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Nov 29, 2018 10:23 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tensions Run High At First Public Meeting To Discuss SCWA Management Of Hampton Bays Water

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. VALERIE GORDON
Dec 4, 2018 2:33 PM

Tensions ran high at the first public meeting held by the Southampton Town Board to discuss a potential operational agreement with the Suffolk County Water Authority to take over the day-to-day management of the Hampton Bays Water District.

The majority of those in attendance strongly opposed the merger, noting that they were not willing to surrender local control of the water district to the regional water authority.

However, those sentiments contradicted the results of a recent survey, available on the Southampton Town website. According to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, the town has analyzed the 300 responses received to date, and approximately 39 percent were in favor of the merger, whereas only 22 percent “strongly opposed” it.

“That’s almost twice as many feeling this is the right thing to do,” he said.

Still, those results reflect only that of 300 people within the hamlet. Currently, the water district serves approximately 6,400 customers.

At the meeting, held in the Hampton Bays High School’s auditorium on Wednesday night, November 28, many residents argued that the survey results could easily be tainted, noting that there was nothing to prevent someone from filling out the online survey multiple times.

The SCWA engaged in talks with Southampton Town officials back in August, roughly a year after the HBWD’s employees were “rocked” by an onslaught of water pressure and contamination issues, leaving the community unsure of whom to trust for providing clean water to their homes, according to Mr. Schneiderman.

“People keep telling me they're paying their water bill, but that they’re buying bottled water,” he said. “I want people to know that they can walk up to their faucet and have no fear. People have to know that their water is safe to drink.”

The proposed 40-year contract, delivered to the town in October, would allow the SCWA to manage the Hampton Bays water system for a quarterly fee. Mr. Schneiderman has repeatedly said the arrangement would mean a comparable cost to the annual $132 fee that water district customers are currently charged on their tax bill, which goes toward funding maintenance and debt service. The exact cost has not been disclosed.

Under the agreement, the Southampton Town Board, which acts as commissioners for the water district, would continue to set the rate at which residents are charged for water. Currently, per quarter, a water district customer using 3,500 cubic feet, or 26,182 gallons, pays a total of $44.80, including usage fees and other charges, whereas the same amount used by an SCWA customer would cost $46.72.

A key part of the proposal: It includes $6.1 million in infrastructure upgrades to be completed over the next three years if the plan is accepted.

Those upgrades include installing a $2.5 million manganese and iron filtration system, sandblasting and repainting the district’s water tanks to prevent them from rusting through, and installing booster systems to ensure adequate pressure, as well as backup generators and electric meters. Some of that work would need to be tackled by the HBWD if the merger falls through.

“Hampton Bays needs an iron and manganese filtration system yesterday,” Jeff Szabo, the authority’s CEO, said last week. “We’re prepared to make sure that capital work gets done.”

One of the benefits of entering into an agreement with SCWA, according to Mr. Szabo, would be that the costs for those improvements would be shared among the water authority’s 1.2 million customers throughout Suffolk County—rather than just the hamlet’s 6,400 HBWD customers.

Based on a previous interview with Mr. Szabo, it would take the water authority approximately a year and a half to add the new equipment.

Under the agreement, the local water district would maintain ownership of the district’s infrastructure.

Mr. Schneiderman stressed that regardless of whether the district was managed by the water authority, the upgrades must be completed.

He said, based on calculations completed earlier this week by Southampton Town Comptroller Leonard Marchese, that the average homeowner’s tax bill would increase by roughly $80 per year to cover the costs of upgrading the district’s current infrastructure if the merger isn’t completed and the work is tackled by the water district on its own.

Matthew Hattorff, president of the Civil Service Employees Association, Suffolk Local 852, argued against the merger, saying that the upgrade costs could be borne by local residents. “If you need to put money into it, you put money into it,” he said.

And while the majority of those who attended the public meeting were opposed to the merger, there were a select few in the audience who spoke of the agreement favorably.

Shelley Borkoski, a hamlet resident who took it upon herself to form a community group called “Hampton Bays Clean Water,” called it a “win-win.”

“We need to help our children—we have to help ourselves,” she said. “Think wisely—this sounds like a great deal for all of us.”

