One Born Every Minute

I remember the days when there was nothing to drink except the socialist government nanny-state fluid that came out of the tap. For us Providence residents, that’s from the Scituate Reservoir, where fish swim around and poop. Back then we didn’t have the modern luxury of water packed by friendly non-profit family businesses like Coca-Cola, kept in plastic bottles for months or years, and blessed by magical names and claims that this drink is far superior to ordinary H2O.

It gets better than that. Sometimes this water gains potency by being shipped from distant countries in shipping containers big enough to live in at who knows what carbon cost.

Even your humble correspondent, who is working all day while waiting for the MacArthur Genius Grant to show up in the mail, has it figured out. Since I don’t have time to write a book, I’ll link to this…

Peter Gleick, a freshwater expert, is the author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.

The growth of the bottled water industry is a story about twenty-first-century controversies and contradictions: poverty versus glitterati; perception versus reality; private gain versus public loss. Today people visit luxury water “bars” stocked with bottles of water shipped in from every corner of the world. Water “sommeliers” at fancy restaurants push premium bottled water to satisfy demand and boost profits. Airport travelers have no choice but to buy bottled water at exorbitant prices because their own personal water is considered a security risk. Celebrities tout their current favorite brands of bottled water to fans. People with too much money and too little sense pay $50 or more for plain water in a fancy glass bottle covered in fake gems, or for “premium” water supposedly bottled in some exotic place or treated with some magical process.

A rather scary chapter from the book involves a college president justifying the decision to build a sports stadium with no public water fountains, resulting in scores of fans getting sick from dehydration when the $3/bottle water at the concession stands ran out.

We actually have spring water sources right here in the state, but for rigorous testing and accountability you’re best off with what comes out of your faucet. I still shake my head that we have not only been sold on paying for something that is inferior to what we can get for free, but also persuaded to dismantle a public good so basic and necessary we could get to take it for granted– until it dries up.

Poisoned Waters Tonight on PBS

Quick commercial for PBS here — looks like this might be worth watching.

Poisoned Waters on PBS Frontline 9 – 11 pm est

More than three decades after the Clean Water Act, iconic American waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are in perilous condition and facing new sources of contamination.

With polluted runoff still flowing in from industry, agriculture and massive suburban development, scientists note that many new pollutants and toxins from modern everyday life are already being found in the drinking water of millions of people across the country and pose a threat to fish, wildlife and, potentially, human health.

In FRONTLINE’s Poisoned Waters, airing Tuesday, April 21, 2009, from 9 to 11 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith examines the growing hazards to human health and the ecosystem.

Thanks to Suzanne Arena for passing along the information. A two-minute preview of the show is available here.

A Sip of Water, a Taste of Sweetness

It’s really cool being a nurse, often stressful, never boring, seeing the science of nursing and medicine evolve. My favorite technological advances are those that make you slap your head and say — duh. As in, why didn’t someone think of this before?

Here are two life-saving inventions that have been around for a few years, and one new study that points the way to fast emergency relief for sick children…

Plumpynut is a remarkably simple concoction: it is basically made of peanut butter, powdered milk, powdered sugar, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. It tastes like a peanut butter paste. It is very sweet, and because of that kids cannot get enough of it.

The formula was developed by a nutritionist. It doesn’t need refrigeration, water, or cooking; mothers simply squeeze out the paste. Many children can even feed themselves. Each serving is the equivalent of a glass of milk and a multivitamin.

A clump of peanut butter in a plastic bag. This could easily be made locally for long-term response to malnutrition. The next is high-tech to manufacture, but simple to use…

Half of the world’s poor suffer from waterborne disease, and nearly 6,000 people – mainly children – die each day by consuming unsafe drinking water.
LifeStraw® water purifiers have been developed as a practical way of preventing disease and saving lives, as well as achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by one-half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water by the year 2015.

And this is really good news

PARIS (AFP) A teaspoon of moistened sugar under the tongue could save the lives of thousands of children suffering from hypoglycemia caused by malaria, a researcher who conducted clinical trials said Thursday.
Malaria claims more than a million lives a year — 800,000 of them African children aged under five — and sickens hundreds of millions more, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The rapid drop in blood sugar that frequently accompanies severe malaria kills many children in remote parts of Africa before they can reach a clinic for an intravenous dose of glucose, the proven treatment for hypoglycaemia.

