Water worries and
our sole source aquifer.
The East Hampton Airport sits atop
the deepest part of then sole source aquifer
which provides drinking water
to the East End and Long Island.
Not only private wells pull water from the aquifer, Suffolk County Water Authority (SCWA) also draws water from that precious source. It is the sole aquifer on Long Island and the single source of drinking water on the East End.
A recently released report from the Town provides more information about the sole source aquifer and we urge you to read the full report. It is not long (there are many illustrations).
The illustration above was taken from the recently released East Hampton Airport Draft Environmental Conditions, Planning and Zoning Report, Dotson and Flinker & Lisa Liquori.
• The active area of the airport is one of the most intense land uses in East Hampton
• The undeveloped setting of the Airport includes important conservation resources, including:
o The Georgica Pond watershed
o Critical drinking water reserves and public water infrastructure
o Unique Grassland Ecosystem
o East Hampton’s largest area of Pine Barrens
o Established Trails and Recreational Open Space
• The Airport Industrial Park and other private lands, primarily south of the airport, host a variety of commercial, industrial, recreational and institutional uses, with many opportunities for redevelopment and expansion.
▪ Aquifer designation is one tool to protect drinking water supplies in areas with few or no alternative sources to the ground water resource and where, if contamination occurred, using an alternative source would be extremely expensive.
▪ A sole or principal source aquifer is one which supplies at least fifty percent of the drinking water consumed in the area overlying the aquifer. These areas can have no alternative drinking water source(s) which could physically, legally, and economically supply all those who depend upon the aquifer for drinking water.
For convenience, all sole or principal source aquifers are referred to as "sole source aquifers" (SSA).
The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) designated four different locations on 47 acres of the airport property as Super Fund sites when testing showed evidence of PFA contamination.
Fire-retardant foam stored or used at KHTO during accidents and drills in past years is believed now to have been the cause of serious damage to our aquifer and the poisoning hundreds of private wells in Wainscott, resulting in the creation of a NY State DEC Superfund clean-up expected to take many years and with a cost of $32M and growing.
Although the contaminants in groundwater identified at KHTO were found in small parts per trillion compared to other nearby airports (Gabreski in Westhampton and at Westchester County Airport), the highly fluorinated chemicals are associated with some serious health problems:
Cardiovascular concerns ( Source: EPA)
PFOAs and PFOs are among a group of over 4,000 man-made chemicals often referred to as "forever chemicals" because they don't break down over time and so remain in the environment, likely forever.
Sampling at KHTO will continue and will take many years to ascertain how deep and how far the contamination may have spread.
(Source: Nicholas Rigano, environmental counsel to Town of East Hampton, May 2021)