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Mar 6, 2018 5:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Will Pay For Water Filters In Wainscott While County Water Is Installed

The existing Suffolk County Water Mains in Wainscott. East Hampton Town officials have estimated that it will cost some $16 million to install new mains in areas that do not already have them to address well contamination. Courtesy the Suffolk County Water Authority
Mar 6, 2018 5:42 PM

East Hampton Town lawmakers said this week that they support a town initiative to install water filters at any Wainscott home with a groundwater well where chemical contamination has been detected, while the town also hastes to have Suffolk County Water Authority mains extended into neighborhoods that do not already have them.

At Tuesday's work session a majority of the Town Board members said they would be in favor of the town funding and organizing an effort to get water filters for the 118 homes that have already had contaminants found in their wells, and any others that may be still be identified, to protect residents until county water mains can be installed—a process that will likely take years.

"I strongly believe that we can't just wait for public water," Councilman Jeff Bragman said. "My feeling is we have a responsibility to act decisively. Getting filters to everyone now is the type of thing government should do."

"If there's any good news here, it's that carbon filters at the point of entry are very effective," Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc added, speaking of the contamination by PFOS/PFOA chemicals detected in wells scattered throughout neighborhoods in Wainscott south of East Hampton Airport. "I do support taking immediate action. We'd likely have to declare a state of emergency ... but I think that's where we are. I don't think we can wait."

Mr. Bragman said that the filters needed cost about $3,000 each at retail price, but board members surmised that public bidding would likely bring the cost down. The filters also have to be replaced annually, which could cost as much as $1,000 also.

Mr. Bragman told members of the Wainscott Citizens Advisory Committee last weekend that the cost of bringing county water mains to all of the houses in the region where contaminants have been found in wells could be as much as $16 million. Board members on Tuesday reiterated their support for a town-funded effort to drive that project forward as fast as possible, even if town property is ultimately found not to be the source of the pollution.

Town grant writers have begun preparing an application for up to $10 million in state aid from a water quality improvement fund, though that funding would likely be a year away still. It could also tap a large revolving fund that makes very low interest loans for capital projects to pay for the extension of the mains.

The chemicals were first detected in Wainscott wells last summer and to date 118 have been found to have some levels of the chemicals in them. Nine have been found to have levels that exceed Environmental Protection Agency warnings but Mr. Bragman noted that very little is known about what concentrations of the chemicals represent a real danger. New Jersey sets its safety level at just 13 parts per trillion, compared to the EPA level of 70 parts per trillion. New York recently began a study of the chemicals’ health hazards but has no minimum standard currently.

The source of the pollution has yet to be identified. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is in the early stages of an analysis to identify the origin. Some have pointed to the storage of fire retardant foams that contain the chemicals at a training facility on the East Hampton Airport property.

There are 398 homes with wells in the region identified as being at risk from the contamination "slug." Thus far 244 have been tested for contaminants, but the town has not been able to contact the owners of the more than 100 not yet tested. Mr. Van Scoyoc said that the scattered nature of the wells that have had hits for some level of contamination is thought to be due to the differing depths of well bores and the narrow area of the groundwater table that is apparently carrying the contamination.

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