Owner raising cash for required upgrades on Peconic River houseboats

12/05/2014 8:00 AM |
Houseboat owner Michael Evers with his puppy Tallulah. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Houseboat owner Michael Evers with his puppy Tallulah. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

While homeowners across the East End await word of potentially costly water quality regulations, houseboat owners within Riverhead Town are already trying to protect the area’s waters.

For one docked resident, however, the cost of doing so is too high — and it might force him to leave his home.

“It’s scary. I love living here,” Michael Evers, 54, said. “Living on the river is very unique. You have to get used to the creeks and the movement at first, but once you do, it really is incredible. I get up in the morning, I have a cup of coffee, open the sliding glass doors and I’m looking out on the Peconic River.”

Mr. Evers’ barge is one of five houseboats docked at Treasure Cove Resort Marina in Riverhead that must complete wastewater system updates in order to comply with Suffolk County health department regulations, according to legislation passed by the Town Board in August 2013.

To help pay for the septic updates, which total $23,000, Mr. Evers — a painter who runs an art program for intellectually disabled adults at Independent Group Home Living in Southampton — has started a GoFundMe campaign and is selling prints of his artwork.R1204_barge2_cm_C.jpg

Mr. Evers’ three-story houseboat, which is considered a barge because it doesn’t have a motor, has been in his family around 20 years, he said. He purchased it from his sister Janise about five years ago with the dream of spending his retirement on the water.

Because it’s not an actual house or boat, Mr. Evers explained, he can’t insure the barge or take a loan out against it to raise money for the updates. And while all five houseboats currently have holding tanks for septic waste, greywater from their bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines is being discharged into the river. The county department wants it all to flow into a wastewater disposal system instead.

So far, Treasure Cove Resort Marina has paid more than $160,000 to install the infrastructure needed to pump the discolored water away from the houseboats and into the municipal sewer system, said Bryan DeLuca, executive director of Long Island Exhibition Center and Hyatt Place Hotel, which oversees the marina.

Treasure Cove residents must now pay $15,000 each to connect to the new infrastructure, Mr. DeLuca said. They’ll also have to pay varying costs to retrofit their plumbing.

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The upgrade, which is already being installed, will make the marina one of the first in Suffolk County to connect houseboats to municipal sewers, he said.

Mr. DeLuca said two of the houseboats belong to Treasure Cove, while the other three homes belong to people renting dock space at the marina.

“They have really been an advocate for us,” Mr. Evers said of the marina. “They have included themselves with us and they are paying their own bills on top of that.”

Another boathouse resident said “the marina is doing their share; they are very good to us here. They are doing it right the way, the way it is supposed to be done. I have always been conscious about the ecology here and what’s been going into the water.”

Mr. Evers said he and some of the other residents have been using the marina’s bathrooms and showers in an effort to minimize the amount of gray-colored water being deposited into the river. He said he believes he’s the only houseboat owner having difficulty coming up with money for the updates.

In addition to his GoFundMe campaign, Mr. Evers is selling prints of his original art, which feature silhouettes of well-known celebrities and politicians and are often signed by the individuals.

“I just figured, let me try this and see how it goes,” he said. “I don’t want to leave my home.”

For more information, visit Mr. Evers’ donation page at gofundme.com/savingthebarge.

Caption: Piping and other infrastructure needed to connect to the municipal sewer system is being installed at Treasure Cover Marina. (Credit: Carrie Miller)