Letters, Dec. 17, 2011
To: the Editor-
I read with much interest Judy Tierney's article in the Times last week ("Deepwater substation at Zoning").
Block Island Transmission LLC,applied for variances and waivers in a presentation to the Zoning Board. As an energy developer, the law does not allow Deepwater to also be a transmission company, which is needed to install the cable and transmission centers. They are asking to construct an electric power substation with two mammoth transformers and 40 foot above-ground poles on a nearly half-acre sized concrete pad across the street from the firehouse. They have also asked that town officials grant waivers on safety and environmental impacts without a study.
Maybe the inherent dangers of substation chemicals and possible oil spills, as well as unnecessary above ground poles and the sheer size, are overstated and Deepwater's request to waive safety and environmental concerns without a study are reasonable. It occurs for me as an unacceptable break in our trust that our town officials would even consider it or that our town attorney would not simply advise our Zoning Board to turn down the waiver request out of hand because it is unacceptable.
If this is simply an opportunity for our town officials to protect the investment of Deepwater's New York hedge fund owners, then our town officials should reassess their fiduciary relationship to the residents and taxpayers and voters of Block Island.
For one, I don't want to see a half-acre substation across the street from the firehouse. If you have an opinion on this please write to our Town Council and let them know before they act.
Whale Swamp Road
To: the Editor-
One of the items on the agenda of the December 5 meeting of the Town Council was to act on the draft of the Heinz Management agreement between the Town of New Shoreham and the BI Land Trust.
Since I have been interested in this effort, along with the added cost of applying organic fertilizer for over $5,000 per year over the cost of synthetic fertilizers, I attended the meeting to try to determine the reason for this added expenditure. I addressed the council with the following two statements:
First Warden Kim Gaffett made a statement to the Harbors Committee some time ago to the effect that the council should be careful with town revenue especially considering the difficult financial situation that the town is in. Second, Mr. Torrey made a statement in a letter to the editor of the Block Island Times: “As members of the Town Council it is our responsibility, first and foremost to conscientiously protect and advance the interests of the citizens we serve. We, as well as our three colleagues, do our best to make decisions based on the facts before us.”
Since this issue has been going on for over two years and the figure of over $5,000 has been repeated both in the 2010 and 2011 Town Financial meeting, I thought that there must be some definite figures involved, so I asked Recreation Director Rob Closter for the figures that he has been using. The results are eye opening. I don’t know if the Council or the Land Trust have these figures, but people can make their own decision as to the implication on our town budget.
Fact: The proposal for 2011 for the application of organic fertilizer totals $9,084. The proposal for synthetic fertilizers totals $2,625. The difference is a mere $6,459! Another comparison is that the cost of the organic fertilizer over the cost of synthetic fertilizers is more than 300 percent greater.
Further – the organic fertilizers, being lower in nutrient percentage, require 177 bags compared to 83 bags of synthetic fertilizer. If anyone has handled bags of fertilizer, handling the “extra” 94 bag amounts to an added application and labor cost.
The following facts are quotes from “The Truth About Organic Gardening, Benefits, Drawbacks and The Bottom Line” by Dr. Jeff Gillman, Associate Professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota. Preparation for teaching a course in pesticides and fertilizers involved the better part of two years, reviewing 132 research papers on the topics in order to have meaningful discussions with his students.
Fact: “The nutrients that come from organic and synthetic fertilizers are the same once the plant being fed takes them up into the vascular system.”
Fact: “A myth exists that the nutrients in organic fertilizers won’t leach or run off and contaminate nearby bodies off water: This is completely false. The nutrients in any organic fertilizer can leave a site via water movement, such as leaching through the ground or washing away with rain, and can contaminate streams, lakes, and even groundwater.” There is a very limited chance that this could take place on Heinz Field due to its location and level topography.
Fact: The New England Regional Nitrogen and Phosphorus Fertilizer and Associated Management Practice Recommendations For Lawns Based on Water Quality Considerations, a cooperative venture involving scientists from the universities of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Maine, Plymouth State and New Hampshire and published by the University of Connecticut, states: “From a water quality perspective, the synthetic controlled-release products are just as effective in lessening the threat to water quality as the naturally organic-derived products.”
During the council meeting, Kim Gaffett and a couple of audience members showed concern that synthetic fertilizers can harm the microorganisms that help the grass absorb nutrients. Dr. Gilman states that, “with heavy fertilization the growth of these fungi is inhibited (not prohibited). Whether you’re concerned about affecting the natural balance is up to you, but I use synthetic fertilizers conservatively so as to minimize my effect on natural systems.”
It should be pointed out that two of the commenting audience members have a professional agenda. Personally, I have not read, seen or heard of any lawns, athletic fields or golf courses that have failed due to activity or lack thereof of mycorrhizae.
Fact: The taxpayers at the 2011 Town Financial Meeting last May voted to delete $5,000 from the Recreation budget dedicated to the application of organic fertilizer. The Land Trust overrode this vote and mandated that the Recreation Department use organic fertilizer and therefore must take it out of their already depleted budget. I have posed the following question for over two years and have as yet to receive an answer from either party: What is the validated, research based fact or facts that have led the Town Council and the Land Trust to determine that it is in the towns’ financial interest to mandate the use of organic fertilizer at an annual added cost of over $6,000 in lieu of equally effective so-called synthetic fertilizer?
It was gratifying that the Town Council voted 4 to 1 to request the Land Trust reconsider the use of synthetic fertilizer on Heinz Field.
Frederick H. Nelson