East Hampton Town Hall is located on Pantigo Road at...

East Hampton Town Hall is located on Pantigo Road at the edge of East Hampton Village. (Aug. 29, 2011) Credit: Erin Geismar

After spending more than a year trying to decide what to do with the town's antiquated sewage treatment plant, East Hampton's town board has agreed to pay an outside expert $197,989 to come up with a comprehensive townwide wastewater management plan.

The plan is to include options for the future of the small facility now used only as a holding tank.

Lombardo Associates, a nationally-recognized wastewater engineering and consulting firm in Newton, Mass., also will come up with an economic and environmental analysis of the town's current wastewater management efforts.

In October, the board voted to spend $206,697 to get rid of more than a decade's accumulated dried-out sludge and scum at the Springs-Fireplace Road plant, but failed to come up with a plan for the plant's future use.

Councilman Dominick Stanzione said that, for a decade or more, the town has avoided devising a comprehensive plan out of fear that managing septic wastes -- East Hampton has no regional sewer system -- would lead to massive, unwanted development.

But, he added, while the town has preserved thousands of acres over the years, it still has serious pollution problems. "We sacrificed septic management at the altar of development control," he said. "The absence of having a septic plan has contributed to the pollution of not only Lake Montauk but other estuaries throughout the town."

A year ago, the town board tried to get an outside firm to buy its 45,000-gallon-a-day treatment plant, upgrade it and provide waste treatment services for the community. But board members refused to consider requests to expand its size, which potential buyers said would be needed to justify the expense of upgrading the plant.

Currently, it can accept up to 10,000 gallons of septic waste a day, which must be pumped out and taken to out-of-town sewage treatment facilities -- typically, either Riverhead or Babylon towns.

Supervisor Bill Wilkinson -- who was not at last week's board meeting when the resolution to hire the firm was passed, 3-1 -- said efforts to deal with the plant's future are deadlocked because of costs and the refusal of some town board members to consider selling the facility.

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