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East Farmingdale water rates to rise for third time in 2 years

New East Farmingdale Water District rates will take

New East Farmingdale Water District rates will take effect April 1, 2018. Credit: Newsday

Water bills are on the rise in East Farmingdale for the third time since 2016.

Officials expect the rate hike to increase average household water bills by about $15 per year. An annual bill will be about $183.

Residents and businesses in the East Farmingdale Water District will begin paying the new rate April 1 after the Babylon Town Board voted unanimously for the increase in December. Rates for most households will go up 10 cents per 1,000 gallons. The last increase took effect at the beginning of 2017.

The uptick is meant to close the gap between the rates charged by the Suffolk County Water Authority and what East Farmingdale district has historically billed, according to Doug Jacob, a former Babylon comptroller who advises the town on the district.

Thomas H. Joseph Jr., president of the Residents of East Farmingdale Civic Association, called the rate increase “a necessary evil.”

“It doesn’t seem like a lot to me,” he said. But “I know there’s other homeowners in the district who are on fixed incomes and where $15 could hurt them.”

The system in East Farmingdale was for years the only stand-alone water district in the Town of Babylon, serving the hamlet’s many industrial businesses and 1,500 single-family homes, Jacob said.

But the discovery of contamination in one of the district’s four wells in the early 2000s led town officials to lease the district to the Suffolk County Water Authority for 40 years beginning in 2010, Jacob said. The authority, which manages much of the water infrastructure in Suffolk, connected the East Farmingdale infrastructure to its vast network of wells and now operates the district, Jacob said.

There was one catch: The authority would charge the average district household closer to $340 annually, in keeping with its standard rates, Jacob said.

To cover the difference, the town, which manages district finances, has been drawing down a $3 million payment from the authority in 2010, and relying on $250,000 the district takes in annually by renting out space on a water tower to a cellular network company, Jacob said.

It’s also been raising rates since 2016 — changes that together have upped the average district household’s water costs by 40 cents per 1,000 gallons. Average homes use around 146,000 gallons annually, Jacob said.

Jacob said he is not sure whether the town will raise rates again.

“We’re not committing to never touching them again, but we are going to take a look at what this gets us,” he said of the upcoming increase.

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