Purpose of the Montauk Sewer District:


The principal goal of The Coalition for Hither Woods is to protect Montauk’s magnificent Hither Woods and the superb environmental characteristics of this wilderness area, while keeping Hither Woods fit for appropriate human use and enjoyment.  The Coalition would not take a position on the creation of a sewer district for parts of Montauk except for the fact that the sewer district, and its associated sewage treatment plant, present a direct and severe threat to Hither Woods.  Readers of this website might naturally want some information about the proposed Montauk sewer district.

The information provided herein on the projected sewer district is taken almost exclusively from East Hampton Town’s own sources.  These consist mainly of a Map, Plan & Report prepared for the Town Board in July 2022 by the private engineering firm H2M, and two Power Point-style presentations made by Town departmental officials on April 4, 2022 and December 13, 2022.  The July 2022 H2M report was not disclosed to the public until December 2022, and then only in response to a Freedom of Information request made by The Coalition for Hither Woods.

The East Hampton Town Board has tried to portray the creation of a Montauk sewer district as a “clean water” and pro-environment initiative.  It is evident from the documents that that is not the Town Board’s main motivation.  The July 2022 report by engineering consultant H2M - noted above - makes very clear the real reasons underlying the sewage district proposal.  In the words of H2M’s report, in Downtown Montauk “many buildings cannot accommodate mixed-use, cannot have a wet license, and are not able to increase their maximum occupancy ratings.”  Sewers will eliminate these constraints, which are imposed not by Town zoning but by County Health Department regulations.  Centralized sewering, H2M says, “will provide the property owners within the Downtown Montauk area with the opportunity to expand their existing businesses.”

Areas where sewers don’t exist, H2M cautions, “are losing value as they cannot be used to their fullest extent.”  (This will probably come as a surprise to most Montauk locals.)  H2M also says, “incorporating additional capacity within the initial build-out plan [for the sewer district] will provide the Town with flexibility to accommodate a range of growth and/or expansion opportunities in the future,” and will allow for “potential future expansion of sanitary sewer service to properties located outside the initial district boundary.”  

The H2M report goes on to say that putting sewers in Downtown Montauk will result in increased property valuations and that this will provide additional property tax revenues.  Increased business activity, H2M says, will provide additional sales tax and income tax revenue.

So there you have it.  The sewer district is being proposed by the Town primarily to generate, and to accommodate, future growth and development.

The report gives lip service to environmental protection.  H2M notes that high density and shallow groundwater in Downtown Montauk results in “excessive nitrogen loading to many of the coastal waters through subsurface groundwater transport.”  The report goes on to say that Downtown Montauk is “surrounded” by surface waters, “including Fort Pond, Fort Pond Bay, and Lake Montauk.”  H2M apparently assumes that the readers of its report don’t know much about local geography.  Whereas the Downtown area is close to Fort Pond, no groundwater from Downtown Montauk ever makes its way to either Fort Pond Bay or Lake Montauk.

The Coalition for Hither Woods supports responsible efforts to reduce or eliminate groundwater contamination in Downtown Montauk - provided that public parkland is not used for this purpose.  Polluted groundwater in Downtown Montauk is not a new problem.  It has existed for decades and is the result of overdevelopment of the Downtown area by motels and other businesses.  The contaminated groundwater beneath the Downtown area does not pose an immediate risk to human health.  None of this groundwater is used for drinking purposes, it serves no private or public wells, and it does not migrate to any other areas on Montauk.  The groundwater underlying Downtown Montauk slowly seeps out below the water line into the Atlantic Ocean, where it is immediately mixed with sea water.  The solutions to contaminated groundwater in Downtown Montauk should be identified and implemented in the areas where such contamination exists, and not unloaded into other areas of Montauk, especially parkland.

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