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Feb 16, 2016 9:05 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Board Discusses Sewer District Options With Designers

Westhampton Beach Village Board members work to define the sewer district service area with H2M Senior Vice President Frank Russo (left) on Thursday, February 11. GREG WEHNER
Feb 17, 2016 8:36 AM

Westhampton Beach Village Board members were quick to get the ball rolling on their municipality’s sewer district plan.

A week after tapping Melville-based H2M Architects and Engineers to create both a map and proposal for the village, board members met with company architects at Village Hall last Thursday, February 11, to iron out specific details of the plan, including potential sites for a new sewage treatment plant if the village eventually opts to construct its own. The other option on the table is having the village connect its sewer district with the treatment plant that’s already operating at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton—one also designed by H2M.

As part of that $71,000 investment, $11,000 has already been earmarked for another study that will be completed by Dr. Christopher Gobler, a marine science professor at Stony Brook Southampton, that will specifically focus on ongoing nitrogen-loading into nearby Moniebogue Canal and Moniebogue Bay. It should also identify how a wastewater treatment facility will help improve the quality of both water bodies, information that the village will need in order to apply and possibly secure grant money to help cover the cost of the project, which is expected to run in the millions, according to Frank Russo, senior vice president and director of wastewater engineering at H2M.

Though the process is still in its infancy, one of the first things the board set out to accomplish at last week’s meeting was to define the boundaries of the sewer district’s service area. According to rough drawings, the district would include all of Main Street, the east side of Mitchell Road, the west side of Library Avenue and the south side of Mill Road between Sunset Avenue and Main Street.

As part of the study, H2M officials will attempt to estimate the related connection and usage fees for the sewer district. They will also try to determine what properties should be included and excluded from the district’s boundaries.

Though he thinks that the entire village should eventually be hooked up to sewers, Mr. Russo recommended that the board start out small, focusing on a specific area, in order to increase its chances of obtaining grant money to construct a treatment plant. Mr. Russo also suggested that the board leave residential properties out of the equation for the preliminary phase of their undertaking.

“We’re not going to address every pound of nitrogen in the village,” Village Board member Brian Tymann said. “We’re looking for low-hanging fruit.”

Pumping the sewage from the downtown business district to the Suffolk County-owned airport to the north would save the village the cost of building its own treatment plant. But that option has its own additional costs, such as the need for additional piping and pump stations, on top of the $30 per gallon sewage connection fee, according to Mr. Russo. He added that, in the long term, it would be cheaper for the village to build its own plant either within the village or right on its outskirts.

If they eventually opt to go with that option, board members will then have to decide where in the village would best suit such a facility. The plant itself would require about one and a half acres of space, Mr. Russo said. It would also require at least a 200-foot buffer on all sides, meaning that the chosen lot must be at least five acres, according to Westhampton Beach Village Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan.

At last week’s meeting, Mr. Russo initially suggested that the board bury the facility and locate it under the Great Lawn, which sits just off the corner of Main Street and Potunk Lane. That suggestion was nearly immediately shot down due to covenants on the land, which the village acquired using Community Preservation Fund money.

“The Great Lawn was purchased with CPF money, and CPF properties are highly restricted as to what can be done on them,” Mr. Tymann said in an email. “I don’t think that CPF property is an option, unless they change the language of that legislation to allow for advanced sewage treatment to be done on their properties,” he added, referring to Southampton Town officials.

Another property up for consideration is the privately owned Westhampton Country Club, located across from the Great Lawn. One of the benefits of that plan, officials said, is that the club could reuse the treated water to irrigate the golf course. Village Board member Rob Rubio said country club officials are at least open to the idea at this point.

But when approached this week about such a scenario, Rob Eldon, the general manager of the Westhampton Country Club, said he was not aware of any such proposition. He declined to comment further on the suggestion until he could learn more about the project. He did note, however, that any final decision would be made by club members.

Another property up for consideration is the current Department of Public Works yard that sits off Old Riverhead Road, just south of the airport. While this property has the amount of space needed, there could be issues with putting the sewage treatment plant there because of its proximity to the Pine Barrens, according to Village Board member Ralph Urban.

One location that was not discussed last week, but brought up in previous meetings, is the former DPW property on South Country Road on Quiogue, a 13-acre lot that the village still owns. “It’s still something that’s on the table,” Mr. Tymann said. “Basically, everything is on the table at this point because the map and plan hasn’t even begun.

