Babylon town is in talks with the Suffolk County Water Authority to have the agency take over management of the East Farmingdale Water District.
The town does not have the expertise to handle contamination issues that arise due to industrial runoff, Supervisor Steve Bellone said.
A 2008 water quality report sent to residents last year stated that most district wells have a "very high susceptibility to industrial solvents and a high susceptibility to nitrates."
In a letter sent out in December, Bellone stated that while the district's water quality is currently fine, "50% of the wells had to be taken out of service" due to such contamination. The town, he wrote, is at a "critical crossroad in the delivery of reliable, affordable and safe drinking water" to the district.
"There are potential risks of cleanup costs and other environmental issues that have to be addressed," Bellone said. "The Suffolk County Water Authority has capabilities far beyond a small district and potential ways to mitigate problems that just aren't available to a small district."
The East Farmingdale district serves 2,800 commercial and residential accounts. The water authority has 369,000 accounts.
Bellone said the water authority's infrastructure for handling cleanups could help prevent the significant rate increases that might come from the town handling such issues.
Water authority spokesman Paddy South said that when issues arise, they can "spread the cost of the work over the entire rate base, instead of just putting it on East Farmingdale."
Thomas Joseph Jr., president of the Residents of East Farmingdale Civic Association, said some residents worry their quality of service and low rates are in jeopardy, as well as the district itself.
"Could they be leaning toward the next step, which is elimination of the district? That's our concern," he said.
The town said it would not eliminate the district. Control would still be in town hands, Bellone said, and it would continue to set rates. He said there would be no rate increases.
"The district is essentially not going to change in any way," Bellone said.
The four town employees working in the district would either work for the water authority or be absorbed back into the town's labor pool, he said.
The water authority is seeking a 40-year lease, South said, and hopes to offer a proposal within two weeks.