I.V. therapy saves lives, but needs skills to administer and is not without risk, especially in a place where resources are scarce. The first action to take when you suspect someone is dropping their blood sugar is to get them some sugar fast. You can, and should, try this at home. The African research findings support a fast response to low blood sugar and help save I.V. supplies for other needs. We already have cheap, small and accurate blood glucose meters that can be used in clinics to monitor the child’s response, or lacking that, just watch their condition. Cool.

I had wondered why people in parts of the world where diarrhea kills children had no folk medicine for it. But I was talking to a nurses aid who had been a medic in Liberia, and she said that they did, in fact, make homemade rehydrating drinks, from fruit and sugar and salt. This totally makes sense.

Growing up in the Rapture-ready 70’s gives you a weird outlook, a kind of survivalist sense. I always wonder how you take care of people without the machines that go beep. A spoonful of sugar to save a life. That’s cool.

Rhode Island Cuts Funding for Open Space, Clean Water

The Projo reports that $35 million has been cut from the state budget that had been proposed to fund open space and clean water projects. Apparently the house finance committee does not see the logic of funding environmental health, even when that funding is matched 50-50 from the federal government and is slated for an increase this year. From the Projo:

PROVIDENCE — Whenever clean water and open space bond issues go before Rhode Island voters, they generally pass by wide margins. But voters probably won’t get an opportunity to express their opinion on some $35 million in bonds proposed by Governor Carcieri this year, because the House Finance Committee revealed yesterday it cut the bonds from the state budget.

The cuts will cause the loss of millions more dollars for clean water and open space because the state bonds are used to attract funding from the federal government and other sources. The impact will probably be felt most at the municipal level because much of the money was targeted for local pollution-reduction efforts.

Environmental leaders reacted with anger and disappointment, mixed with some appreciation of the state’s financial woes.

“We could be repeating history,� said outgoing Save the Bay executive director Curt Spalding. “This is how the Bay got so polluted in the first place.� [full text]

Cranston Comprehensive Plan Draft: Now Available Online

As promised by the Planning Department, the drafts from sections of the Comprehensive Plan Update are now online for residents to download and review. The drafts of the following sections are posted online: Historic Preservation, Housing, Natural/Cultural Resources, Open Space, and Services & Facilities. The Introduction to the Comp Plan is also there. The PDF’s can be found at the city’s website here.

At the first workshop, Peter Lapolla announced that the department would create a forum for residents to post feedback about the various elements of the update. That is not there yet, but hopefully it will be soon. No date has been set for the next workshop, but once it is, I will be sure to share it. From what I have heard, the goal is to have the final draft of the Comp Plan Update done by September.

The Cranston Herald will be doing ongoing coverage of the Comp Plan Update process and the first article was in Thursday’s edition and can be found here.

Until the forum is live, I recommend sending any feedback you have to the Planning Department. Peter Lapolla asked that the subject of any messages regarding the Comp Plan be: FEEDBACK COMP PLAN. In addition to the Planning Department, I sent mine to the administration, City Council and some department heads.

Proposed Settlement with Cullion Concrete

Mayor Michael Napolitano will be holding a press conference today at 11:45 am at Cranston City Hall to announce a proposed settlement to end the Cullion concrete plant controversy that has been going on in Cranston for over a year. Cranston Citizens for Responsible Zoning and Development (CCRZD) is asking its members to attend the press conference and bring their “Stop the Concrete Plant” signs. They stated in an email that they are not for or against the proposed settlement, since they were not included in the discussions.

We will provide an update after the press conference with more information about the proposed settlement.

UPDATE: The projo article provided the following details:

In October, The Providence Journal reported that the Pawtuxet River Authority & Watershed Council, a state-chartered agency that serves as steward of the river, has targeted the land as the centerpiece for a sprawling waterside park.

The concept has won broad support from the mayor, City Council and the city’s delegation to the General Assembly.

With that in mind, Napolitano said yesterday that he would press the state and federal governments for funding to cover at least a portion of the $1.9-million settlement.

Failing that, the mayor said he will seek approval from the Democratic-dominated City Council for a city bond to be paid off by the taxpayers.

Council President Aram G. Garabedian, a Democrat and staunch opponent of the plant, has voiced deep reservations in recent months about paying Cullion anything for the land.

But he declined to comment last night, saying he wanted to review the details of the agreement first.

Sounds like there will be due diligence on this from the city council. Congratulations to the residents of Eden Park who fought to protect their neighborhood. Your work and perseverence paid off.

UPDATE #2: CCRZD has provided this statement from spokesman Howie Barte:

CCRZD Expresses Initial Unease To Mayor Napolitano’s Proposed “Settlement” With Cullion Over Cranston Concrete Plant

Cranston Mayor Michael Napolitano today informed the Cranston Citizens for Responsible Zoning & Development (CCRZD) regarding the disputed concrete plant in Cranston, “I settled the deal�.

