Farmer Balks At Proposed Water Quality Surcharge

By Jano Tantongco

Albert Schmitt, owner of Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms, located at 6 Bagatelle Road in Dix Hills, has been running the farm with his wife Dottie for decades.

He said he was “definitely against” a proposed surcharge on Suffolk County property owners’ water bills aimed to help treat wastewater.

“We all want to clear the water, but it’s going to hurt more people than that,” he said. “1,000 gallons don’t go far.”

County Executive Steve Bellone gathered with advocates from both the environmental and business spectrum, along with elected officials, to announce a proposed referendum that would give voters a choice of imposing a surcharge that would levy an additional $1 per 1,000 gallons used on their water bills.

Starting out farming potatoes, the Schmitt family has farmed their plot since 1853. Schmitt explained that while some farmers “out east” pump their own water, his farm relies on the Dix Hills Water District.

“It would definitely hurt us. It’s going to be an extra tax on our business.” said Schmitt. “I just don’t know how many gallons we use.”

Larry Johnson, manager of Spuntino restaurant on Old Country Road in Dix Hills, said he felt such a fee was inevitable, adding that you can’t fight the government.

“You gotta pay taxes somehow,” he commented.

According to Town of Huntington spokesman A.J. Carter, the Dix Hills Water District pumped 2,122,416 billion gallons in 2015, divided among 33,528 connections, both residential and commercial. From those figures, the average property owner uses 63,303 gallons per year.

This would tack on a $63 annual surcharge for the average property owner for the 41,000 people the district serves. This compares with the county’s household estimate of $73 per household. That figure was derived from synthesizing data from the Suffolk County Water Authority, as well as local water districts, from 2014, said county spokeswoman Pam Robinson,

For the proposal to be set in motion, Bellone said Suffolk officials need issue a home rule message to the state that would authorize the measure to be placed on the ballot in November as a referendum. If passed through the state Senate and Assembly and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, county voters would then be able to have their say on Election Day in November.