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Fire Island community gets new pipe for firefighting

Work to install functioning fire hydrants is almost done on Water Island, which has not had fire protection since superstorm Sandy damaged wells.

The Suffolk County Water Authority has begun installing

The Suffolk County Water Authority has begun installing an underground pipe to Water Island, seen here on Aug. 22, 2015. Credit: Aaron Zebrook

Water Island is finally getting more water.

The Suffolk County Water Authority has begun installing a 6,490-foot underground pipe and eight new fire hydrants in the small Fire Island summer enclave, which has lacked functioning hydrants since superstorm Sandy washed away or damaged water wells five years ago.

The water authority and Brookhaven Town are splitting the cost of the roughly $3 million project. The town’s share, about $1.6 million, will be funded with a 20-year bond, town officials said, adding they also are seeking a $500,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The bond will be paid off through an annual 12.9 percent tax hike on the approximately 50 homes in the Water Island Fire Protection District, town officials said.

The tax increase will be worth it to provide long-awaited fire protection to the community, said Ken Marran, president of the Water Island Association, a civic group. Work is expected to be completed by Jan. 1, water authority officials said.

“We’re finally getting fire protection, which we really haven’t had in the last five or six years,” Marran said, adding no fires had broken out since the system was damaged.

The new pipe will be connected to existing water authority equipment at Fire Island Pines and Davis Park, officials said.

“They didn’t have the kind of fire protection they’re going to have now,” said Paul Kuzman, director of construction and maintenance for the water authority.

The project also will supply backup water for fire protection and other uses in Davis Park, he said.

Brookhaven officials said Sandy had damaged four wells on Water Island and washed away two others, leaving the Fire Island Pines Fire Department with no hydrants to battle blazes in the community.

Marran said the fire department had portable pumps on hand in case of fire. “Thankfully, there wasn’t a fire and hasn’t been a fire,” he said.

Kuzman said completing the project on a barrier island with little infrastructure — Water Island has no roads — presents several challenges, such as transportation.

Work crews from Islandia-based contractor Bancker Construction take a ferry to Fire Island Pines to get to Water Island, which has no direct ferry service this time of year, Kuzman said.

“The challenge is the logistics. You don’t have the luxury of just being able to use vehicles like you’re working in the street on the mainland,” Kuzman said. “Everything has to be brought over by boat and be transported on the beach. It’s a sensitive area, so we have to be mindful of that.”

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