Please Flush The Idea Of Sandy Point Floating Toilet

Ann Baldelli Associate Editorial Page Editor
The Day • 2/24/2008

Here are some reasons why a floating toilet at Sandy Point is not such a great idea.






Will a floating restroom moored in Little Narragansett Bay substantially reduce the amount of nitrogen in Stonington Harbor, as proponents hope will be the case? Will this toilet with a price tag of $140,000 be worth the expense given that it will be used just 12 to 14 weeks each year?

I’d say no on both counts.

Don’t get me wrong, it is an admirable goal to keep bathers from peeing in Fishers Island Sound and Little Narragansett Bay, but the idea of a floating potty off the popular Sandy Point seems like overkill.

The island is reachable only by boat and is immensely popular in summertime. And yes, a fair number of visitors arrive by small craft — such as kayaks or outboards — that clearly aren’t equipped with toilet facilities.

But floating a potty off the shore — that people can tie a boat up to, or wade or swim out to depending on the tide — seems preposterous.

The island, which has been breached by wind and waves in recent years, is more than a mile long. Will sunbathers hike the shoreline to use it? Some will, but not all.

And where will it be moored? I’d hate to set out my beach blanket and gaze out on the shimmering sea and, “Oh my gosh, is that a toilet on the horizon?”

Already a fair number of visitors to Sandy Point find it impossible to obey the rules. Despite the signs posted there, explaining the island is the property of the Avalonia Land Trust, and an explanation that while humans are welcome, the island’s primary purpose is as a bird rookery, some people just don’t seem to get it.

Camping is prohibited, but they camp. Fires are a no-no, but they light fires. The grass and dunes where the birds nest are off-limits, but people walk on them anyway. And dogs are banned, but they bring their mutts just the same. (And of course they let their dogs relieve themselves on the beach and think nothing of it at all.)

Human waste is not attractive, but any regular at Sandy Point knows that the birds there, particularly the great black-backed gulls, are lavish in dropping fecal bombs. And the Canada geese are quite prolific, too.

Some people have suggested rather than a floating restroom, they install portable toilets on Sandy Point and periodically have them pumped out. That’s a horrible idea, too. While a vast majority of visitors abide by the rules and pick up their trash and respect the preserve, each summer there are a few who violate the space and leave a mess or tear apart whatever they can get their hands on.

Toilets would be an attractive nuisance. And never mind the stench on a 90-degree day. Even a toilet moored off shore could be the subject of vandalism.

And what about liability? What if someone falls off and gets hurt or drowns? Or drives their boat into the floating bathroom?

So far, the Avalonia Land Trust has not taken a position on the toilet idea proposed by the group Clean Up Stonington Harbors (CUSH). The CUSH folks are well intended. They have a lot of energy and some very good ideas, but this is not one of them.

It’s a lot of money to spend for a little relief. And it will do nothing to address the outfall from the birds and dogs and what flows into the water from nearby shores — the animal waste, fertilizers and other debris.

If CUSH is really that concerned about human waste at Sandy Point, why not run a periodic shuttle to a toilet on shore, at the Town Dock or Barn Island? But floating a potty on Little Narragansett Bay, I say pooh-pooh to that idea.