RYE, N.Y. – A Rye activist is calling for a cleanup of open water containers on Hen Island and the attention of the city as to its sanitary issues following the announcement last week that several batches of mosquitoes in Rye tested positive for West Nile Virus.

“Of all 17 test results, every one of them, except one in Yonkers, was within five miles of Hen Island,” said Ray Tartaglione, executive director of HealtheHarbor.com . He says he believes Hen Island has the biggest mosquito infestation in the county. “Most mosquitoes stay within five miles of their breeding site. It’s not a coincidence that 95 percent of West Nile in Westchester County is here,” he said.

One batch of mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile Virus in Rye on July 6 and four more batches were found July 17 and 18, the Westchester County Health Department reported last week. Of those batches, one pool of mosquitoes collected from Hen Island on July 17 tested positive for the virus according to a letter sent on Aug. 8 by the department to Benjamin Minard Jr., the president of the board of directors of Kuder Island Colony Inc., the holding company of the island formed by residents.

An inspection of the island was made on July 19, stemming from a complaint about “sanitary conditions, potable water, and to determine the extent of mosquito activity” on the island.

The inspection found that most sites free of possible breeding areas and there were no containers littered around the island, according to the letter. Members of the Health Department did find that several homes had inadequate coverings for their cisterns, which are receptacles used to store water for domestic use. All cisterns that were in good condition and had proper coverage were found to be free from mosquito larvae.

The department informed Mindard that all cisterns on the island will now be required to be equipped with properly installed, tight fitting covers and that all residents of the island be made aware of the need to eliminate standing water on their properties.

Tartaglione, who owns a home on the island, said the residents collect water for domestic use in barrels and horse troughs. “The first thing anyone tells you when it comes to West Nile and mosquitoes is to get rid of standing water,” he argued. “The county says to seal the tanks; well they’re not sealed. Sealed means air tight and [residents] have to get the water into those tanks.”

A re-inspection date is going to be set up within two weeks, according to the department, “in an effort to point out potential mosquito breeding sites and how to address their abatement.” In the letter the department also noted that no other findings would require any further action.

Tartaglione says he is concerned for the hundreds of kids who swim and sail every day during the summer at large Rye clubs that sit across the water from Hen Island. “Their parents don’t know that the West Nile Virus is coming from Hen Island. The more attention I bring to it, the closer we come to fixing it,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be fixed, it’s just a matter of time for people to realize this is a life-threatening situation.”

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