Anyone driving on Route 27 through Wainscott late last summer couldn’t help but notice the Suffolk County Water Authority crews working at breakneck speed to install new water mains. And it wasn’t just on the highway. Crews made their way up and down just about every street and lane in the hamlet, completing the job late last month.
The reason for the big rush? A year ago, the water authority discovered traces of polyfluorinated compounds — chemicals used in firefighting and industrial applications — in private wells in Wainscott. To reduce the health risk to residents, East Hampton Town provided bottled water and helped homeowners fast track the process of getting whole-house water filtration systems installed.
New York State then stepped in and provided the funding to underwrite the nearly $10 million cost of installing 8.5 miles of water mains. The town and water authority have also launched a program by which residents can have the cost of having water service extended from the main to their homes amortized over 20 years on their property tax bill, although some people have complained the cost of using the SCWA contractor is prohibitive.
While that may be the case, homeowners would be well advised to take advantage of the availability of public water to protect themselves and their families from the poisons that could be lurking in their tap water.
The irony cannot be overlooked, however, that SCWA also relies on wells, although its are deeper and the water coming out of them is subjected to much better filtering than even the best home unit could provide. But with groundwater pollution becoming an ever more common occurrence, one can’t help but wonder if SCWA itself won’t find its own sources compromised.
Such is life when you live above a sole-source aquifer as we do here on Long Island. And sadly, it seems we still have not learned that everything we put into the ground comes back to us someday down the line.