Westhampton Beach officials are working with the Suffolk County Department of Health in the hopes of avoiding paying more than $10,000 in fines after a village-owned storage building was cited for multiple violations during a recent inspection.
The Department of Public Works facility, which is located at 124 Westhampton-Riverhead Road, is used to store up to 150 tons of salt in the winter. The most serious violation uncovered during an inspection by the county found that the building’s foundation is sloped in the wrong direction, with village engineer Ron Hill saying that the municipality might be forced to demolish the structure and build a new one if the county declines to grant a variance.
County health code requires that all foundations slope toward a low point within a building for drainage purposes; the floor of the village’s storage facility slopes toward the western side of the building. The village could not date the storage facility.
“This one is a bit difficult,” Mr. Hill said during the Village Board work session last Thursday night, November 17. “The whole thing drains to the west and that is probably because it is on the slab. It doesn’t drain to a low point but toward a side, and that is an issue.”
The village was notified of the issue, along with at least four others, via a letter dated October 11 and sent from the Bureau of Enforcement within the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. The agency conducted a routine inspection of the facility, which is adjacent to a Southampton Town salt storage building, on August 23. According to the letter, the village has 60 days to address the issues or face a fine of up to $2,000 per violation for each day the violations remain.
Another issue is with the direction that the village’s three-sided storage building is facing. Regulations require that the open side not face prevailing winds, and the structure is open on its west side—and prevailing winds come from the northwest and southwest. A large crack also runs down the middle of the building’s concrete floor and must be sealed.
Another violation, since corrected by the village, had to do with an outdated aboveground 1,000-gallon fuel storage tank that had not been used recently by the village. Rather than maintain the tank, the village chose to remove it on October 3.
According to Mayor Maria Moore, the village plans to file an application with Suffolk County in the next few days requesting a permit to fix the outstanding issues. The county can delay fining the village as long as its application is received within 60 days of the notice of violation. Once that process is done, the county will notify the village if the issues can be fixed or advise that the structure be knocked down and replaced.
“We are just going to move forward and we will do what we have to do,” Ms. Moore said. “We just want to do it in a timely fashion so they don’t start assessing penalties.”
Village Board members want to commission an independent assessment report from Dr. Christopher Gobler, an East Quogue resident and marine science professor at Stony Brook Southampton, that evaluates how a proposed multimillion-dollar sewer project might protect local waterways from future nitrogen contamination.
Earlier this year, the board awarded a $71,000 contract to H2M Engineering in Melville to put together a sewer district proposal and map for the village’s business district. With that contract, H2M is charged with designing a new sewage treatment system for Westhampton Beach to be concentrated along Main Street. Included in that cost was $11,000 for a study by Dr. Gobler to look at how nitrogen impacts local waterways, like Moniebogue canal and bay.
But this week the board discussed removing that portion from H2M’s contract and instead authorize a separate, more in-depth evaluation by Dr. Gobler. The new report, according to a proposal filed by Dr. Gobler, would evaluate nine things, including summarizing the current status of water quality in the canal and nearby Quantuck Bay, developing a model for nitrogen-loading rates to be studied, and describing how connecting different portions of Westhampton Beach to a sewer system could reduce nitrogen pollution.
The report comes with a $25,000 price tag. According to Ms. Moore, the additional $14,000 is worth it to the village because the finished product will be a more focused study, one that would allow the village to apply additional grant money for the project, which is expected to cost roughly $15 million.
The board expects to sign off on the new report at its next meeting on Thursday, December 1, which starts at 7 p.m. The document is not expected to be finished for at least six months.
“Dr. Gobler provided us with a much more detailed proposal and in the course of discussing it, the board felt it would be more appropriate for us to contract more directly rather than through the engineers,” Ms. Moore said. “That way nobody could say that he is just giving the engineers what they wanted to hear. This provides more transparency.”