Problems with water in Dering Harbor have members of the Water Advisory Committee (WAC) concerned, but without the ability to influence a solution.
That’s because the incorporated Village of Dering Harbor is a separate entity from the town, and while it shares the Island-wide concerns about water quantity and quality, the town’s WAC has no method of dictating decisions on the village.
What the committee can do, member Tim Murphy said at Monday night’s meeting, is let it be known Island-wide how one person’s well can affect a neighbor’s water supply.
“I’m just trying to influence behavior,” Mr. Murphy said about his tactics.
Individuals who might live near Dering Harbor and encounter problems with their well water could sue, but proving their case would be difficult, his colleagues agreed.
Water is “a community resource,” WAC Chairman Albert Dickson said. Without concluding what caused the problems Dering Harbor has with what became a markedly high level of recorded water use this summer, he said former Mayor
Tim Hogue bore some responsibility for allowing more wells to be dug in Dering Harbor than should have been sanctioned.
Mr. Hogue did not respond to a request for a comment by press time.
Turning to ongoing water quality testing by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), WAC member Peter Grand said he has emphasized with USGS official Irene Fisher that the town’s primary interest is in the quality of its drinking water, rather than runoff water reaching the bays.
Testing is next scheduled for sometime in late October or early November to gather readings that would reflect summer usage when the Island population is at its highest.
Ms. Fisher is looking at tests that could be conducted in the vicinities of Daniel Lord Road, Shorewood and Hay Beach. But more work needs to be conducted to identify exact areas where the tests could reveal the most information.
Committee members are also concerned about possible issues resulting from materials that were dumped at the Recycling Center in the days before the landfill operation there was capped.
“We’re revisiting the sins of our fathers,” Mr. Grand said, referring to what Mr. Anderson said was the reality that in years past, everything got dumped at the site and contaminants may have leached into the groundwater.
The committee is hoping some of the upcoming tests will help determine whether the quality of water is being affected by that past practice.
The new Fresh Pond Neighbors Association is now an official group and is developing bylaws, has opened a bank account and is currently self-funding ongoing testing of Fresh Pond, Mr. Grand told his colleagues. At the same time, the group will be looking for other funding.
The efforts Fresh Pond neighbors have made could become a template for other neighborhood associations to follow, WAC member Ken Pysher said.
Supervisor Jim Dougherty told the committee he was to attend a meeting with The Nature Conservancy and Southampton officials this week to discuss a possible new loan program that would enable residents wanting to install nitrate-reducing septic systems to do so without awaiting payouts from either town or county grants.
The Nature Conservancy has suggested it could put up the money and it would be paid back over time at a 2 percent interest rate, enabling those without resources to have the new systems installed more quickly.
The Water Quality Improvement Projects Advisory Board had been wrestling with how to finance those without resources to have access to the grants sooner, but ultimately decided it couldn’t monitor projects and provide money as various stages of a project needed funding.
Work involved in tracking each project was more than the committee or town could handle.
“It became a nightmare,” WAC member Greg Toner said.
Access to low cost loans would solve that problem, he agreed.