Letters To The Editor
October 13, 2011

Dear Editor,

In the last Rye Record, you wrote that “green toilets are coming to Hen Island” as well as coverings for Hen Island cottage rainwater collection systems. Rye residents deserve a few more facts about this so-called “progress” before things go much further.

Hen Island is Rye’s offshore seasonal cottage community with 34 houses spread over three separate islands. Today, none of these island homes has municipal water, sanitary sewer, or electric service. Many of the cottage water and sewage systems on the island today are makeshift, built by the cottage owners and operated completely outside of Westchester County’s and Rye’s municipal laws for sanitation and safety. Thus readers may not be surprised to learn that Hen Island is Westchester County’s last working outhouse. Really.

Now, after a series of closed-door negotiations this summer with Hen Island representatives, Mayor French has announced that next year Hen Island cottage owners would install coverings over their rooftop water collection systems and install composting toilets. He has publicly called this “an easy fix.” for Hen Island. This is quite simply a ludicrous, empty, political gesture given the serious, long festering health problems Hen Island creates for Rye City residents and users of the Long Island Sound.

Composting toilets require continuously supplied full power electricity to work properly. There is none on Hen Island. Solar electric systems installed on some of the cottages do not supply continuous 24-hour power – and these systems must be switched off when the homeowner is not in residence. Improper composting of human waste will require storage of the improperly composted material for a period of one year in 55-gallon drums, in the sun, along the shores of Milton Harbor. According to state code, Hen Island would still be required to install an approved sewage disposal system for the remaining gray water.

Likewise, covering up the rooftop rainwater collection systems on cottages will not prevent the annual clouds of fresh water mosquitoes from hatching in the cisterns of Hen Island. Nor will it make the roof water safe to drink – potable – for the cottage dwellers under any circumstances.

Mayor French knows that a legal sanitary sewer and potable water supply hook-up easement is in place on Hen Island. This municipal utility easement is incorporated into the Island’s deed, and can be installed by Hen Island at the direction of, and under the supervision of, Rye. This would allow sewage and potable water issues for the islands to be handled according to the regulations that all other City residents comply with. It’s a straightforward and technically feasible solution, and Rye City taxpayers wouldn’t be charged one dime. They would even make money if the City issued violations and collected fines.

I have to ask why Rye’s elected officials are trying to do everything wrong first before doing what’s right as required by law.

Very truly yours,
Raymond J. Tartaglione


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