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Jul 12, 2019 12:13 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Weighs Options To Address HBWD Infrastructure Upgrades

Southampton Town Board member John Bouvier. VALERIE GORDON
Jul 16, 2019 3:23 PM

Members of the Southampton Town Board, acting as commissioners of the Hampton Bays Water District, are prepared to spend half of the water supplier’s $1 million reserve to begin the process of tackling several “long overdue” infrastructure upgrades within the district.

At a work session on Thursday, July 11, Southampton Town Comptroller Leonard Marchese recommended that the board set aside $500,000 in reserves to begin the process of preparing bid and design documents.

The majority of the board, as well as John Collins, vice president of H2M Architects + Engineers—the water district’s internal consultant—ultimately agreed that the district must begin to address its iron and manganese problem at well field four.

However, Councilwoman Christine Scalera raised concerns over doing so prior to receiving a 10-year capital improvement plan from D&B Engineers and Architects—which was hired by the board in March to assess the condition of the district’s infrastructure and to prioritize the items needing immediate attention.

Mr. Marchese said on Thursday that the engineers are prepared to provide a draft report of those findings in August. However, he said that during preliminary discussions, it was determined that an iron and manganese filtration system was a top priority.

Additionally, the board is considering resurfacing the tanks at the district’s fourth well field, located along Bellows Pond Road near Sears Bellows County Park, and installing booster pumps to the east of the Shinnecock Canal to tackle what they called an “ongoing” water pressure issue.

Mr. Collins estimated that the iron filtration system and tank resurfacing would cost approximately $3 million each, whereas the booster pumps would run close to $250,000 to install.

In order to cover those costs, Mr. Marchese estimated that district customers could see a 20- to 25-percent increase in their water rates, which he said have not been increased since 2012.

The other option is to hand control of the locally-owned district over to the Suffolk County Water Authority, which submitted a proposal to take over the day-to-day management of the district last year.

Under that plan, the authority promised to tackle $14 million worth of infrastructure upgrades—$6.1 million of which would be completed in the first three years.

Suffolk County Water Authority CEO Jeff Szabo and Mr. Collins have both agreed that the need for the iron and manganese filtration system is dire.

On Thursday, the district’s maintenance crew leader, Warren Booth, said that recent water testing showed well 4-1 at a combined iron and manganese concentration of 0.51 mg/L, whereas well 4-2 showed levels of 1.30 mg/L—both individually exceeding the state sanitary code limit of 0.50 mg/L.

In the past, water district officials were permitted to sequester, or inject the district’s water supply with a polyphosphate orthophosphate blend, as recommended by the Suffolk County Department of Health, to treat the discoloration caused by the compounds.

However, under new regulations, water suppliers can no longer sequester wells exceeding a combined iron and manganese concentration of 1 mg/L.

“Summer’s coming—we’re in trouble if this is what we have,” Mr. Collins said.

The other option, rather than install the filtration system, is to drill two additional 300-foot-deep wells at the Bellows Pond Road site and “abandon” wells 4-1 and 4-2, which are currently only 140 feet and 160 feet deep, respectively.

In order to determine if the groundwater is free of contaminants, Mr. Collins said that the Town Board would need to “gamble” approximately $100,000 to drill a test well.

He added that the two additional wells would cost approximately $2.15 million to install, when taking into account additional costs, such as on-site piping and plumbing.

However, Mr. Collins stressed that there was no guarantee that the new wells would not have the same problem.

“It’s a roll of the dice,” he said, addressing the board at Thursday’s work session. “If it works, it’s a home run. If it doesn’t work, you’ve wasted all that time and you’ll never have an iron plant for next year.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman shared his concerns, and ultimately sided with Mr. Collins’s overall recommendation to move forward with the iron and manganese filtration system.

“With the iron, you put an iron plant in and you have two clean wells that you never have to think about again,” Mr. Collins said. “The iron is not 0.1, it’s not 0.2, it’s zero.”

He explained that the filtration system uses a green sand anthracite pressure system to remove the iron and manganese particles, as well as hydrogen sulfide.

Additionally, James Capper, a maintenance crew leader for the district, pointed to $200,000 worth of work that was recently completed on the wells at the district’s fourth well field. “If we put two new wells in, we just threw that money out the door,” he said.

At the meeting, the commissioners also discussed the immediate need to resurface the tanks at the Bellows Pond Road site, which according to reports from both SCWA and H2M are rapidly deteriorating.

Mr. Schneiderman said that when the wells were last resurfaced in 2005 that they weren’t done properly.

Mr. Collins added that the fiberglass coating on the inside of the tank was “failing,” laying blame on the previous contractors who he said did not sandblast the tanks prior to re-coating them.

“It’s coming off in sheets and flakes,” he said of the fiberglass coating, adding that the metal interior was exposed.

He went on to say that the engineers first saw signs of the damage in 2012, noting that if the work were delayed any longer, it would likely cause accelerated rust and structural damage. “I wouldn’t put it off any more—I think we’ve waited long enough.”

Mr. Schneiderman and Councilman John Bouvier both agreed.

“The longer we wait on some of these things, the more complicated they become,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

“There’s an asset here in need of help,” Mr. Bouvier added.

While the iron filtration system and tank resurfacing were the commissioners’ top priorities, low water pressure to deliver water to homes east of the Shinnecock Canal was a close third.

In order to resolve the issue, Mr. Collins said that the district would need to install two booster pumps that would service 550 to 600 homes east of the Shinnecock Canal. He explained that the first pump would run during off peak hours, whereas the second larger pump would kick on to combat the increase in water being used for irrigation purposes.

The water district attempted to resolve the issue last summer with what they called a “mandatory” odd even watering schedule. However, Mr. Cappers said on Thursday that there was no way to enforce it.

Mr. Schneiderman was in favor of moving forward with installing the booster pumps, pointing to the unsubstantial $250,000 price tag.

“The fact that they can’t flush a toilet or take a shower on the second story of their house … 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,” he said.

The Town Board is prepared to vote on amending the water district’s capital reserve fund on Tuesday to authorize Mr. Marchese to start the process of preparing bid documents for the aforementioned projects.

“Somehow, this is going to get paid for,” Mr. Bouvier said. “That 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.”

Mr. Schneiderman added that 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 SCWA 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.”

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Thank You, HB will take what East Quogue received. CPF funds. Maybe some DWSRF funds too? Maybe some Town/County/State or Federal funds, can't hurt trying. Just need someone smarter then Frank Z going after it. Do not mind an increase in fees, but seems like Bouvier only has two ideas, maybe this will turn on his engineer light bulb.(it's LED i am sure)
By Ref11 (17), hampton bays on Jul 13, 19 3:34 AM
2 members liked this comment
I agree 100% - why not make this option number 3? Believe me, SCWA is not just going to spend $14M of their money and not expect something in return. Keep HBWD in local control, throw out the current management team and get what ever money it needs for improvements from the CPF. I can think of no better use for the money at this time.
By HamptonDad (236), Hampton Bays on Jul 14, 19 7:56 PM
2 members liked this comment
Give the water dist the funds and equipment they need to fix the problem and keep this in house. If need be, hire a new mgr. to overlook the day to day operation. I would rather pay more to the Hampton Bays Water Dist. Than SCWA.
By Resident tax (186), Hampton bays ny on Jul 16, 19 4:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
There are so many good reasons why we should let the professionals at SCWA manage our water supply. These reasons have been spelled out here and other news sources. The arguments against are either misinformed, trivial, emotional, or based on conspiracy theory.
By Bayman (56), Hampton Bays on Jul 21, 19 7:10 AM