Orient residents blast water rate hike

Browns Hills resident Venetia Hands presents her financial analysis to the

Residents of the Browns Hills area of Orient are hopping mad at the Suffolk County Water Authority, which has proposed tripling the rate to manage their small public water system after a vocal group of residents shot down a plan to bring a water pipeline to Orient.
The water authority held a public hearing on the proposed increase at its Southold headquarters on Boisseau Avenue Friday night. About 50 residents were in attendance and about one dozen of them spoke.
The water authority’s Chief Financial Officer, Larry Kulick, gave the crowd a breakdown of the costs of the Browns Hills system. Mr. Kulick said that the filters attached to the Browns Hills system cost $370 per year to maintain, while the water authority spends $21,000 running an average of 380 different tests on the water on a quarterly basis. He said that testing the water alone coasts $875 per year. He said that the increased rate was a combination of an increase in the cost of system infrastructure to $1,245 and an increase in the cost to deliver the water to $255 per year.
Browns Hills resident Venetia Hands prepared a financial breakdown of the costs of the system, which she quickly calculated on large sheets of paper that she taped to the wall of the water authority’s headquarters.
She chastised the water authority for forcing what she said that business experts had told her were “allocated costs” down the throats of Browns Hills residents.
“They say, Venetia, you’d be paying this if Browns Hills blew up tomorrow,” she said of many of the costs, which she said should be spread over all of the water authority’s 395,000 ratepayers county-wide. She said that if the costs were re-allocated over the entire ratepayer base, it would cost each SCWA customer 16 cents per year.
William Ryall, who built a house in Browns Hills in 2000, dug a well for a geothermal heating system at that time, but connected to the SCWA system for his drinking water. He took two glass bottles of water out of a backpack and placed them in front of the water authority board’s chairman, Jim Gaughran. One, he said, was of water from his tap and one was from his geothermal well. He said that he’d had those water samples tested last fall, and that the water from the tap hooked up to the SCWA well, which is under a farm field, had 12.6 parts per million of nitrates in it while the water from the geothermal well had 4 parts per million of nitrates.
“I’m told that’s the equivalent of eating one hot dog per month. My water is pure enough. It doesn’t need to be filtered,” he said.
The water authority is accepting written comment addressed to its headquarters at 4060 Sunrise Highway, Oakdale, NY 11769 or at [email protected] for the next two weeks. Members of the water authority’s board said that the earliest a decision on the rates would be made would be at their October meeting.
Mr. Gaughran also said that the board is waiting to hear back from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation on a plan to re-route the water main slated for Orient to another community in Calverton. The Environmental Facilities Corporation was responsible for routing $1.9 million in federal stimulus money to the Orient water main project. He said that the scope of that project would not be determined until the water authority got feedback on how the money could be used.