“Once they begin that process, certain properties will quickly be crossed off the list and we will begin narrowing our options,” he continued.

If the village does decide to plug into Gabreski, smaller properties in the village might end up serving as pump stations, according to Mr. Tymann.

“One thing I can say with complete confidence is that we are not going to be building a big, smelly, unsightly [sewage treatment plant] in an inappropriate spot with a rusty chain-link fence around it,” he said. “This is going to be well thought out, it will keep the character of the village intact, and it will benefit all of the village directly or indirectly.”

The idea of creating a sewer district in Westhampton Beach dates back a decade though that effort, spearheaded by former Village Trustee Tim Laube, focused on connecting with the plant at Gabreski. In exchange for that allowance, the village would have had to allow the construction of affordable housing along the west side of Old Riverhead Road. That plan failed to gain any traction.

As part of their study, H2M officials will look into whether any similar stipulations would come into play if the village still wants to hook up with the Gabreski plant, Mr. Russo said. He does not think that is the case, however.

“We need to let H2M do their research and legwork to explore many options, and then we will evaluate them based on cost and benefit,” Mr. Tymann said.

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A sewer treatment plant across from the Country Club, WOW. Lets see how that goes over with the people who pay most of the taxes in the Village. Also no residences being considered- only the wealthy real estate owners? WOW. Possibly the Village can invest in land for the plant and pumping stations next to the Mayor and Trustees houses. Finally spending tens and tens of thousands of $$ and they have N0- Nada- Zero- idea of the potential cost and potential grant $$. That's a big WOW.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Feb 16, 16 12:26 PM
1. Across from the Country Club is officially off the table.
2. Residences aren't part of it because:
a) It will make the entire project too expensive
b) Most of them don't need it - their septic systems are not causing a problem like the downtown businesses are
c) Residents like you probably won't want to pay to hook up to it, so why would we include residences? The sewage problem exists downtown only, right near the water. That's where we will likely install sewers. Pretty straightforward.
3. ...more
By briantymann (31), westhampton beach on Feb 19, 16 10:54 AM
Thank You for replying. I still can believe tens of millions of dollars will be spent for a few business's who only really operate 3 or 4 months a year or a grant will be provided for this. But I am just "Realistic". If part of a grant will be given and the balance supported by tax payers who will never benefit from the sewers that's a thing I belie taxpayers should decide in a vote. I still believe (being Realistic) the majority of the supposed pollution is simple fertilizer and basic road ...more
By realistic (472), westhampton on Feb 20, 16 8:25 PM
Westhampton Beach residents needn't be concerned with the cost of the sewer. No doubt the Honorable Lee Zeldin will come through with federal financial assistance as he has so often in the past.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 17, 16 9:52 AM
I believe the intent of the village is to gather as much information as possible while keeping the public apprised every step of the way. If anyone is interested in learning why sewers are such a hot topic right now - not only in our village but county and Island-wide - there are a lot of excellent resources including the LI Clean Water Partnership's website, as well as the DEC's LI Nitrogen Action Plan. Information is power.
By Patti Schaefer (12), Westhampton Beach on Feb 21, 16 5:58 PM
Exactly Patti Schaefer. So if you read the report fertilizers, road run off. Etc would be banned. Main Street WHB would be moved to higher groumd. Everyone would have a sewerage treatment plant. But WHB officials are "selling" this as a way to increase traffic and business on Main Street in a town with a population that leaves for basically 9 months of the year. Look at all the vacancies in and around the Village limits. Do you think thats a result of not having sewers? Do you really think ...more
By realistic (472), westhampton on Feb 22, 16 8:43 PM
Realistic - give me a call or email me, I'd love to discuss this with you. btymann@westhamptonbeach.org
Thanks. Look forward to hearing from you.
By briantymann (31), westhampton beach on Feb 25, 16 9:33 AM
Realistic - assuming you want to remain anonymous, you could email me from an unknown email address. However, I'm going to take a guess and assume that you won't, otherwise you'd use your real name in your comments. That said, here is a list of responses to your comments:
1. Fertilizers and storm drainage is next on our list to tackle. But addressing the sewerage entering the bay from downtown is a much more important first step. I can show you video and data confirming this.
2. We're not ...more
By briantymann (31), westhampton beach on Feb 27, 16 10:30 AM