Plans to create a wastewater management district for downtown Montauk — which is called a “priority” in the town’s Water Quality Improvement Plan and Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan — took a step forward last Thursday when the East Hampton Town Board voted to issue a request for proposals for consulting and engineering services for the project.
A wastewater collection system would primarily service the downtown area, which consists of around 200 developed properties. Many of the hamlet’s commercial properties now have septic systems that are defined as “nonfunctioning,” a designation assigned a system that must be pumped out more than four times a year. But a large majority of those properties do not have adequate space to replace a failing system with a state-of-the-art, low-nitrogen septic system, as their structures occupy most of the lot.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency banned new large-capacity cesspools in 2000 because untreated sanitary waste from cesspools can enter groundwater and contaminate drinking-water sources. A ban on existing large-capacity cesspools went into effect in 2005. A “community” wastewater treatment system — i.e., sewerage — would offer a way to resolve environmental impacts on ground and surface waters related to septic waste.
“Most of the business owners have bought into this,” Kim Shaw, director of the town’s Natural Resources Department, told the town board last month, “because they pay so much to be pumped — if not every three days, weekly.”
Advanced sewage treatment would be essential before existing commercial buildings could convert their upper floors to affordable apartments for Montauk’s service industry workers, as recommended in the town’s comprehensive plan. A wastewater management system would also allow for the relocation of existing systems from low-lying areas.
Respondents to the request for proposals are to include an analysis of the project’s feasibility, a wastewater district’s metes and bounds, a determination of system type and layout of wastewater collection and pump stations, capital and annual operating and maintenance costs, an analysis of tax implications, and identification of potential funding sources. With an estimated cost of $32 million, the board was told in 2018, maximizing grant opportunities would be important to accomplishing the goal.
The Village of Westhampton Beach has created a wastewater district, Ms. Shaw told the board. As of last month, she said, the village had secured nearly $8 million in grant funding from the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the State Environmental Facilities Corporation, and the community preservation fund.
The draft R.F.P. for Montauk used the Westhampton Beach R.F.P. as a template, Ms. Shaw said. Hampton Bays officials are also considering a wastewater district, she said. “We’re sort of unique,” Ms. Shaw told the board. “We do not have any sewer district, so there’s no treatment facility. This is creating the whole district and a treatment plant.” Sites that have been considered for treatment and disposal, she said, include Montauk’s former landfill, Suffolk County Water Authority-owned property near the Montauk Manor, the dock-Star Island area, and the Montauk Downs area.
The town board is expected to consider adding Ditch Plain, the dock area, and residential and commercial properties around the hamlet’s Long Island Rail Road station as areas to be serviced by a wastewater treatment system. Those planning to respond to the R.F.P. can do so between March 13 and April 16. They have been urged to attend a pre-proposal meeting on March 11 at 11 a.m., on the downtown green in Montauk.