Another vocal proponent, Anthony DePalma, and his two sons, Kai and Ry, were met with angry shouts from the audience when they spoke in favor, with Mr. DePalma noting that “our infrastructure has been neglected. … We have some costly catching up to do.”

In addition to infrastructure upgrades, the water authority said it would offer additional benefits to the hamlet’s residents. Pointing to the recent discovery of two chemicals found in three of the district’s 11 drinking water wells last year—forcing HBWD Superintendent Robert King to shut off those contaminated wells for a little over a year to install a $1 million carbon filtration system at its headquarters off Ponquogue Avenue—Mr. Szabo boasted about the water authority’s in-house laboratory, saying the authority’s 40 chemists can turn around water testing results in a matter of days. Currently, the local water district uses an outside company to test water samples, and, according to Mr. Schneiderman, results can take as long as weeks or even months to get back.

Mr. Szabo added that the in-house laboratory technicians also test for 387 compounds—or 250 more than required by the state—including perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which tainted the hamlet’s water supply last year.

He added that in 2017, the water district tested for only131 compounds. In fact, according to a recent study by D&B Engineers and Architects of Woodbury, district officials failed to test several of the district’s wells for PFOA and PFOS in the first quarter of 2017—despite requests from the Suffolk County Health Department that it do so.

“We can guarantee that your water quality would improve,” Mr. Szabo said, noting that the authority has entered into similar agreements with water districts in Riverside, East Farmingdale, Brentwood, and Dering Harbor. “Throughout the course of our history, as municipalities like the Town of Southampton have approached us, we have entered into these agreements. Not one of them has come back and said, ‘This isn’t working out.’ All of those agreements are still in effect.”

The Hampton Bays district’s 13 full-time employees would be absorbed by the water authority and would be placed in positions based on their seniority within the water district. Tim Hopkins, general counsel for the water authority, said that each absorbed employee would be assigned to the authority’s Westhampton Beach location on Old Riverhead Road.

“They wouldn’t ever have to move if they choose not to,” he said, adding that, depending on the position, current district employees could see a $10,000 to $15,000 increase in their yearly salaries. “I think they would do much better if they were to accept employment with the SCWA.”

Mr. Schneiderman said that he extended an offer to Mr. King to make a presentation at the public meeting, arguing the case against the water authority’s involvement, but he said Mr. King was not prepared to do so.

Community members opposed to the merger, such as Bill Hughes, accused the Town Board, particularly Mr. Schneiderman, of pushing the proposal forward. “I think this is inherently biased and directed to the SCWA,” Mr. Hughes said.

To address those concerns the supervisor said: “We’re here for one reason, and that’s to provide the best quality of water. That's our only motive. That’s it. We just want to give you the best water we possibly can. Period.”

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39% plus 22% =61%, what happened to the other 39% that voted?
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Nov 29, 18 12:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
This was an informational meeting but was twisted by a few to grand stand their political & job agenda. This meeting was a disgrace and embarrassment. The community should have no respect for the HBWD employees & union for not updating or sharing information to bring forward key data at this meeting to help address the quality of the water.

For the HBWD it was about them, their jobs, their club. Not a single word from the union or leadership of HBWD on the quality of water, the infrastructure, ...more
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on Nov 29, 18 12:17 PM
Did that worker from the HB water district ever pay back the money he stole from the Hampton Bays school district scholarship fund?
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Nov 29, 18 12:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Does anyone know if the employee paid back the scholarship fund? Pease reply here.
By Red Flag (51), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 4:27 AM
It had nothing to do with the school, it is a private foundation. You'd have to ask them how it was resolved.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 18 12:02 PM
Locals haven't drank tap water in decades.
Nov 29, 18 12:36 PM appended by themarlinspike
Hint : All of Southampton's old water lines were lined with asbestos
By themarlinspike (542), southampton on Nov 29, 18 12:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
If the old lines are lined with asbestos....then that appears to be even more reason to bring on SCWA to develop a plan to change the pipes...does HB have a plan to do so? We dont know if they do and they aren’t telling us ANYTHING! H Bays Water has never sent us any information why the water is BLACK and stayed BLACK for months for many people. Local businesses are being hurt by the BLACK water. A local hotel had to send out their laundry due to BLACK water!! Lets’ get the experts ...more
By Red Flag (51), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 4:31 AM
Let's be realistic, all the proposed money that SCWA would have to spend for upgrades will be paid by the residents of Hampton Bays. Schneider man and SCWA stated the rates will be set by the town, I am sure after they touch base with SCWA to add in all costs. The rates will go up, don't fool yourself.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Nov 29, 18 1:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
Read all the stories about the drinking water not just HB is affected, the contamination is widespread - the infrastructure is deteriorating. The leadership needs to come together and obtain what ever resources it can to correct the problems and plan for the future. There may be some federal, state county or maybe CPF monies, but the taxpayers need to be prepared to pay for part of this over the next 20 years.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 18 3:17 PM
Why is this an issue of politics, who pays who, rates will go up....this is water that we drink and bathe in!! We are not talking about buying a Chevy or a BMW!!!

