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Dec 10, 2018 3:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Officials Consider Funding Water Main Extension In East Quogue

Dec 11, 2018 2:27 PM

Southampton Town officials are looking at ways to pay for water main extensions in East Quogue to reach areas with homes with well water that has become contaminated with toxic chemicals.

In April 2018, elevated levels of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, were found in a monitoring well near a former landfill site at the end of Damascus Road in East Quogue.

The discovery led to the testing of private drinking wells of more than 100 homes near the former landfill. The site, which has been inactive for nearly 30 years and is owned by the town, was used as a dumping ground for people to drop off storm debris.

Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the town delivered bottled water to the properties facing potentially high levels of contaminants. But that was just a temporary solution.

Town officials now are weighing the option of having the Suffolk County Water Authority extend water mains in the area to those homes with contaminated wells. According to Mr. Schneiderman, that would come with a nearly $1 million price tag, not including the additional costs that homeowners would face to tap into the water main, a service fee and a surcharge.

He said there are approximately 100 private wells in the area where the contamination was found. If everyone in the area connected to the water main—including those who already have mains installed nearby but haven’t already connected to them, and homes without wells where PFOS was detected—it would cost roughly $3 million.

Homeowners would be responsible for the costs of tapping into the new main, but the town is looking for a way to help out. Mr. Schneiderman said the town is exploring a mechanism where the town lays out the money for the homes to connect to the water main, and then taxes the residents to pay the money back over time.

The Town of East Hampton, in August, began installing water mains in Wainscott to address the presence of PFOA and PFOS in drinking wells. The project is expected to take four months and cost $24 million. Residents ultimately will pay for the project; only the residents in the areas receiving the new mains will be taxed over time to pay for the installation of the mains, as well as the cost of individual connections.

Southampton Town Assistant Attorney Kathleen Murray told Mr. Schneiderman and the rest of the Town Board members at a work session last week that there were two possible ways to tax residents of Southampton Town for the water main extension in East Quogue.

The first would be to set up a taxing district, and only tax those homeowners who benefit from the water main extension. The other would be to tax everyone in the entire town, outside of villages, to come up with the money.

Board members favored that plan spreading the cost to all town residents.

But town officials are not sure whether the town would be allowed to pay for portions of the project that, historically, have been up to the homeowner to pay—such as the cost of connecting individually to the water main. The town attorney’s office is looking into that.

On Monday, Mr. Schneiderman said the town was applying for a grant that could cover the cost of the water main installation. The application is due in January. He also said a bill is currently in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo that would allow Community Preservation Fund money to be used to extend water mains and connect homes.

Whichever mechanism the board chooses, it could be used for future situations where contaminants are found and the water mains need to be extended.

Town officials are expected to discuss the topic at a future work session.

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