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DAN'S PAPERS, June 11, 2010 Page 21 www.danshamptons.com

The Inundation Problems, Polluted Waters & a Breakdown on Shelter Isl. By Dan Rattiner It’s certainly not something to be taken lightly. The British Petroleum Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is the single greatest man-made disaster that ever happened. And yet, there is something eerily familiar about what has been going on on Shelter Island in these last few weeks. It’s as if some very bad playwright has taken the BP Disaster on the road, and given the result of his labors to a community theatre group on that island. Memorize these lines. It’s got power and majesty. It’s a play that theatergoers will never forget. The plotline is familiar. Americans have a need that is unmet. The citizenry say to those in charge that something will have to be done. Permits are issued. Machines are brought in, pumps are turned on and the problem is solved. Then something goes wrong. There’s a breakdown. Perhaps an explosion. And then disaster. A liquid is released and is dispersed into the waters. And the shellfish and sea creatures die. Of course, everything on Shelter Island is on a very small scale. The little theatre group is on a very tight budget, after all. And furthermore, events get a little backwards and sometimes make no sense—a problem with the script. For example in the case of Shelter Island, the authorities vote to deliberately pollute the waters to resolve a problem. Frankly, it’s a pretty amateurish production. Here’s the story of Shelter Island. I call it The Inundation. Sometime in March 2010, there are a series of very violent and very wet rainstorms in the area, particularly on Shelter Island. Huge amounts of water are dumped on the land. The result is flooding, not only in the low-lying

areas, but high up in the hills, where if there is a swale in a hillside or a crease in a meadow, the water collects. It collects because the ground is saturated and the water leaks out of it. And there is this strange, almost unnatural situation where in many areas of Shelter Island, even high up, the roads are flooded and the farmland is flooded and the basements are flooded. Cars are being turned back. Crap in the basements begins to smell. Something will have to be done. The powers that be, responding to the demands of the populace, decide to pump out all the floodwaters into the bay. One end of the hoses will be set into the floodwaters, filthy with all the crap that humans put on the land—pesticides, candy wrappers, oil dripping from car engines, overflows from gas pumps, cake boxes, turpentine, six-in-one oil and landscape chemicals, all of which trickle into the ponds—and the other end in the bay and attach a pump in the middle. The water will flow. And it will enter the bay, which will become polluted. It will also solve the problem of the flooding. It doesn’t seem at first glance that this will work. The dirty water is moved into Peconic Bay nearby just a few hundred yards out. How does that help the Island? Won’t it just flow back? Well, the pumped water is released at the bottom of Peconic Bay, so it is well below the water line on the land, and well below the surface of the water. Will it raise the sea level? Absolutely not. You can count on that. This dirty water is just a raindrop in the rain barrel of the world’s oceans. Some of it, very little of it actually, will be swept away and out to sea, perhaps to be caught up in the same swoop of the sea current that is trying to get the BP Oil spill around the protuberance of Florida and

up the Atlantic Coast toward, well, who knows? Well, that hasn’t happened yet. Okay, so maybe it will raise the water level a billionth of an inch. This is a sort of tense part of the play. But as you see, with the explanation, the tension is relieved, and we move on. We move on to the starting up of the pumps. The decision is made, the signal is given and the pump engines are started and begin sucking. The waters flow. And the bay—anybody can see this—is growing brown and grey with the new polluted waters. This was supposed to happen. But now somebody has sounded the alarm. The Environmental Protection Agency wades into the fray. The fish are endangered. The ducks are covered with, what, those plastic six-pack beer necklaces they can’t get out of? It’s not a bad inundation yet, anyway. But for now, we have to do something. We can’t ban the pumping—they’ve got all the permits and paperwork and permissions, so let’s ban shell fishing. The fishermen cannot fish in this. What they come up with will be inedible. And so there is a scene in this play where the notices are tacked up on the telephone poles down near Coecles Harbor (named after the coecles) and Deering Harbor (named after the Deerings), that shell fishing is banned until further notice, until testing proves that those sea creatures who might have been affected by this inundation have either died from it or swum or hobbled painfully away leaving just good healthy lobsters and clams and oysters and crabs. Could happen in a couple of weeks. Or months. Or maybe years. We’ll just have to see. How long do these damn creatures live (continued on page 24)

Dan's Papers June 11, 2010  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

Dan's Papers June 11, 2010  

Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...

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