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Mar 1, 2016 3:04 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Board Members Discuss Possible Options For Sewage Treatment Plant In Westhampton Beach

As part of an effort to look into the possibility of sewering Westhampton Beach, Village officials are seeking locations big enough to house a sewage treatment plant, as well as the possibility of tapping into the Suffolk County-run Gabreski Airport sewage plant.
Mar 2, 2016 12:34 PM

After hiring Melville-based H2M Architects and Engineers to create an outline and map for a sewer district, Westhampton Beach Village Board members have been working to narrow down potential sites for the required sewage treatment plant—if they eventually opt to construct a new one.

The other option on the table—and the one that Mayor Maria Moore already thinks is the best of the lot—is to have the village connect its sewer district, which would primarily service the downtown business district, with the treatment plant that is already operating at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. That plant is also designed by H2M and is currently operating at 20 percent capacity.

Though they are far from making a final decision on whether to tap the plant at Gabreski or build their own, village officials appear to be seriously considering four potential sites for a new plant. Those locations include the current Westhampton Beach Department of Public Works yard that sits just south of the Westhampton airport; the former DPW yard off South Country Road on Quiogue; the village-owned parking lot on Mill Road that sits behind the new Westhampton Beach Firehouse still under construction; and the Westhampton Country Club on Potunk Lane.

If they decide to build a plant close to the downtown business district, requiring that it be installed either in the Mill Road parking lot or the country club, village officials said the facility would be hidden underground, reducing its visual impact.

According to rough drawings, the proposed district would service 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.

Board members have already rejected the suggestion that the sewage treatment plant could be sited under the Great Lawn, on land previously preserved by the village using Community Preservation Funds.

Like the mayor, Village Trustee Brian Tymann thinks that connecting with the preexisting treatment plant at Gabreski Airport could be the best option rather than placing a new facility so close to the business district. The downside to that proposal is that whatever money the village would save from not building its own plant—a proposition that is estimated to cost millions—would have to be invested in laying several miles of pipe to connect the district with the airport facility.

Fellow board member Rob Rubio said he thinks that the village would be better off building its own treatment plant, though he would prefer to see one installed as far away from the water as possible. Presently, some of the cesspools serving local businesses often sit in saltwater due to the high water table off Main Street.

Board member Ralph Urban this week declined to offer his opinion on what he thinks is the best option for the village to pursue, while fellow board member Charles Palmer did not return multiple calls seeking his opinion.

Ms. Moore, Mr. Tymann and Mr. Rubio, meanwhile, say they are eagerly awaiting the completion of H2M’s study which, among other things, is supposed to estimate how much the system would cost and how much sewage the corresponding plant would have to be able to treat on a daily basis.

“I love the fact that H2M is exploring alternatives,” Mr. Tymann said in an email. “It’s very smart and it’s the right thing to do. I think that the process should be to look all around the sewer district for sites and then move outward.”

Gabreski Airport

The sewage treatment plant at Gabreski Airport was constructed in 1999, and has the ability to handle an estimated 100,000 gallons of waste per day, though, according to Frank Russo, senior vice president and director of wastewater engineering at H2M, it is operating only at around 20 percent capacity at the moment. Presently, the plant, which sits on the south side of the airport, services the airport, the Air National Guard base and the companies located at the nearby industrial park along Old Riverhead Road.

John Donovan, the chief engineer of sanitation at the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, directed all questions about the plant to the county’s public relations department, which did not return a call seeking additional information about the plant, including how much space is currently available.

If it ultimately decides to connect with the plant, the village would have to pay Suffolk County a one-time connection fee of $30 per gallon; the exact cost is not known at this time, as the ongoing study is supposed to estimate daily output from Westhampton Beach, Mr. Russo said. The village would also be responsible for installing nearly two miles of sewer lines from the airport to the downtown business district.

In addition to the pipes, the village would also have to pay for the installation of several pumping stations along Old Riverhead Road, facilities that will pull the waste north from the village and to the processing plant.

