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Babylon Town wants to partner with Suffolk agency to update water system

Babylon Town Hall in Lindenhurst Wednesday, March 20,

Babylon Town Hall in Lindenhurst Wednesday, March 20, 2019. Credit: Barry Sloan

The Town of Babylon is seeking help from the Suffolk County Water Authority to connect the community of Oak Beach to the public water system, and is revising a plan to build a water treatment plant that was supposed to be completed last year

The Oak Beach Community Center and 59 of the 200 homes in the community must connect to the treatment plant, town officials said. Most of the homes in the community depend on groundwater wells that are not regulated by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. 

The well replacement is linked to three E. coli outbreaks, according to a July 2015 town report and a 2018 water quality report of high levels of iron in the wells. 

Joe Guarino, principal environmental analyst for Babylon Town, said the need to find a location for the new system and higher than anticipated bids for the construction of a water treatment plant prompted officials to approach the water authority about a possible partnership.

“I think it’s important to note that it’s not a repair, this is a complete replacement of a water system,” Guarino said.

Joe Pokorny, deputy CEO for operations of the water authority, said the new system would require constructing a chemical treatment building and pump station in addition to a new well. Pokorny said a proposal for the project is expected to be submitted to the town by the fall.

“In that building is a new iron removal system, because the wells out there on the barrier island typically have high levels of iron,” he said. 

Kevin Bonner, a  Babylon Town spokesman, said the project is expected to cost more than $3 million. Homeowners who connect to the new system had initially been projected to pay $1,500 annually as well as unspecified operation and maintenance costs on the wells. But Bonner, said the homeowner cost projection has changed and cannot be estimated because the scope of work has changed.

The town will use a $1.8 million state grant and a $1.2 million town bond to help pay for the new water system.

The water treatment plant has been behind schedule since last summer, as officials awaited site approval from the New York State Department of Health  town officials said, adding that they received approval in late 2019.

Health Services spokeswoman Grace Kelly-McGovern said the project has been in discussion for two decades but that the department prioritized the work in recent years because of the compromised water quality. Babylon Town, which owns the Oak Beach land and leases it to homeowners, is required by the state Department of Health to make changes to the water system there.

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