman said that if the county ends up not installing the new mains along all of Wainscott Harbor Road, the town would have to look closer at running a dedicated connection from existing mains just to the Poxabogue property—a far more expensive proposition.