Residents ask for contamination issues to be addressed before ground freezes

East Quogue Calls For Water Fix

The Damascus Road landfill in East Quogue has been a cause of concern since earlier this year when water tests discovered chemicals at levels well above federal advisory levels. Independent/Desirée Keegan

East Quogue residents are calling for urgency in dealing with the hamlet’s drinking water problems.

Jessica Insalaco asked the Southampton Town Board to act swiftly and finance a hookup to get residents affected by contaminated drinking water to get connected to a public main before winter sets in and the ground freezes.

“If it gets too cold and the ground turns frozen it could take months and months and months,” Insalaco told the town board on November 13. “The Suffolk County Water Authority said it could take just a month to lay down a new water main.”

In February, the state Department of Environmental Conservation found the chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid, commonly known as PFOS, at levels 150 times the federal health advisory limit at the former Damascus Road landfill in East Quogue. The testing was conducted as part of a broader state investigation into how pollution from closed landfills affects groundwater.

Forty-four homes can currently access clean drinking water, but there’s an $1850 tap-in fee, plus thousands of dollars in plumbing costs to connect a home. Insalaco said she’d venture to say a significant portion of the 106 other properties in the area could not afford the cost, either.

“I know several people personally who cannot afford to do that, even though the water main is in front of their house,” she said. “It could be 100 feet away and it’s a million miles away. Let’s get people feeling confident in their drinking water again.”

Kevin McAllister, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Defend H20, said he hopes the town can follow in the footsteps of East Hampton Town which had to deal with a similar issue of contaminated water in Wainscott earlier this year.

“Wainscott’s issue provides precedence,” said McAllister, whose organization works to protect and restore the environmental quality of groundwater, surface waters, wetlands, and beaches on and around Long Island. “Community Preservation Fund capital to provide water mains to address this issue is extremely important. We can quibble about point of origin, and we do need to find that out. I applaud the town board for exploring this further, but nevertheless, there is contamination.”

The town is still doing testing near the old landfill to see if it is the source of contamination, or if the water is being polluted by a neighboring property.

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the town applied for a grant to clean up the Damascus Road site, and said if the town is not successful with acquiring the grant, its second option would be to look into using the CPF, as East Hampton is doing in Wainscott.