CCRZD’s initial reaction is that $1.9 million offer by the Mayor to buy out Cullion is probably too high. It must be noted that this Mayor has cost the taxpayers a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars because he refused to investigate and pull the permit from the beginning when it would have most likely been much cheaper to do so. It’s a known fact that a municipality under Rhode Island Law is only liable up to a $100,000 cap.

CCRZD continues to watch closely as developments occur. A continued area of concern not yet addressed is that assurance have yet to be issued guaranteeing that this land will be maintained in accordance the 1992 Comprehensive Plan which was has been in affect, but ignored, for fifteen years. And, of course, CCRZD has yet to see the detailed of the purported deal. So far, it seems more questions have been raised than answers provided.

UPDATE #3: Activist and resident Suzanne Arena sent a letter to the Cranston City Council expressing concern about the size of the settlement for Cullion. A part of her letter reads as follows:

I am appealing to you because $1.9 million is on the high side. We have determined the cost of land to be $240,000 with an assessed value of approximately $310,000 and an estimated fair market value of $700,000 in the extreme. Adding a conservative $100,000 for legal fee concessions leaves $1.1 million. What does number this entail? We fully expected that Cullion would take back the equipment so that this would not become part of the settlement.

Further, I expect that there would be an Environmental Site Assessment as part of the agreement and in the eventuality that hazardous waste is discovered, I would expect that the cost of removal would be borne by the owner, Cullion / Karleetor. In order to establish due diligence, another appraisal by City Council should be obtained.

If the fair market value of the property is determined to be substantially higher than the assessed value of the property, there should be a determination with respect to the City’s Right of Recourse against the seller for back taxes based on the current $300,000 assessment.

Ms. Arena received a response from Council member Jeff Barone, which is as follows:


First, I must say, we finally agree on something. The only difference is that the “deal” is about $1.8m too high. The city should just give Cullion $100,000.00 that was expended prior to our stop order. What ever monies they have expended after that point should not be the responsibility of the city.

You and you association feel that you should have been part of the negotiation of this “deal”. The City Council was not even part of it, what makes you think you should be?

By the way, your Mayor told the press before the Council of this deal, why do you think he’ll tell you first.

This is maybe the worst “deal” he has ever come up with. More than the Valley settlement or the Providence Water settlement. I’ll bet you didn’t know about those.

Where does he think he is going to get the money to pay for this. I know where, you the taxpayer. Don’t forget, we have a $2.5m settlement with Valley, a $1.5m settlement with Providence, a possible $4m Carullo action and now this. That will all come out of the Rainy day fund. He said he will get state aid, they are not going to give Cranston $1.9 million for 20.2 acres of flood land. He will tell you that but let’s get real.

When he goes to knock on doors to get re-elected, his new “promise ” will be that he will continue to support the people. Wait for next year’s tax increase.

All the other costs you mentioned earlier will be absorbed by the city. I hope you and your association let him know how you feel.


Councilman Barone

Return of The Blob

Swarming mobs of jellyfish gone bad devoured two huge fish farms in Ireland.

The salmon farm hit by a massive jellyfish attack last week has confirmed its only remaining site has now been wiped out as well.

John Russell, managing director of the Northern Salmon Company, said the juvenile fish that were growing to maturity at Red Bay on the Co Antrim coast were all destroyed in the last couple of days by a second jellyfish attack. Further huge jellyfish swarms have now been reported off the coast of Scotland, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Yes, the Blob is spreading

A species of stinging jellyfish that swamped salmon cages off Northern Ireland was seen in swarms around the coast of Highlands Scotland.

The Marine Conservation Society is asking the public to report sightings of the mauve stingers in an attempt to gauge its unseasonable blooms.

Billions of the creatures covered an area of up to 10 square miles off the County Antrim coast this week.

Since the jellies are eating all the fish, we will just have to learn to eat the jellies. I was listening to NPR and a reporter was interviewing a Japanese cook and sampling the recipe. She said that the dried jellyfish felt like dead skin, and smelled like old cheese. However, after repeated soaking and preparation, with lots of salt and spices, it had a kind of neutral taste. You can get almost anything down if you put some wasabi on it.

As someone rightly said, the Earth will survive the worst we can do, but a warmer, more turbulent world might not be as hospitable to us. We’re eating salmon now, our kids might have to learn to love the jellies.