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Port Washington cleanup to likely raise water rates, officials say

Water plant operators Joe Barbarito, left, and Richard

Water plant operators Joe Barbarito, left, and Richard Zimbardi work at Hewlett Well 4 in Port Washington. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Port Washington residents may see their water rates increase next year to help pay for a $16 million infrastructure upgrade to replace aging equipment and remove chemical 1,4 dioxane from its water system.

Officials from the Port Washington Water District said they wanted to be proactive in treating 1,4 dioxane and complying with proposed new drinking water standards set by the state Department of Health.

“The projects are considered critical because the proposed regulations are expected to go into effect as early as January 2020,” said Bill Merklin, senior vice president of D&B Engineers and Architects, the water district's contracted  engineering company.

The proposed limit for 1,4-dioxane, which is listed by the . Environmental Protection Agency as a likely carcinogen, is 1 part per billion. Three of Port Washington’s 12 supply wells were detected to have concentrations of 1,4 dioxane higher than the proposed limit. Tests found three other wells to contain the chemical — but at lower levels. 

The problem of 1,4 dioxane is not limited to Port Washington.

The chemical can be found in everyday household products and has been detected throughout Long Island’s water wells. Water providers have estimated its removal to cost more than $840 million.

Nine Nassau County water suppliers, including the water district in Port Washington, have sued chemical manufacturers for 1,4-dioxane contamination.

To treat 1,4 dioxane, district officials in Port Washington plan to spend $11 million to build treatment facilities at Hewlett and Stonytown well stations over the next few years. Another $4.5 million is estimated to be spent on upgrading Neulist well station’s old electrical and mechanical systems.

To pay for the project, district officials appeared before North Hempstead Town board Aug. 13 for a bond approval.

“While we are not thrilled about the need to request more bonds, the funding is simply necessary to combat emerging contaminants and ensure our systems are resilient for decades to come,” said Mindy Germain, a commissioner at the district, in a statement.

The district's 2018 budget was $6.5 million. 

Following a public hearing where no one spoke on Aug. 13, the town board voted 7-0 to approve the bond resolution.

“It’s likely that there will be an increase in water rates and/or in taxes,” Merklin said in a follow-up interview. “We are engaging a consultant to evaluate the options.”

Officials said the district hopes to implement the recommendations of the consultant, which may include a rate increase, by next summer.

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