Consultants to East Hampton Town on Monday kicked off what is expected to be a months-long process of preparing a comprehensive wastewater management plan intended to tackle the key environmental issues revolving around sewage and what to do with it.
The environmental engineering firm, Lombardo Associates, of Massachusetts, and its subcontractor, FPM Group, in a public meeting at Town Hall that afternoon, laid out its initial presentation and overview of how it plans to make recommendations for townwide septic and wastewater management. They also provided a timeline for the project, estimating the plan to be developed by January. They will present the Town Board with options, which it could then adopt.
The goal is come up with a long-term plan based on science that will address the town’s needs to handle sewage, as well as clean up its many impaired water bodies.
East Hampton, like much of the East End, with its many old, private cesspools, has long suffered from pollution caused by overflowing waste, as evidenced by rust tides and beach closures due to high bacteria levels, as well as nutrient-choked lakes and ponds. And an aging and costly scavenger waste plant on Springs-Fireplace Road faces an uncertain future, after having been slapped with environmental violations and turned into a transfer station. The fate of the facility, a political flashpoint, is one aspect of the plan.
Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who spearheaded the initiative, opened Monday’s presentation by noting that the town has had a long history of being environmentally progressive. Now, though, it faces an increasing problem with impaired water. He thanked Lombardo Associates for outlining how it expects to proceed on what he called a “groundbreaking study.”
Pio Lombardo, the president of the company, said his firm has been in the business of helping communities deal with wastewater issues for more than 30 years and has teamed up with FPM, which is tasked with the water quality monitoring part of the plan.
Stephanie Davis, a senior hydrologist for FPM, noted how many residents rely on groundwater for drinking water. FPM’s role includes compiling and evaluating groundwater quality data throughout the town, assessing its quality in proximity to a former landfill and the scavenger waste facility and conducting groundwater shed mapping, among other facets.
Mr. Lombardo said his firm will consider various aspects of the situation, including groundwater that is tainted by waste blooms and sensitive water bodies and will then make determinations based on needs and possible corrective scenarios. Each part of town will be addressed separately, he said. Then the scavenger waste issues will be incorporated into the final, preferred plan.
The final master plan will promote non-sewer options, as far as they are feasible and some solutions may need to be implemented over as long as five to 10 years, he said. Projected sea-level rise will also be a factor, as future drainage pools should be placed high up.
Project updates and documents, including Monday’s agenda and the proposed schedule, are posted at www.EHWaterRestore.com, and plenty of public meetings are expected to be held over the coming months on the topic.
According to the proposed public meeting schedule, the Montauk study area is to be discussed on September 18 or 25, followed by the Accabonac, Georgica Pond, Three Mile Harbor and other areas on October 23 or 30. On November 20, the consultants expect to discuss scenarios for all study areas in a morning meeting, followed by the needs and scenarios for the scavenger waste plant. A presentation on the scenarios and the start of the selection process for the preferred plan is tentatively set for December 11, and, on January 15 or 22, the final plan is expected to be unveiled.
Many members of the public who took to the floor during a question-and-answer session on Monday following the presentation demanded to know what cost impact the plan’s implementation would have on taxpayers, but Mr. Lombardo stressed that it is at such an early phase, hard numbers are not yet available. Also, it will be up to the community. Grants also may be available.
He did say, after pressing, that his firm has engineered systems that cost between $30,000 and $40,000 per property, which, he stressed, is lower than the $75,000 per property that he said is the cost for conventional systems in Suffolk County.
“I think you’re scaring people by citing individual costs for individual homes,” said Peter Wadsworth, a member of the East Hampton Town Budget and Advisory Committee, which recommended the study. “The town as a whole is going to bear the costs.”