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Aug 31, 2018 1:42 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Expects Official Proposal From SCWA To Manage Hampton Bays Water System

The Hampton Bays Water District. VALERIE GORDON
Sep 3, 2018 12:26 PM

Within the next two weeks, the Suffolk County Water Authority will present a preliminary proposal to the Southampton Town Board to consider allowing the county-owned entity to take over the day-to-day operations of the Hampton Bays Water District.

However, prior to any potential merger, the district’s entire system would need to undergo a series of upgrades to meet SCWA standards, according to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

“Our system does not meet their standards, in terms of infrastructure,” he said. “They will not run it in its current condition.”

The required upgrades, the cost of which Mr. Schneiderman declined to offer, will include sandblasting and repainting the district’s water tanks to avoid rusting through, as well as installing a $2.6 million iron and manganese filtration system, backup generators, and electric meters.

He estimated that, if approved, the transition and upgrades could be complete by April 2019 at the earliest.

The thought of a new potential filtration system comes less than a year after the district installed a $1 million carbon filtration system at its headquarters. The system, which has been effective in filtering out two unregulated chemicals—perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA—from the district’s drinking water since late July, is not sufficiently filtering out iron and manganese particles, causing some residents’ water to appear brown or murky, Mr. Schneiderman added.

HBWD Superintendent Robert King was forced to shut off three of the district’s 11 wells last year after the levels of PFOS and PFOA found in the drinking water exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards of 70 parts per trillion, or ppt.

Mr. King, who is openly opposed to the SCWA taking over management of the Hampton Bays system, noted on Thursday, August 30, that while he was aware that SCWA officials evaluated the district’s system earlier this month, he was unaware of the recommended infrastructure upgrades. “We don’t know anything about upgrades,” he said.

Regardless of whether or not the Town Board, whose members act as commissioners of the HBWD, decide to move forward with the water authority’s proposal, the upgrades are necessary, Mr. Schneiderman said.

“Most of these [upgrades] will have to happen anyway, whether we go with SCWA or not,” he said. “Those are all things we should be doing regardless.”

He added that should the Town Board choose to enter into an operational agreement with the water authority, the town would maintain ownership of the district’s infrastructure and will continue to set the water rate consumption for those using the service, in exchange for an agreed-upon fee to the SCWA. That fee will be laid out in the authority’s proposal in the coming weeks.

Jeff Szabo, the authority’s CEO, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Mr. Schneiderman explained that the district’s 13 full-time employees would keep their jobs as well as their rates of pay. “That’s a pre-condition,” he said, of any takeover.

Currently, per quarter, an HBWD customer using 3,500 cubic feet, or 26,182 gallons, pays a total of $44.80, including usage fees and other charges, whereas the same amount used by a SCWA customer would cost $46.72.

Additionally, Hampton Bays homeowners are charged, on average, an annual fee of $155 per household on their tax bill, which goes toward funding general maintenance and debt service, according to Mr. Schneiderman.

Essentially, those taxpayers would be responsible for the cost of any upgrades, which would be split between the water consumption rate and pre-existing annual fee. However, it’s unknown whether the cost would decrease, increase or stay the same, Mr. Schneiderman said.

“I believe the two together would be approximately the same,” he estimated. “Within two weeks, we will have a pretty good sense of what we’re getting and how much it’s costing.”

In addition to money, Mr. Schneiderman said his biggest concern is water quality and the health of the district’s patrons.

He pointed to a recent onslaught of issues within the district—including the PFOA/PFOS contamination, water pressure and discoloration complaints, as well as a recent water main break under the Ponquogue Bridge near the Shinnecock Canal—noting that merging with the water authority could potentially eliminate those problems.

“They’ve been rocked this year with a series of problems,” he said of the district’s employees. “Black water coming out of people’s faucets has left the community with more questions than answers. They’re unsure if they can drink the water—whether it’s safe—and they don’t know who to trust anymore. It’s created a setting where people are wondering if SCWA would resolve some of those issues.”

One issue it’s sure to resolve is the time it takes to get water testing results. With in-house engineers and an in-house laboratory, SCWA can turn around test results in a matter of days, whereas in the past it’s taken six weeks.

“I look at it, as a commissioner, that we should at least see what their proposal is, weigh it against the current operation, and then make an informed decision,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

As commissioner, the supervisor shares Mr. King’s main concern: “Are we losing control over our resource?”

Mr. King said he doesn’t have any doubt. “The board knows how I feel,” he said. “This is owned and operated by the people of Hampton Bays, and after the amount of money that the people have dumped into this water district … I hate to see them lose that.”

He added that in recent weeks he has received multiple calls from residents opposing the SCWA’s takeover. “It should be up to the people of Hampton Bays.”

The community, however, seems divided on the issue.

According to Vice President of SI-TEX Marine Electronics in Riverhead, Allen Schneider, the HBWD has been “doing a great job for decades.”

The lifelong hamlet resident noted that it wasn’t until recently that the district ran into problems with the hamlet’s water supply and was quick to jump on rectifying the situation with the installation of the carbon filtration system.

“They have taken the needed action to address the problems, and the well fields are back online,” he said. “This same problem could have easily happened to the SCWA. As well, they do not have a magic crystal ball to foresee the future. If we stay independent, we can deal with our own problems on a local level.”

