Letters to the Editor, December 28, 2013

Mon, 12/30/2013 - 3:00pm

To the Editor:

Perhaps this lovely island needs to make a few New Year’s resolutions. How about lessening the absurdities of life on Block Island? I have a short list for review now, maybe a long list at a later date.

Sewer bills. Those of us that are unfortunate enough to have homes on the town sewer and/or town water must all be aware of the tremendous fluctuations of the outrageous charges from month to month, which don’t really make much sense but cost us more than a few cents. If you complain, you will be told that you have a leaky toilet and are using thousands of gallons. Funny, but my toilet doesn’t appear to be leaking. Then you are told that you really can’t see it, but if I let my faucet drip at a rate that I can see and measure it, I find unscientifically that it would take six months to fill a 10,000-gallon tanker. Then next I get a $110 fine for overuse of the sewer because I used more than the previous owner and now need to buy a bigger “allocation” for $450. That’s not mentioning that I already paid for the extra volume. But wait a minute, all we hear is that we need more usage from the public to keep the sewer and water facilities profitable then — wham! — we are penalized when we use it. That is an absurdity.

Harassment of Businesses. Try and open a new business here, or try to expand an existing one. First of all, the rents are almost impossible to allow a break-even investment. Then the process of approval, Building Department, Historical Commission, Zoning Board approval, Planning approval, Liquor Licensing approval, and last, but not least, Conservation Commission approval. What? By this time the businessman says, “Let’s see, how old am I? Maybe I won’t live long enough to do this.” This is an absurdity

Deer Task Force. Well, at least entrusted by the Town Council to lower or eradicate the deer population and Lyme Disease on the island. In five years they haven’t accomplished anything until now. Maybe not even now but the Department of Environmental Management has tried to accommodate them with a new cockamamie idea of hiring off-island hunters to the tune of $128,330 per 200 deer per year for five years. That’s $641.00 paid per deer to an off-island company if they actually get 200 in a year. Nevertheless, the town charges — not pays — our local hunters $12.00 per deer. Talk about absurd. Do you think our local hunters might jump on a $75.00 bounty per deer? Now $15,000 for corn baiting. I buy 50-pound bags of cracked corn for $10.00 a bag, so that’s 1,500 bags or 75,000 pounds or over 37 tons of corn for a two-week hunt, even if it is put out weeks before. What? Task Force and Block Island Residents Association (BIRA) claims they will pay for it. What? No taxpayer monies will be used. What? Meanwhile, who is picking up the leftovers, rats, mice, birds all known to be carriers of the Lyme tick? All of this is truly an absurdity.

Lyme Disease. First, it was declared a medical emergency by Block Island Medical Services then when the DEM wouldn’t agree that Lyme was the emergency, but rather the deer population was an emergency because of the flora and fauna of the island, a hunt was planned. In a recent article in The Block Island Times entitled “The science of Lyme Disease,” it was suggested that Lyme disease could be reduced if the deer herd was eliminated to at least 90 percent of what it now is which might take five years. Yet by the end of the article it is stated that actually for the first three years after that Lyme will increase because our other animals will take up the ticks. That’s now eight years, am I right? The other animals are dogs, cats, horses and cows, no mention of rats and mice. The article goes on to say, “We have to have a plan in place to guard against this unwanted side effect.” What does that mean, another planned hunt for dogs, cats, cattle and horses? Another absurdity.

The Rising Tide. Oh, really. Just a few weeks ago we had some individuals trying to tell us here on the island that we must prepare for serious rising sea levels. You might think that in a few years we might have to go to the Block Island Grocery, or the bank in a boat or at least with waders. Might be able to clam on the Historical Society’s front lawn. Not going to happen. Check out pictures of the old breakwater, built in 1870 at Old Harbor, not the slightest indication that the sea has risen even inches, old red stones have the same tide marks as over 140 years ago. As for global warming, it snowed in Cairo recently, first time in 100 years and two feet of snow in Jerusalem and the coldest temperatures in Antarctica ever recorded in the world. The rising sea on Block Island, another absurdity.

Finally, in a letter to the editor (Dec. 21) an individual tries to compare Lyme disease on Block Island to The Polio epidemic of the fifties. Will you give us a break writers, there is no comparison and that “we may be at the epicenter of America’s eruption of Lyme disease.” That talk is frightening and not true and not fair to this island. Then the horrific stories of recurrent Lyme disease in children especially on Block Island this year.  Yet according to The Block Island Health Services, they are seeing a 12  percent decline in patient fees during this past fiscal year. Furthermore, BIHS wants to know how to get more patients in the clinic door. One of their suggestions is to raise the price of the visit. That should surely work (not).  So, to conclude, we have an epidemic with 12 percent decline in patient visits. Another absurdity.

