East Hampton Town will get a state grant for $9.7 million to help pay for bringing public water to Wainscott. The water in the hamlet is laced with contaminates that officials believe emanated from East Hampton Airport. Scores of the private wells tested have turned up water that tested above safe limits.
The grant is part of an initiative from Governor Andrew Cuomo to address drinking water statewide after concerns voiced in numerous communities. In all, $200 million has been set aside.
The money does not ease the burden for Wainscott residents who must still pay to have the water main run from the street to their houses and for filter upgrades recommended for their wells.
But it will lessen the burden on taxpayers who have to repay the town for the price of the public water hookup. Though the town laid out the money for the Suffolk County Water Authority, Wainscott residents and East Hampton Town taxpayers will split the cost of the payback over 10 years.
According to Tim Motz of the Suffolk County Water Authority, as of October 4, about 56 percent of the water mains needed to supply Wainscott with public water had been installed. So far, 298 of the 520 residents eligible for hook-up have signed on to the program.
The health effects of the contaminants, PFOS and PFOA, have been found increasingly in communities around the country, especially those near airports and U.S. Air Force facilities. One of the chemicals’ main uses is to put out engine fires in jet aircraft.
So far, the contaminants have been found in Westhampton Beach near Gabreski Airport, and Hampton Bays and Yaphank near firefighting training centers.
Wainscott residents affected by the tainted wells have been given bottled water and had charcoal filters installed, but await a permanent fix public water from SCWA that will replace individual wells throughout the hamlet. The total cost will be about $24 million, officials estimate.
Some Wainscott residents have filed a Class Action lawsuit against the town and others are looking into the possibility of making Wainscott an incorporated village.
“Wainscott residents will now have a drinking water supply that will be safe and reliable,” said SCWA chairman James Gaughran of the New York State grant.
“This is a big plus for East Hampton taxpayers. It’s the right thing to do for the state to step in,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.