However, residents Dena Janesh, who moved to Hampton Bays in June, and Shelley Borkoski, who moved to the hamlet approximately six years ago, don’t share Mr. Schneider’s fondness of the water district.

The two worked together to form a community group titled “Hampton Bays Clean Water,” urging the Southampton Town Board to move forward with allowing the SCWA to gain control of the water district.

Pointing to the recent contamination of the district’s water, Ms. Borkoski argued that the HBWD was less than transparent when it came to disclosing information about the steps to remove the chemicals in the water.

“This has not been handled correctly,” she said. “We deserve to have some answers.”

She noted that members of the Hampton Bays Clean Water group have even threatened to stop paying their water bills in protest.

Additionally, the group plans to meet with members of the Town Board, including Mr. Schneiderman, on September 14 at 7 p.m. at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church on Terrace Drive, to discuss the water crisis. “This is a serious health risk—we need to have information,” Ms. Borkoski said.

Mr. Schneiderman explained that the Town Board plans to hold a number of public hearings to discuss the potential merger between the SCWA and the HBWD to get a general consensus of what the community wants.

“It seems the public is willing to consider having this larger entity manage its water supply,” he said. “I mean, what’s more crucial than the water we drink?”

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Just remember, if the HBWD is taken over by the SCWA you will see an increase in your water bills, and they will continue to increase and there will be no turning back to HBWD. HBWD is not the only water district having problems but at least when a homeowner is having an issue, the HBWD responds immediately, not going to happen with the SCWD.
By Resident tax (125), Hampton bays ny on Aug 31, 18 2:29 PM
You are wrong. When you combine the tax that the people of HB pay with the water bills, the people of HB pay a lot more total for their water than SCWA. What is atrocious is that even though we have been paying more for years , our infrastructure still doesn’t meet the minimum safety requirements. The extra money that we pay has gone into the pockets of Mr King and the other HB Water leadership, instead of to the needed upgrades.
By Bayman (22), Hampton Bays on Aug 31, 18 3:40 PM
Oh it will go up. Guess what the fire house will now have to pay to rent the hydrants which means our fire department tax will at least double. Good ole Schneiderman knows he is gonna get smoked in the next election and needs a easy job as a commissioner of scwa. Good luck HB worst decision for you guys. Bayman who were the water district commissioners all these years? Oh that’s right the dead beats in town hall who have done nothing or even showed their face. Just another left wing move. ...more
By watchoutnow968 (5), Southampton on Aug 31, 18 5:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
You are right, past Town Boards have neglected their responsibility as Hampton Bays Water Commissioners. As a result we have an unsafe water supply. The current Town Board is taking the steps to permanently fix the problems caused by decades of neglect. We now have to spend millions just to get the infrastructure to a minimum acceptable level for professionals at SCWA to manage it. It is painful but must be done.
By Bayman (22), Hampton Bays on Sep 2, 18 8:53 AM
Oh it will go up. Guess what the fire house will now have to pay to rent the hydrants which means our fire department tax will at least double. Good ole Schneiderman knows he is gonna get smoked in the next election and needs a easy job as a commissioner of scwa. Good luck HB worst decision for you guys. Bayman who were the water district commissioners all these years? Oh that’s right the dead beats in town hall who have done nothing or even showed their face. Just another left wing move. ...more
By watchoutnow968 (5), Southampton on Aug 31, 18 5:17 PM
Also let me ask all you people? If you don’t think this is on a political agenda for Schneiderman you are just a bunch of confused folks. Was gonna see if he would be at the Kentucky derby next year going for the triple crown. He went from republican, independent and now democrat. What a joker you people voted in.
By watchoutnow968 (5), Southampton on Aug 31, 18 5:28 PM
What was the question?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (3901), HAMPTON BAYS on Sep 1, 18 12:56 AM
1 member liked this comment
You like the brown water ?
By pw herman (1098), southampton on Sep 4, 18 10:35 AM
Wake up the water is in jeopardy and run by the who's who of idiots in Hampton Bays.
By chief1 (2518), southampton on Aug 31, 18 7:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
Schneiderman selling HB out on his way out if town.
By HB90 (150), southampton on Aug 31, 18 11:33 PM
HB has been sole out by the current local incompetent and arrogant leadership of the water district.
By HB salvation (8), Hampton bays on Sep 2, 18 1:10 PM
Great to hear the comments from both sides of the HB water problem. But an opinion is not needed. What is needs is....clean and healthy water!. Water is essential for our life and the future of our children! OUr children deserve a healthy future from our efforts now. Our water supplier must have a knowledgeable and competent staff. They must be trained and keep their training current with information from the other government agencies that oversee the quality of our drinking water. We must ...more
By Red Flag (4), HamptonBays on Sep 3, 18 8:38 PM
Why should we sue and get reimbursed because the local idiot cant figure out chemicals need to be stored in containers not the ground. Is anyone ever responsible when they work for the govt?
By chief1 (2518), southampton on Sep 4, 18 5:40 PM
What credentials do the supervisors have?
By knitter (1438), Southampton on Sep 5, 18 12:48 PM
As long as they don’t dress the water tower up in an Afghan burqa like they did last time we should all be okay.
By SDG1776 (91), Southampton on Sep 5, 18 9:05 PM
Hampton Bays Rotary, Autumn Evening by the Sea, Joyce Oakland, Oaklands Restaurant