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Fire Island community needs more water to fight potential fires, but homeowners aren't so sure

Water Island needs more water.

The tiny Fire Island summer community has virtually no water for fighting fires because superstorm Sandy damaged four wells and washed away two others in October 2012, Brookhaven Town officials said. They have proposed a $1.7 million plan to dig three 300-foot wells to boost the hamlet's water supply.

Some Water Island homeowners agree the community needs water, but they oppose the plan because of its cost. They want the Suffolk County Water Authority to boost the existing residential water supply.

Town officials said the average home in the Water Island Fire Protection District would pay $1,857 per year for 20 years to retire bonds that would pay for the wells, a 30.7 percent increase over the current average $6,050 per home annual fire district tax bill.

"The cost of this project has grown to a level that is unacceptable to the community," Suzanne Johnson, president of the Water Island Association, a civic group, said last week during a public hearing before the Brookhaven Town Board.

Homeowners, town officials and representatives of the water authority and Fire Island National Seashore plan to meet next week to discuss the issue.

Water Island, between Davis Park and Fire Island Pines, has 56 homes and lies within the national seashore. Town officials said the Fire Island Pines Fire Department must carry water from that community if a fire were to break out in Water Island.

Town Councilman Neil Foley, who supports the new wells, said Water Island faces "a very, very dangerous situation" without added water.

Brookhaven Chief Fire Marshal Chris Mehrman said the wells should be dug this winter to prevent a potential fire catastrophe. He said he believes the water authority does not plan to expand the water supply to the community for at least two years.

"We are rapidly approaching a point where we have to get this thing going," Mehrman told the town board. "It's a matter of life . . . safety, and it really needs to get done now."

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said the town board will vote on the wells plan on Aug. 27 if water authority officials cannot address plans to increase Water Island's water supply.

In a statement, water authority chief executive Jeffrey W. Szabo said the agency has "agreed to meet with all parties seeking to address water supply issues in the community of Water Island. We'd be happy to help if we can."


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