Clean Water Coming To Wainscott

Wainscott was seldom in the news until recently, and residents likely wish that were still the case.

In the southernmost part of the sleepy hamlet, Deepwater Wind wants to bring a cable ashore onto Beach Lane, an ocean beach treasured by residents for decades. (See Story on page 10.)
And almost every resident south of East Hampton Airport has tainted drinking water or is in danger of getting it.

East Hampton Town, under the urging of Jeffrey Bragman, the newest town board member, decided on May 15 to be more aggressive dealing with the tainted wells. The fact that residents have filed a class action suit against the town likely figured into the equation as well. The residents are demanding the town furnish water and will seek damages should any medical conditions emerge.

The town board allocated $400,000 in emergency funding to be distributed to residents who want to install water filters. In a broader action, the board also announced its intention of forming a water district that will bring Suffolk County Water Authority drinking water into every home in the hamlet.

The official Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level for the chemicals, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is 90 parts per trillion. But there is evidence mounting that exposure to considerably less can be harmful.

So far, about two-thirds of the wells tested have shown traces, and a handful are over the advisory level threshold.

PFOA and PFOS were widely used by companies like 3M and DuPont beginning in the late 1940s. Both companies have faced lawsuits because of the health damages caused by the chemicals. DuPont knew “PFOA caused cancerous testicular, pancreatic, and liver tumors in lab animals” back in 1993, if not before, according to the New York Times.

Homeowners that hook up to water will eventually have to pay back the money over a 20-year period. The approximately $24 million cost of SCWA will be paid for by those who sign up to install it, town taxpayers as a whole, and with grant money. The town also hopes it will be allowed to tap into Community Preservation Funds, and has asked Assemblyman Fred Thiele to see if it is an allowable CPF use.

There is considerable sentiment in Wainscott that the town should absorb the entire cost because it is believed by some that East Hampton Airport, owned by the town, is the root of the contamination.

Toward that end, the town is putting out the word that the wells could have been contaminated by firefighters using the firefighting foam while going through drills on nearby parcels.

The chemicals are also widely used in fire suppressant products to put out airplane engine fires and in aviation hydraulic fluids.

In addition, these chemicals are used for industrial purposes in photo imaging, metal plating, semiconductor coatings, aviation hydraulic fluids, medical devices, for insect bait, printer and copy machine parts, chemically-driven oil production, rubber, and plastic industries.

Shaw Aero Devices, located at 6 Industrial Road until 1993, may have also used products containing or manufactured with PFCs, particularly ethyl acetate, according to filings with the US Patent Office. Some of the products Shaw was developing used the chemical in the production process.

Ironically the SCWA is targeting a drilling project site that is situated on the west side of Stephen Hands Path, 455 feet north of the Long Island Rail Road train tracks in Wainscott and recently filed a “Neg Dec,” indicating there are no adverse effects to the environment anticipated.

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