If. H Bays hasn’t been maintaining the system then it needs updated.
By Red Flag (51), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 4:35 AM
Yes the real concern is about the water, the comment about the cost was made as many involved continue to say the cost will not go up. Just trying to clear up incorrect information.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Dec 2, 18 12:25 PM
You are right "IF" this is true. Who knows what is true?

There are water quality concerns with SCWA also. Just google and you will see them.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 18 12:04 PM
Should HBWD get absorbed by SCWA, the $6.1M in necessary HB infrastructure updates are split equally amongst the 1.2M SCWA Customers. While it seems negligible at only $5/customer, that's only for updates to HB's 11 wells/facilities. What about the other 586 wells currently owned by SCWA? What's the current condition of these wells/facilities and what's the scheduled infrastructural updates for them? Since those costs will also be split amongst all customers, it's imperative that we know the condition ...more
By WetSand09 (7), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 18 5:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Keep in mind it's probably going to work both ways, at some point I'm sure HB residents will be paying for projects throughout the SCWA entire service area. After reading yesterday's article (and that article sure dropped pretty far down & out of sight fast) about SCWA's water mains in Wainscott, I'm no longer sure that this SCWA solution is the real answer. And I agree with G.A.L., looks like the entire water supply on Long Island is contaminated and I think we may need to come up with an entire ...more
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Nov 29, 18 8:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Southwest sewer district anyone? Seems a better option to keep it local with some SERIOUS OVERSITE !!!! Too much of a good old boys club today.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Nov 29, 18 5:51 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 30, 18 2:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
Right on chief1 !!! How is it Robert King even considered an employee, when he's in Florida 2 to 3 months at a time!!!
By Bugal (14), Hampton Bays on Nov 30, 18 9:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
By Red Flag (51), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 4:38 AM
2 members liked this comment
Yes, it's true, need only to check his fb page !!!
By Bugal (14), Hampton Bays on Dec 1, 18 5:58 AM
SCWA is the way to go. Drinking water should be handled by professionals not town employees.
By A Great American (103), East Quogue on Nov 30, 18 5:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
You can't be a 'professional' and a town employee?
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 18 12:07 PM
The water in Hampton Bays is TERRIBLE! I filled few years ago my pool with 25000 gallons water and was RED. I called HBWD and they said that is a well in my area -who pumps IRON and they will not close it because is no pressure then in the summer. I ask them to fix it and they said: is only you who complained the others said nothing we wait if others will see it!" I hope the merger becomes reality-they will put money in the system even now if I fill my tub I can see the water is dirty and is clear ...more
By dany (33), Water Mill on Nov 30, 18 9:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
I wish more people would write their frustrations and experiences with the water company, the attitude of “no one is complaining”, not sending us explanations of BLACK WATER!!!!....
By Red Flag (51), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 4:42 AM
You still have black water? You still have red water? You are sure this won't happen elsewhere?

As far as pressure, which many people complain about, it is only going to get worse if SCWA takes over. "Our water" will then be flowing east and west, not just being used in our town. That is going to have an impact on the pressure.

By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 18 12:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
Oh and by the way:water filter to my fridge I have to change it every 2 months not 6 like is suppose to do it because in less than 2 months gets clogged with the "crystal clear" water provided by HBWD. Doesn't matter if we pay a little more we need clean healthy water to shower,to cook,to drink....
By dany (33), Water Mill on Nov 30, 18 9:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Well said dany! And deserves to be said again

From dany...words of wisdom ...

