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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor: April 13, 2023

Grow up

To the Editor:

I’d like to respond to Andrzei Rojek’s letter in the April 6, 2023 Reporter.

To begin with, his numbers, as well as Mr. Kohn’s are not accurate. To quote a friend who I served on the School Board with, “Numbers don’t lie, but liars use numbers.” 

Town Engineer Joe Finora has repeatedly explained the actual percentage decrease in nitrogen reaching the aquifer and surface water, but Messrs. Kohn and Rojek either don’t understand or don’t want to understand the math.

The other thing Mr. Rojek fails to understand is that the town’s proposed wastewater project would eliminate all of the nitrogen going into Menantic Creek from the municipal buildings, not 2%.

As far as bullying, I will say the same thing I said to Mr. Kohn, “Grow up.” 

It’s an insult to every member of the Town Board to insinuate that I bully them into following my lead. Mr. Kohn has a history of starting his presentations with “I hope I can have more than three minutes …” He has always been accommodated to speak again after everyone else in the audience has spoken.

In closing, as I stated at the work session, the Town Board has answered every question put to it about this project. Those responses came from three professional engineers and a professional hydrologist. We’ve answered every question regarding the environmental impacts.

The attorney for the Friends of Coecles Harbor made 10 references to increased density that might be created. I wish the people opposing the project would be honest, both to themselves and the community, and say that their only concern is the potential for community housing that this project might open the door for.

As far as my “wanting to do something big, not smart, for the community”, I would say to Mr. Rojek — look at the science.

GERRY SILLER, Supervisor, Town of Shelter Island

Wastewater debate

To the Editor:

In his zeal to promote his Manwaring wastewater project, the supervisor urged the School Board last week to do something he continually neglects to do himself: follow the science.

According to a report in the East Hampton Star, the I/A system installed at the Spring School reduced nitrogen to as low as 6.2mg/L, about a 97% reduction. Siller promises that the Manwaring plant can offer a 98.6% reduction to about 3 mg/L.

But the Manwaring plant’s additional 3mg/L or so nitrogen reduction offers no marginal benefit to public health. As the Town’s SEQRA consultant admitted, that is about how much nitrogen the supervisor’s plant will actually add to the Gardiners Creek area, calling it a “minor” amount.

Now consider that the Spring School’s highly successful I/A system serves nearly 650 students, over three times the number of Shelter Island students. Moreover, the School Board’s system will pre-process the school’s wastewater prior to it being cleaned by the I/A system. Thus, its I/A system might reduce nitrogen even lower than that of Spring School’s.

Our school is by far the largest single source of nitrogen in the Center. An I/A system that will reduce nitrogen to a level that is virtually no different from the $3 million Manwaring project can be installed at the school by this September 2023 for a cost of about $800,000 funding which the School Board already has.

By contrast, the supervisor’s plan has so many obstacles — lack of funding, public skepticism, and potential homeowner lawsuits — it may be delayed for years, if ever. Yet the supervisor has asked the School Board to further delay its I/A installation, risking the public’s health over a promise he might never keep.

That is a risk that is unfair of him to ask the School Board to assume.

BOB KOHN, Shelter Island

Kohn’s comments

To the Editor:

During the recent public meetings on the project, Bob Kohn made representations that individual I/A technologies remove 95+% of nitrogen. He then stated that the proposed centralized system would only produce marginal additional nitrogen removal.

Mr. Kohn’s representations are incorrect. Mr. Kohn has obviously not read Addendum # 1 of the Engineering Report which presents Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) Feb. 23, 2023 Data on Technology Effluent Quality at Residential Applications which states the following:

• Typical Residential wastewater total nitrogen (TN) is 65 mg/L

•The best nitrogen removing I/A Technology for residential applications achieves effluent TN of 12.7, which is 80% removal, not the 95+% Mr. Kohn has stated.

•Other I/A technologies for residential applications achieve 56% – 76% TN removal.

•The NYS Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University Technologies, led by Professor Christopher Gobler, achieves 70% – 79% TN removal.

For the record, SCDHS published an independent evaluation Report in 2013 which documented the Nitrex system achieves an average effluent TN of 1.58 mg/L – which is 98% TN removal.

Furthermore, it is of utmost significance to recognize the wastewater TN quality from the municipal buildings is expected to be 2-3 times stronger than residential wastewater. Conventional I/A technologies have not been demonstrated to effectively treat the high strength wastewater which will be generated by the municipal buildings. Conventional I/A system output would be as much as 10 times higher than the amount of nitrogen of the proposed Nitrex treatment process.

Additionally, Mr. Kohn summarily dismisses without basis and ignores the public health issues of septic-to-well required variances which would locate commercial scale I/A systems within 75 feet of public drinking water wells.

