Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: Getting serious


The Town Board has told the community it’s serious about confronting the water crisis on Shelter Island.

What they didn’t do, however, is use the word “crisis.”

When some wells used for drinking water near the coastlines are compromised by saltwater infusion, and wells in the Center, including one that supplies water to a senior nutrition program and a pre-school, are deemed unsuitable for drinking, it seems to be more than an “issue,” which is the word used to characterize the situation (“Nitrogen levels worsening,” January 10).

We understand having a sense of caution, of not being alarmist to the point where clear thinking is obscured by panic, and so — for now — will accept the terminology describing what’s going on with the Island’s water.

One telling response to how the issue, crisis, or whatever, is progressing is that real estate businesses on the Island are not worried one way or another about words describing the situation.

During a presentation of a 17-point plan to address, remediate and get ahead of problems with water contamination (“Man with a plan,” January 10), Town Engineer John Cronin said that prying loose information from Suffolk County about the state of the Island’s water required a Freedom of Information request, since the county was reluctant to name individuals who had polluted wells.

Mr. Cronin speculated that owners didn’t want the value of their properties to be reduced if their wells were found to be worthless. But Town Assessor Craig Wood said his office had “not seen real estate values affected” by water issues since potential buyers know to expect negative reports.

We applaud Mr. Cronin and the Town Board for preparing the extensive plan laid out last week, and especially the seriousness with which they said they would take the recommendations in Mr. Cronin’s report. It will be added as an amendment to the town’s Comprehensive Plan — a document that outlines goals and processes for a community’s development.

Most encouraging is that the board said it’s not taking the water plan and “shoving it into a closet,” as Councilman Paul Shepherd put it, or figuring that by looking at the list means goals have been reached and it’s time for self-congratulation, Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams noted.

Time, which is ticking, will tell what our elected officials’ commitment is to making the Island’s water pure.