Doesn't matter if we pay a little more we need clean healthy water to shower,to
And again:
Doesn't matter if we pay a little more we need clean healthy water to shower,to
By Red Flag (51), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 4:46 AM
The deal is already done. Does no one realize that Schneidemans secretary husband is a supervisor at SCWA. Itsfunny. Guy goes from rep, ind and now dem is comical. Just shows how dumb the town is to vote these people in. Been a done deal since June, Mr Schniderman is a complete liar to the town and to the employees in the town. Especially Mr Zappone. They could care less about the workers.Mr Depalma is upset about his buddy losing a town bid. Guy only cares about his buddy and making money. Think ...more
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 11:19 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 11:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
That's an interesting accusation about the "illegal fish market". I drive down that road nearly every day and have never seen this fish market. Where precisely is it?
By dfree (818), hampton bays on Dec 2, 18 2:38 PM
What have you done for HB ....during Jay’s term...the following have started with Town Board support, I dont have the numbers of how many and who voted for what

1 Fisherman pier at Ponquogue
2. CPI was preserved as the H B Community had bumper stickers printed and wanted
3. Good Ground Park and Amphitheater
4, Ponqugoue Beach is being renovated...
I am not Jay’s personal fan club...but these projects were started with Jay as the Supervisor
By Red Flag (51), Southampton on Dec 2, 18 6:10 PM
RedFlag, CPI was approved by a prior Town Board. Good Ground Park and amphitheater also approved by another Town Board.
By Roughrider28 (80), southampton on Dec 3, 18 7:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
These projects were started way before Jay was the Supervisor, GGP is an example of how a project that was supposed to be the catalyst for Main Street redevelopment was bastardized beyond the point of recognition under Jay's leadership. All projects are materially over budget and delayed under Jay's administration.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Dec 3, 18 9:42 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Dec 1, 18 11:45 PM
WOW, CODE Inforcement will have a busy day Monday !! Your friends from the HBWD have illegal apartments as well, ( Robert King).
By Bugal (14), Hampton Bays on Dec 2, 18 10:31 AM
I have lived here since 89 never drank the water never will it does not matter who's running it.
By DP (6), southampton on Dec 2, 18 3:10 PM
Maybe the answer is to replace the entire management team at HBWD with knowledgeable professionals and retain local control??????
Seems to me that SCWA is just too anxious to take over and we'll probably wind up with the short end of the stick no matter how this pans out.
We all deserve drinkable water.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Dec 2, 18 7:39 PM
3 members liked this comment
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Dec 3, 18 9:38 AM
I was at the meeting last week. I suggest that residents attend the next meeting which I believe is December 18th. I also suggest everyone that hasn't yet completed the survey on the TOS website, complete the survey. They only had 300 completed out of approximately 6,000 customers.
By G.A.Lombardi (575), Hampton Bays on Dec 3, 18 9:57 AM
I wish more people cared about what they flush down their sinks. Every household contributes to the contamination. Paints, thinners, hair dye, medications....
By pigroast (100), East Quogue on Dec 3, 18 10:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
We need to start being serious about our water preservation. The items you mention as well as pesticides, etc. Whenever a water treatment facility is mentioned people have a cow. You can't have clean water without change. Regardless of which company runs the water facility.

Its all the same water!!

I'm wondering why the Town Board didn't ask/help/provide the HBWD with what they needed to stay up to date. If in fact they aren't up to date. They over see them...where is the ...more
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 5, 18 12:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
The supervisor offers a path to non polluted water and people think he has a scam? Hampton Bays is stuck in ignorance
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Dec 7, 18 5:14 PM
2 members liked this comment
You believe that SCWA has never had issues with their water quality? Perhaps you should research before you make that blanket statement.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Dec 11, 18 4:25 PM
It’s makes all the sense in the world to have the county manage the water. More dollars, more staff, better water. End of story.
By resident9 (14), hampton bays on Dec 9, 18 11:25 AM
1 member liked this comment
Everyone has to come to the next meeting. The safety of our water in Hampton Bays is important enough to fill that auditorium!!
By 11946HB (8), Hampton Bays on Dec 12, 18 9:32 AM