Water Authority Breaks Ground on New District in Wainscott

Officials from the Town of East Hampton were joined by Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and administrators from the Suffolk County Water Authority, including SCWA Chairman James Gaughran, at a press conference Monday. Photo courtesy of Seth Wallach for the Suffolk County Water Authority

The Suffolk County Water Authority broke ground Monday morning on a new water district in Wainscott — a $24 million project that will bring public water to 520 homes in the hamlet, a section of East Hampton Town that has been the subject of an ongoing investigation into groundwater contamination by perfluorinated chemicals.

According to the SCWA, the project will bring 45,000 feet of water main to a portion of Wainscott located south of the East Hampton Airport. It will be the largest water main project the authority has undertaken in nearly 20 years.

Hooking up to public water is not required for homeowners in the district, although during a town board work session on Tuesday, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc encouraged residents in Wainscott to take advantage of the program.

“It’s not mandatory but we certainly encourage everyone to do so given the concerns about contaminants,” he said, noting 170 of the 520 homes have shown some level of perfluorinated chemicals in their private water wells, 13 above the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion.

“However, that advisory level may change in the future as we learn more about this particular contaminant,” said Mr. Van Scoyoc. “It can pose a serious health risk.”

According to the SCWA, the authority will first connect properties where the water main is already in place, and will prioritize the installation of the remaining main on streets that have homeowners interested in connecting or have homes that have shown detections of perfluorinated chemicals in the water supply. The project is expected to be completed in three months.

The town will fund the project initially through the issuance of bonds, although it has jointly applied for grant funding through New York State’s Clean Water Infrastructure Act to fund part of the project — the installation of the main. Homeowners in the Wainscott Water District will be taxed for the connection to homes in the area. New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle passed legislation that would allow the town to use its Community Preservation Fund to pay for the project as well, although it still awaits approval by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“I also urge the governor to approve funding from the $2.5 billion Water Infrastructure Bond Act for this project,” said Mr. Thiele at a press conference Monday on Windsor Lane in Wainscott.

“We’re pleased to be able to help residents of Wainscott have a safe drinking water supply and I want to thank Town of East Hampton Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc and the full East Hampton Town Board for their steadfast support in making this happen quickly,” said SCWA Chairman James F. Gaughran. “Wainscott residents will now have a drinking water supply that will be safe and reliable.”

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is still investigating the source of the groundwater contamination in Wainscott. Perfluorinated chemicals like PFOA and PFOS were largely used in degreasers, lubricants, carpet cleaning products and in firefighting foam.