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Dangerous situation averted at Shelter Island Recycling Center: Policy aims to prevent future crises

A highly dangerous situation at the Recycling Center Sunday afternoon spurred Highway Superintendent Ken Lewis Jr. to implement changes.

An illegally dumped 100-pound propane tank placed in the scrap metal area could have exploded, seriously injuring or killing those in the area, after someone was seeking to cut it open to salvage metal.

It could have caused a catastrophic explosion, Mr. Lewis told the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session. It took workers at the Recycling Center, police, firefighters and emergency service workers working as a team to ensure there was no danger, he said. Highway Department employees cleared the area and called 911 and the Fire Department applied water at the scene.

Mr. Lewis said this was not the first instance of the dangerous practice and asked the Town Board to support his decision to stop people from removing metal or construction debris from areas open to the public.

As of July 1, materials will be able to be brought to those areas to be discarded, but no one will be allowed to take materials from the piles of debris. “It’s a jagged mess,” Mr. Lewis said. “Thankfully, nobody was hurt. It could have been disastrous.”

The areas where the construction debris and scrap metal piles sit are crowded with vehicles, Town employees, contractors and residents. “This is an issue that has been going on for years,” Mr. Lewis said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

He told Board members that he spoke with the insurance carrier who agreed that the situation puts employees in jeopardy and endangers the public, creating a major liability for the Town.

There was no formal vote, but Board members let it be known they support the request to change the policy. Mr. Lewis said he believes the solution will prove effective, noting the workers have long wanted to see the practice of taking debris from the site stopped.

Mr. Lewis promised that the Goody Pile will remain; people can bring in small pieces of furniture for others to retrieve. But he said that area can’t accommodate large pieces of furniture such as bed frames, dressers and other major pieces.

As for the rest of his monthly report to the Town Board, Mr. Lewis complimented Highway Department members who have been readying the Town for the summer season. The crew has completed work at both Crescent and Wades beaches, including constructing a small shed at Crescent Beach to hold equipment. That includes the wheelchair and mat that enables disabled people to get to the water. Lifeguard chairs are out at both beaches and swim lines have been put in place. Bathrooms are open.

In preparation for Saturday’s 10K, fencing has been installed at Fiske Field for the Kids Fun Run and later, for the finish line. As for the routes of the 10K and 5K Walk/Run, potholes along roadways have been patched, Mr. Lewis said.

He credited Elizabeth Galle with working with the Garden Club of Shelter Island to beautify the town with flowers at Wilson Circle and the traffic circle at St. Mary’s Road, as well as other areas of the town. He noted she has also assisted with work at Goat Hill and Crescent Beach.