PIO LOMBARDO, Lombardo Associates

A call to action

To the Editor:

The Town Board (TB) is confronted by many environmental issues related to surface water, run-off, erosion, and over-development. Our wetlands are under siege due to large construction projects along the shoreline and other human abuse. Now is the time for the TB to be more restrictive with wetlands protections.

The TB proposed changes to the wetland regulations, which could make it easier for applicants to encroach into the wetlands. As the Shelter Island Heights Board chair, I recommend the following:

• Do not transfer decision-making on wetlands applications to the Planning Board. It is essential that the TB continue to make wetlands decisions that reflect the needs of the Island, and that it be held accountable for its actions and decisions. The transfer of decision-making to the Planning Board will reduce transparency, make it more difficult for the public to weigh-in, and could expose Planning Board members to conflicts of interest.

• Retain the requirement for wetlands demolition permits. Building Department demolition permits are insufficient as they are not environmentally focused. In addition, not all projects require a Building Department demolition permit.

• Keep the requirement for the Environmental Assessment Form, which according to the DEC is used, “in determining the environmental significance or non-significance of actions.”

• Preserve the 100-foot exemption as a one-time accommodation. Making the exemption cumulative invites additional disturbance to these fragile areas.

At the hearing, many residents were opposed to delegating decision-making authority and any proposed changes that make it easier to encroach into the wetlands. Only three speakers were in favor of the changes, two from the Planning Board.

The TB meets next Tuesday. Without proper protection, these wetlands could be lost forever, leading to devastating consequences for the environment and our community. The wetlands are a key component of our legacy — please help protect them.

JOHN KENNEY, Chair, Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation

Baseless charges

To the Editor:

Reckless charges of “election fraud” in the Democratic primary made by the Republican chairman and bolstered by members of the Town Board and Town Attorney, illustrate how threatened the political establishment must feel by Gordon Gooding’s run for supervisor.

The charges are baseless because the prominent Republican accused, who thinks voters deserve a real choice in November, did not improperly collect signatures for Gordon. Nor did he refer Democrats who think it’s time for a change to those petitioning for Gordon, even though the Election Law would not have prevented that.

The Republican chairman reportedly filed a complaint with the Board of Elections, but claimed not to have the time or money to investigate or pursue it. What could be more disingenuous or irresponsible?

Not long ago, Councilman Colligan publicly reported that the current Democratic supervisor would not run for reelection if the Republican deputy supervisor ran to succeed him. The deputy finally threw her hat into the ring, but Gordon created a potential roadblock by announcing his candidacy as a Democrat.

Lo and behold, the supervisor decided to try to defeat Gordon by running against him in the June 27 Democratic primary (after which, if victorious, he could presumably withdraw, leaving the field open for his Republican deputy).

Now that more than enough Democrats have signed petitions to get Gordon on the ballot, Town Board members (Republican and Democratic), the town attorney (who is running for the Southold Town Council as a Republican), and the Republican chairman have joined forces to undercut Gordon’s chances in the Democratic primary.

What are they afraid of? Could it be a supervisor who will protect the best of Shelter Island and plan for a brighter future in a way that is pragmatic, objective, transparent, and receptive to the concerns of all Islanders?

STEPHEN JACOBS, Shelter Island

An Easter mystery

To the Editor:

I have yet to reach all my sisters as of the writing of this letter — I have four younger sisters — but the one that I thought sent me an Easter surprise did not.

Easter Sunday afternoon, with lamb in the oven, I decided to take a walk on Country Club Drive. On my porch bench was a shopping bag filled with two bundles of yellow tulips, a dark chocolate Easter bunny, and a scented candle. They were all wrapped in Lee’s catalog pages and a fancy paper with French titles from Oribe products. The shopping bag was from Oribe, also.

No “To” or “From” anywhere. I looked carefully. Was the package meant for Virginia and Alex Walker or had a mistake been made in delivery? 

I put the beautiful yellow tulips in a vase on the dining room table opposite the red tulips my husband had given me. The bunny also sat on the table. The candle off to one side. We had a lovely dinner with a bounty of flowers.

The oddest thing about this is that on the Thursday before Easter I realized I had not bought a chocolate bunny for my husband, which I do every year. I mentioned that in passing when I was at the library as judge in the Bliss Morehead Poetry Contest.

My husband had said — I am heavy enough. Do not worry. But temptation looms. Right now I am telling him to hold off on eating the bunny until we establish it was meant for us.

If you left an Oribe bag for someone else at the wrong house, the tulips will be wilted by the time you read this, but the bunny and the candle can still be retrieved.



To the Editor:

I’m wondering if anyone can explain the fees for keeping a small boat on a Town landing. An Opti and a Vanguard Pram measure under 8’ and are, to the naked eye, small boats. 

The fee for small boats is $50. But stick a removable mast and sail in, they somehow become medium sized boats, and the fee is $75. My kayak, which is 12’ gets the small boat fee of $50.

I’d like to understand the logic of this, though I suspect there isn’t any.