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Nov 27, 2018 2:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Water Mains Bring Clean Drinking Water, And Financial Considerations

Nov 27, 2018 3:10 PM

The Suffolk County Water Authority has installed nearly 90 percent of the 45,000 feet of new water mains it has planned for southern Wainscott, part of a partnership with East Hampton Town to bring relief to neighborhoods with contaminated groundwater supplies.

Most of the remaining work to be done will be beneath private roadways, for which the authority is still working out easements, and a spokesman said the SCWA expects to be completely finished with the installations by the end of December.

So far, just 70 of the more than 520 homes that will be able to connect to the new mains have done so. Another 47 more are awaiting crews to complete the hook-ups. More than 200 other homeowners told the SCWA they planned to hook up to the mains but have yet to do so.

But homeowners have found that connecting to the mains leaves them with some financial figuring to do before they can tie into the new water supply, because of the high cost of government contracts.

After more than 100 wells in southern Wainscott were found to be contaminated with the chemicals PFOS and PFOA, East Hampton Town pledged to cover the cost of having the SCWA install new water mains to the region, and it received a $9.7 million grant from the state to fund the costs of the mains themselves.

But homeowners must run new connection lines from their homes to the mains. While the town cannot legally pay for those connections too, it has offered to put up the initial costs and amortize them into property taxes over 20 years.

In order to accomplish that, however, the connection work must be done by a contractor that meets all government employment, purchasing and insurance requirements, which drives up the costs. Private contractors, who do not have to prove that their wages and materials purchases meet a variety of fairness criteria, can charge far less.

“It can be three to five times more expensive, depending on the property,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said of hiring a government-approved contractor. “They have to meet all the government procurement requirements, including paying prevailing wage and insurance. That’s what drives up the cost of all government projects—whether it’s installing pipes or putting the roof on a building. It’s an eye-opener.”

Indeed, some residents have reported that the cost for connecting their house to the mains quoted to them by Asplundh, the contractor hired by the water authority, has been $10,000 or more, while a private plumber put the cost at a fraction of that.

“The SCWA asked $12,000 to put in a line from the curb to my house—two different plumbers gave me estimates at $2,500 for the same work,” recalled Wainscott resident Steven Gaines. “Now, SCWA has subcontracted with the company from Texas to put in the water meters at $6,000 for a meter. Where is the average citizen supposed to find $18,000 for clean water?”

The difference is that, by hiring a private contractor, homeowners must absorb the full installation cost themselves. If they agree to pay the higher price, however, the town will front the costs and spread the burden out over 20 years.

“We have advised people to weigh their options, and the water authority has done the same,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “If someone is planning on selling their home in a few years, they might be wise to amortize it. But if you’re going to be living there for 20 years, it’s probably worth it to pay for it themselves now.”

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After reading this article, I think HB residents (myself included) may want to re-think our support for SCWA to take over our water supply system.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Nov 28, 18 5:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
I support SCWA after the meeting today set up by the Southampton Town Board.

HBWD is an embarrassment and is more concerned about their jobs than the quality of water provided to the community. HBWD (Robert King) did not have a statement or even a single word of information or explanation to the community tonight.

HBWD has not taken any responsibility nor the SHTB for the lack of exchange of key information between each of them to keep the quality of water safe.
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on Nov 29, 18 12:04 AM