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Babylon's proposed $8.8M Oak Beach water system comes with big bill for homeowners

A sign tells some of the history of

A sign tells some of the history of the Oak Beach barrier island by the site of the proposed water system and treatment plant on Oak Beach Road. Credit: Morgan Campbell/Morgan Campbell

Babylon Town will propose that 56 homeowners in the barrier beach community of Oak Beach pay $4.2 million over 30 years to finance the completion of a public water system that has been delayed for nearly a decade.

Under the proposal, they will each pay $2,500 a year to the town and eventually receive a water bill from the Suffolk County Water Authority, which will construct a treatment plant next to the Oak Beach Community Center and connect to the homes, said Joe Guarino, principal environmental analyst for the town.

Most of the 200 homes rely on groundwater wells — dug hundreds of feet into the ground — for their water that are not regulated by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Wednesday via the town’s YouTube page.

"It’s been a long and arduous process, but we’re almost there," Guarino said.

The project was delayed due to difficulties finding a location for the new system and higher than anticipated costs in the bids the town received.

Babylon owns the Oak Beach land, and properties belong to the homeowners. But the town, not the property owners, is responsible for updating their water systems, Guarino said.

Some private wells used did not meet sanitary standards and have been linked to three E. coli outbreaks from a July 2015 town report and a 2018 water-quality report by the town that revealed iron levels that exceeded safety standards.

Jeff Szabo, chief executive of the Suffolk County Water Authority, said that once the system is built, Oak Beach property owners will likely be charged a general water-use rate and pay $20 per quarter for water quality and treatment, pending board of directors approval.

The water authority charges its water users $2.028 per thousand gallons used, but will increase the price to $2.119 per thousand gallons starting June 1.

A state grant is expected to cover $1.8 million of the cost, with the town issuing bonds for the remaining $7 million. Though Oak Beach residents pay $4.2 million of the loan, the remaining $2.8 million will be paid by all Babylon Town property owners in taxes over 30 years, town officials said.

Twenty-two additional homes in Oak Beach could be added to the proposed water system, said Dan Schaefer, a town spokesman. Homeowners who opt in will pay $2,500 per year, reducing the town’s subsidy.

Officials from the town and the water authority are working with Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) to seek federal funds for the project, his office confirmed.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, an advocacy group based in Farmingdale, said practices like drinking from wells run a risk of contamination.

"While we hate to see people have to pay more for water, the cost of getting sick is even greater if the water is polluted," Esposito said.

Some residents said they are not pleased with the bills coming their way if the plan is approved.

Tom Jones, 73, doesn’t believe there are any issues with his water.

"Nobody that I know of has gotten sick," Jones said. "Everybody here is losing sleep over this."

Jim Schappert, 43, said residents are being forced to pay for the water system along with user fees and maintenance.

"A handful of Oak Beach residents may soon pay the highest water bill in the nation," he said.

HOW WATER COSTS WOULD FLOW

  • The total cost of the project will be $8.8 million
  • 56 of the 200 homes will pay $2,500 a year for 30 years
  • Through a state grant, $1.8 million will go toward the project
  • Town residents will pay $2.8 million for 30 years

SOURCE: Town of Babylon

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