Still, Ms. Moore said she thinks connecting with the Gabreski plant is the best option because it is already operational. She noted that the facility could be expanded—if that is ever required.

Mr. Tymann agrees that Gabreski is an appealing option, though he thinks that, at this juncture, it might prove to be cheaper to build a facility closer to the village.

“I am not optimistic that we will find the right spot elsewhere,” Mr. Tymann said in an email. “I hope that I’m wrong, but other than Gabreski being relatively far from the district (resulting in high transport costs), it’s a very good option.”

He also acknowledges that the airport site would be the easiest sell among village residents. “As of right now, I only see one location that really shouldn’t reasonably upset anyone, and that’s at or near Gabreski,” Mr. Tymann said.

DPW Yard

The village purchased the 7 acres that now houses its Department of Public Works yard, located just south of Gabreski Airport, from Suffolk County in 2001. The property offers more than enough space to accommodate a new treatment plant, a facility that would require about 1.5 acres of space, according to Mr. Russo.

While the yard has ample space for a sewage treatment plant, Village Planner Kyle Collins has pointed out at past meetings the property’s proximity to the Pine Barrens could create issues in securing approval for such a facility. Also, with this option, the village would still have to install nearly 2 miles of associated piping, as well as several pump stations, possibly making it the most expensive option.

Former DPW Yard

Though there has not been a lot of public discussion, officials are also considering the former Westhampton Beach Department of Public Works yard, which is located off South Country Road on Quiogue, as a possible site for a treatment plant, according to Mr. Tymann.

The now vacant 13-acre property sits close to the southeast edge of Gabreski Airport and has enough space to house the treatment plant while also providing estimated 200-foot buffers on all sides.

The downside to that location is that in addition to building a new plant, the village would have to install nearly 2 miles of piping and the associated pumping stations. Also, the village moved its DPW yard nearly a decade earlier because it had been located in a largely residential neighborhood. The are also concerns about older contamination that might have to be addressed.

At prior meetings Mr. Russo has suggested that it would be cheaper for the village, if it opts to construct its own plant, to build it as close to the business district as possible.

Westhampton Country Club

The country club that sits off Potunk Lane, just west of Main Street, offers plenty of open space for a plant—though getting members of the private club to agree to such a proposal could prove to be the largest obstacle.

If it is somehow able to reach an agreement, the village would be able to bury the sewage treatment plant, hiding most of it from public view, according to Mr. Russo. In fact, he said such a facility could blend in so well that members of the 42-acre golf course would have a hard time locating it.

The appeal of the proposal, he added, is that the treated water could be used to irrigate the golf course, essentially making it a closed system. The village, meanwhile, would potentially save millions by not having to install pumping stations along with several miles of piping.

Mr. Rubio has said that country club officials are open to the idea though Rob Eldon, the general manager, said previously that the topic would have to be discussed among club members.

Mill Road Parking Lot

The final option now under consideration involves building the sewage treatment plant in—or, more specifically, under—the section of the Mill Road parking lot that sits behind the new firehouse, where the Westhampton Beach Farmers Market is held during the spring, summer and fall.

But its proximity to the downtown business district could prove to be both positive and negative, officials said.

On one hand, the location would enable the village to save money by not having to install pumping stations or lay extensive piping. But the flip side is that there are leaching pools under the lot that, Mr. Tymann noted, would have to be removed and relocated if the village ultimately decides to build a plant there.

Still, Mr. Rubio said it should not be too difficult to relocate the leaching pools, if the village opts to pursue the option.

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Love to be a fly on the wall at that Country Club meeting. Still can't believe no one has any idea the potential cost or the amount the Feds will pay for. They did hire a "top notch" firm who has done this before. If the Feds pay for all then do the whole Village. Why stop at the Main Street Stores. If they don't pay I calculate the cost at about $25 mil per mile and $10 mil per pumping station. So that looks like a bill big for us taxpayers if they don't pay. Google sewers and pumping stations ...more
By realistic (472), westhampton on Mar 1, 16 7:40 PM