John Willis

Beacon Hollow Farm


To the Editor:

This is a reminder to all blood donors and prospective donors that our next blood drive will be held on Friday, Jan. 3 at Harbor Church from 11 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Remember, our November drive was cancelled because ferries were cancelled — adverse sea conditions. More importantly, this was a dedicated drive for Tim Connor, a fifth grader at the Block Island School. Tim is battling leukemia and is making good progress.

Recovery may be two or three years. He is in Hasbro Children’s Hospital at this time. As you know, his need of blood is great and Rhode Island Blood Center has been there for Tim. This drive is also dedicated to Tim.

Please, especially for Tim, participate in this blood drive. If you have not given before, the time for meeting the staff and donating takes about an hour. Please bring your driver’s license for identification. This is the one drive in the year when school students can give. Students age 16-18 can give with parent’s permission and anyone over 18 years old can give with no permission. There is no upper age cutoff.

Let’s all unite as a town-wide extended family for Tim and make this a record January drive. If you have questions please call me at 466-2950.


Peter Greenman, Coordinator

Rhode Island Blood Center


To the Editor:

In response to “The science of Lyme disease” from Dec. 15, 2013:

I agree with the author that “Knowledge is power” and we should indeed look at the science. First of all, if the author is going to cite science in an article, he should cite the scientific papers and provide their credentials. Many claims are provided for which I can find no scientific support.

I admit my area of expertise is not biology, but I have a PhD in computer science and can interpret the statistical analysis performed in the literature.

There is one core idea that seems to be supported, that Mr. Capuciati does not dispute:

To reduce Lyme disease infections, you have to eliminate all (or nearly all) of the deer.

One paper discussing this, by Ostfeld et al., argues that there is no correlation between deer populations and Lyme disease prevalence when deer populations are above a certain threshold. They cite papers that argue that removing all the deer is effective at reducing Lyme disease.

Mr. Capuciati argues that this is not feasible on Block Island, but provides no support for this argument, rather, he argues that the deer are “innocent animals.” These animals are part of the deer tick life cycle and are thereby responsible for giving Lyme disease to many island residents and visitors, including myself — they are by no means innocent. Not to mention they aren’t native to Block Island anyway, so their elimination poses no environmental issues.

The main problem with the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) plan is that it just doesn’t go far enough — either kill all the deer or save the money for Lyme disease treatment, because killing just 200 is not enough. The science is clear on that point.

Additionally, I found no support for Mr. Capuciati’s other assertions, namely that Lyme disease would increase after removing the deer.

Finally, one thing from the science is clear: eliminating Lyme disease is not easy, and a number of methods have been tried, such as controlling rodent populations and feeding anti-tick agents to deer. Such methods could be perhaps combined with herd reductions in order to control Lyme disease on Block Island, as doing nothing simply is not an option.

The following articles support the idea that slightly reducing a deer population is not sufficient for reducing Lyme disease prevalence:

Jordan RA and TL Schulze. 2005. Deer browsing and the distribution of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) in central New Jersey forests. Environmental Entomology 34: 801-806.

Jordan, RA, TL Schulze, and MB Jahn. 2007. Effects of reduced deer density on the abundance of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) and Lyme disease incidence in a northern New Jersey endemic area. Journal of Medical Entomology 44: 752-757.

Ostfeld RS, CD Canham, K Oggenfuss, RJ Winchcombe, F Keesing. 2006. Climate, deer, rodents, and acorns as determinants of variation in Lyme-disease risk. PLoS Biology 4: 1058-1068.

The following article reviews ways of reducing the risk of Lyme disease:

Piesman, Joseph. “Strategies for reducing the risk of Lyme borreliosis in North America.” International Journal of Medical Microbiology 296 (2006): 17-22.

Kevin Tierney

Corn Neck Road (Currently living elsewhere.)

This letter consists solely of my personal opinion and in no way represents the views of my employer.

Ed. Note: The column referenced in both of the above letters, written by Michael Capuciati and published in our Dec. 14 edition, should not have been titled “The science of Lyme disease.” Mr. Capuciati’s piece was an opinion column, and should have been more clearly identified as such.