The Putnam Examiner

Put Valley to Vote on De-Icing Equipment Ban

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After a man plunged through the ice on Lake Oscawana early this year, Putnam Valley lawmakers have been considering enacting a ban that would restrict the use of equipment utilized to melt ice.

During a Dec. 11 Putnam Valley Town Board meeting, residents differed on how officials should proceed. Some asserted that homeowners who use de-icing gear to protect their docks are inevitably causing harm to anyone who steps onto the frozen lake, while others said regulations should be set to dictate how the equipment is utilized.

“This is about life or death, about whether someone might be able to continue enjoying the wintertime activities on the lake,” said resident Art Tagnale during a public hearing at last week’s meeting. “These devices are pure folly. They’re beyond folly – they’re deadly.”

The proposed law, which will be voted on at the Dec. 18 Town Board meeting, would prohibit the use of any ice retardant device or mechanism – deicer, bubbler or aerator – along the shoreline within the entire Lake Oscawana water body. Violators would have their device confiscated and pay a $1,000 fine.

Subsequent offenses would result in a doubling of the fine.

Resident Mark Tompkins said he’s been using a deicer under his dock for 25 years, leaving it on for about 16 minutes a day during the winter season, asserting that his device doesn’t impact the entire lake. When the lake freezes over, he said it causes considerable damage to his dock that’s costly to repair.

While his device is being used to protect his dock, Tompkins noted that other residents with similar devices are using them irresponsibly, suggesting that more ice is being melted than what’s necessary. He said a law should be passed restricting residents from using their devices all day long.

“There’s a few people who have used them that didn’t know how to use them,” he said. “I think a law should be passed in favor of regulating the use of the melters.”

John Powers, who put a bubbler in place for the first time last year to protect his dock, agreed the town should regulate how deicers are used and provide guidelines specifying how to use the device properly, explaining that he sought the advice of neighbors and contractors prior to use to ensure it was being operated safely.

While some agreed, others questioned how the town could properly regulate every homeowner who uses this equipment.

“Who’s to regulate if you’re doing it wrong?” questioned Eric Klein. “Someone almost died. We’re going to risk losing a life on this lake because of a dock.”

Some residents also speculated what truly caused the ice to break when Brendan Foran fell through it Jan. 24. Some believe the cause was a high temperature that day, or global warming, while Foran and his supporters blame deicers weakening the frozen lake.

Foran had been riding an ATV across the lake when the ice gave way and the vehicle fell into the freezing water. Foran had been in the water for about 10 minutes, clinging to a rock, before first responders pulled him out.

“I made it out because I was heavier in weight,” said Foran. “If a kid chases a hockey puck, he’s not going to make it. Just ban aerators altogether.”

Following the roughly 90-minute public hearing, Town Supervisor Sam Oliverio acknowledged the board has a tough decision to make moving forward.

“We see that there is division,” he said. “We don’t want to foster that division, but we also want to be fair and do the right and just thing.”

Town officials will reconvene at Town Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m., where they are scheduled to vote on the proposed law. The public hearing will remain open until then for residents who want to submit written comment.

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