The Southampton Town Board may soon authorize the expenditure of half the Hampton Bays Water District’s reserve fund to start tackling long overdue and much-needed infrastructure upgrades.
The board, acting as the district’s commissioners, is expected to vote on the spending measure when it meets on July 23. The money will be used to begin preparing bid and design documents for an iron and manganese filtration system at wellfield four to deal with discolored water, the internal resurfacing of tank 4-2 to repair chipping, and installation of a booster pump to correct water pressure problems.
Representatives with the water district, vice president of H2M Architects + Engineers John Collins, the town board, and others agreed that a $3 million filtration system is sorely needed. Maintenance crew leader Warren Booth said recent water testing showed well 4-1 at a combined iron and manganese concentration of 0.51 mg/L, and well 4-2 at 1.30 mg/L, both exceeding the state limit of
Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera raised concerns over doing anything prior to receiving a 10-year capital improvement plan from D & B Engineers and Architects, a company hired by the board in March to assess the condition of the district’s infrastructure and prioritize items needing attention. Town Comptroller Len Marchese said he was told the findings would be ready in August, but after speaking with a representative, said he was told the item is high on their priority list. Suffolk County Water Authority also had the filtration system as one of the top three concerns to be tackled immediately.
Another way to potentially solve the problem is to drill two new wells deeper than the originals. First, a $100,000 test well would need to be put in. Between getting the design in order, a contract negotiated, the well constructed, and water samples back from the lab, the district may run out of time to get the issue solved by next summer. The results, according to Collins, could very well come back worse based on the history of the site. The two wells would cost $2.5 million to install. James Kappers, a maintenance crew leader, said it would be a waste of the $200,000 already spent to refurbish the wells.
“They’re cleaned out and ready to go,” he said. “If we put two new wells in, it’s like we’re throwing money out the window, because we will be abandoning those two sites.” Collins said a filtration system is a “no-brainer.”
“With the iron filtration system, it’s two clean wells that you never have to think about again,” Collins said. “And the iron is not 1.0, it’s not .5. It’s zero.”
The chipping of well 4-2, a one million gallon tank, has been an issue for years, according to Collins. While it does not currently affect the water, he said continued chipping could corrode the tank further.
“It’s coming off in sheets and flakes,” Collins said. “I wouldn’t put it off anymore. You’ll start affecting the substrate, the steel. I think it’s time now.”
Blame was put on the previous contractors, who he said did not sandblast the tank prior to recoating it.
While the low water pressure has not been made a priority necessarily, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman sees it as such.
“The fact that homeowners can’t flush a toilet or take a shower on the second story of their house is a problem,” he said. “To me, we’d want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make sure that our customers have the best level of service.”
The installation of two booster pumps costing $250,000 that would service 550 to 600 homes east of the Shinnecock Canal would be the solution, according to Collins. The first pump would run during off-peak hours, and the second, a larger pump, would kick with increased water usage, line when irrigation systems are being used.
“Somehow, this is going to get paid for,” Councilman John Bouvier said, adding that the money is either going to come out of the district’s water rates, “or if it goes to Suffolk County Water Authority, that’s going to come out of that.”
Suffolk County Water Authority promised to tackle $14 million worth of infrastructure upgrades under a contract that would make the nonprofit the managers of the district — $6.1 million of which would be completed in the first three years.
Schneiderman said the board is still planning to put the fate of the water district to a public vote, but only after D & B Architects completes its evaluation.
“There’s no going to Suffolk County Water Authority without a public vote — customers can weigh the two options,” he said. “We know that people don’t want brown water. That much has been pretty clear.”