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Oct 23, 2018 12:58 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Receives Official SCWA Proposal To Manage Hampton Bays Water System

The Hampton Bays Water District. VALERIE GORDON
Oct 23, 2018 1:29 PM

The Southampton Town Board has received an official proposal from the Suffolk County Water Authority detailing more than $10 million in capital improvements to the Hampton Bays Water District that would be needed if the authority takes over operation of the district.

The authority has been talking with the town since August about taking over the day-to-day management of the hamlet’s outdated water system. The potential merger comes less than a year after the water district’s employees were “rocked” by an onslaught of water pressure and contamination issues, leaving the community unsure of who to trust, according to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.

The proposed 40-year contract, delivered to the town last week, would allow the county-owned entity to manage the Hampton Bays water system for a quarterly fee that has not yet been disclosed. The Southampton Town Board, which acts as commissioners for the water district, would continue to set the rate at which residents are charged for water.

On Monday, the authority’s CEO, Jeff Szabo, said that the cost disclosed in the proposal is comparable to the annual $155 fee that water district customers are currently charged on their tax bill, which goes toward funding maintenance and debt service.

Mr. Schneiderman said on Monday that the details of the proposal would be kept confidential until the Town Board has time to review it. He expects to make the information public at a Town Board work session scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 25.

In the meantime, Mr. Szabo noted that the cost associated with the proposed capital improvements—including a $2.6 million iron and manganese filtration system—would be shared among the entire water authority customer base, rather than just the hamlet’s residents. He estimated that the authority serves nearly 1.2 million customers across Suffolk County, whereas the district serves approximately 6,400.

He estimated that the construction of the manganese and iron filtration system would take roughly a year and a half.

Mr. Szabo confirmed on Monday that the hamlet’s water discoloration issues are a direct result of manganese in the water supply. The district’s recently installed $1 million carbon filtration system has been effective in filtering out two dangerous chemicals— perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, and perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA—however, it is not sufficiently filtering out iron and manganese particles.

Additional infrastructure improvements, that would be completed over the next several years if the plan is accepted, include sandblasting and repainting the district’s water tanks to avoid rusting through, as well as installing booster systems to ensure adequate pressure, backup generators, and electric meters, according to Mr. Schneiderman.

Mr. Szabo added that the district’s existing 11 wells would continue to serve the hamlet, but they would also be interconnected to the water authority’s wells in case of emergency. “Essentially, the two systems would back each other up,” he said.

He noted that should a well need to be taken out of service for maintenance or contamination, the district’s customers would not see any change in water pressure or quality. “They wouldn’t know the difference, because there would be other sources of supply,” he said.

Water District Superintendent Robert King was forced to shut off three of the district’s 11 wells last year, which caused a number of water pressure and discoloration issues within the district—issues that some homeowners continue to be plagued with even after the installation of the carbon filtration system.

Mr. Schneiderman explained that the backup connectivity to the authority’s water mains was a “key feature” in the proposal and would eliminate similar situations from happening again.

Mr. Szabo added that although the current plan is to operate the system using the district’s pre-existing wells, it’s possible that the water authority might install more wells down the road. “It could happen in the future,” he said.

If the Town Board agrees to move forward with the merger, the water authority has also agreed to absorb all of the district’s full-time employees. In fact, Mr. Schneiderman added that their rate of pay would likely increase 10 to 20 percent with relatively the same benefits.

“No one wants anyone to lose a job because of consolidation,” Mr. Szabo said.

Under the proposed operational agreement, the town would maintain ownership of the district’s infrastructure and would continue to set the water rate for those using the service.

Currently, per quarter, a water district 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 water authority customer would cost $46.72.

The 40-year agreement could also be canceled at any time. However, the town would be responsible for absorbing any unpaid debt accrued from the infrastructure upgrades.

“If you assume that all of this infrastructure is needed anyway, which I think it is, the Hampton bays Water District would have to absorb that debt now,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It was promising that [the authority] is going to upgrade the infrastructure and still be able to do it for the same price. That’s significant. It sounds almost too good to be true.”

The supervisor added that the Town Board would hold two public hearings—the first in mid-November and the second in December—to discuss the proposal with the community. Members of the water district, including Mr. King, who has made it abundantly clear that he is opposed to the merger, will be present to answer any questions or concerns regarding the district’s current water system.

Mr. Schneiderman expects the board to make a decision to accept or deny the proposal by the end of the year. He noted that the transition would likely not occur until April 2019.

“There’s some things I want clarity on,” he said. “That’s all I can say right now about it.”

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Oct 23, 18 2:15 PM
It's amazing that an article of such importance is not on page one for more than a few hours. I can't figure out this paper at all.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Oct 23, 18 11:51 PM
The proposal from SCWA is astonishingly good! We get a safer, more stable water supply and our infrastructure also gets upgraded (which, in its current state, is a ticking time bomb). We will be interconnected with the same water supply as the rest of the Hamptons, which should have been done decades ago. And all the current HBWD employees keep their jobs. This is a win win. The Town Board has done Hampton Bays a great service for seeing this through.
By Bayman (56), Hampton Bays on Oct 24, 18 8:59 AM
if Hampton Bays people think they have water problems now and dirty water wait until the interconnects are opened up and now you share your water with East Quogue and Southampton. Think about the closest storage tank for them in East Quogue. Way far away from HB. Hope you will like less pressure and more dirty water once the HB mains start feeding Southampton and East Quogue. So glad I moved out
By watchoutnow968 (56), Southampton on Oct 24, 18 12:13 PM
Watchoutnow968...where are your facts.....I had SWA water in Tuckahoe and my water pressure was great. I really think that the engineers have the training to compute the pressure, etc. and will handle the job.

Let’s let the experts do their job and see how that turns out.
By Red Flag (51), HamptonBays on Oct 29, 18 8:16 PM

The alternative: Keep dirty water, as many residents have and have had dirty water since JUly 4!!!!! REally! That is a shame! Shame on H B Water for not notifiying residents of the cause and how the problem would be handled. Not to mention they were never informed of a projected date to have the water clean.
NOT ONE H B resident has had an official notice from H B Water regarding the DIRTY WATER!!! NOT ONE LETTER!!! NOT ONE COMMUNICATION ABOUT DIRTY WATER!!!!
By Red Flag (51), HamptonBays on Oct 29, 18 8:17 PM