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New round of testing planned for private wells in East Quogue to track contamination

Southampton Town officials are sending letters to eligible homeowners and are considering connecting the affected homes to water mains.

Traces of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid

Traces of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) have been detected in 45 private wells in the hamlet of East Quogue. Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Southampton Town will fund a second round of private well testing in East Quogue to make sure water contamination has not worsened and to determine how to proceed with addressing the issue, which could include funding water main extensions to affected homes.

Traces of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), chemicals the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has linked to cancers and other health impacts, have been detected in 44 private wells in the hamlet. That testing, performed by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, came after groundwater samples at a long-closed Damascus Road town landfill detected the chemicals at 150 times the level at which federal officials say exposure in drinking water can cause health problems.

The town issued a request for bids to test the East Quogue wells and could send out letters this week notifying eligible residents, said Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone.

“We want to help people get their water retested and are taking steps to make that happen,” Zappone said.

The county Health Department will work with the town and residents to evaluate the new sample data to help determine how to proceed, Zappone said.

The town board began discussions during its Thursday work session on ways to fund water main extensions in the area and connect those mains to private homes. The Suffolk County Water Authority has estimated that the price of the water mains is $1.3 million, plus additional costs paid by property owners to connect to the infrastructure. The town and water authority will apply for a state grant to offset the project costs.

Last month, Assemb. Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and East Quogue residents criticized what they said was a slow response to the issue, though town officials said they were working as judiciously as possible. Thursday’s work session was the first time a remedial plan was discussed publicly since the detection was announced in April.

The board discussed two methods to finance water main extensions. One scenario involves only East Quogue taxpayers funding the project, and another would spread the cost townwide. Board members said they favored the latter and will discuss the matter again at an upcoming work session.

The board is also considering having the town lay out money for private connections and roll the cost into the tax bill of the benefiting property owner.

Town officials noted that how they proceed could set a precedent for similar projects in other parts of the town. The chemicals, which were used in firefighting foam and other products, have shown up in private wells surrounding Gabreski Airport and in nearby Wainscott, as well as in public wells in Hampton Bays.

“We’re going to probably face this again,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said during the work session. “To have a tool . . . I think would be useful.”

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