Archive for May, 2012

Protecting U.S. Waterways is Good Politics

May 31, 2012

It’s not too soon to begin asking politicians seeking election in November where they stand on restoring clean water safeguards. Currently, the U.S. House of Representatives is slated to vote on the House Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (HR 5325.)

 If anything, this bill actually blocks the President from restoring critical clean water protections, according to the ENEWSPF website.  When I Googled the bill, nowhere did I find provision for clean water protections, which deserve to be at the top of the list of priorities. On the National Resources Defense Council website, I found several riders to the bill, listed by section, that blocked the Army Corps of Engineers, The Dept. of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, from doing their job. Checking pollution runoff from coal mining, urban stormwater systems, pesticides, agricultural runoff, release of ballast water were all blocked.

 However, the bill seemed to include abundant money for construction. Since reading about the growing, very profitable international environmental consulting businesses, I wonder how such corporations play into this Act. The US usually insists that an environmental impact statement (EIS) be written before a major infrastructure project is undertaken. The problem noted in Patrick McCully’s book, Silenced Rivers, is that these assessments are written by consultants from a relatively small number of companies that are also involved in, for example, dam building. Sometimes, the company assessing the environmental impact also gets the contract to build the project. At any rate, there could be a bit of back scratching going on.

 If any of the projects listed in the Act were found to threaten our clean water supply, a whole new can of worms would manifest itself. Perhaps some of the projects allocated billions of dollars wouldn’t pass muster and our tax dollars wouldn’t support more environmental mayhem.

 We wouldn’t put a fox in charge of safeguarding a chicken coop. Maybe we need to be just as careful in checking out the proponents of HR 5325. If having clean water is number one on the list for keeping us healthy, we owe restoring clean water protection provisions our respect and support. We need to be sure we know what we are voting for this fall. It’s not about being a Republican or a Democrat; it’s about survival.

Boons for Road Safety!

May 25, 2012

There’s a new trend in Interstate Highway Rest Areas. On a recent trip to Virginia, I discovered that Connecticut and West Virginia Welcome Centers include people walking areas (not just pets!), so that aside from providing “the facilities,” it’s possible to take a loop walk or wheelchair ride along bright regional flower beds in continuous bloom.

 Scattered every 30 miles along Interstate highways, Rest and Welcome Centers invite us to get out and let our bodies breathe, open our joints and aerate the cells we need to keep us awake and alert behind the wheel. A long trip does not have to be exhausting if we take regular breaks.

 On  I-84, the Danbury, CT Welcome Center has not only all the above, it has numerous small stone cairns placed in amongst the flower beds. They are not only a calming delight for eyes grown tired of juggling lanes amidst heavy trucks; they let you know that you’re on a safe path. The cairns also keep the ground cool and modestly shade and support the flower beds.

 Lots of picnic tables generously spread around a spacious grove of trees provide an easy place to have that lunch packed to avoid the hassle of finding user friendly food stops. In West Virginia, picnic tables nearest parking areas are reserved for handicap access.  Highway choices seem limited to fast foods and family restaurants with no place to stretch and relax beyond parking lots. It was great to be able to find one stop for all needs.

 Danbury even has an area for RVs and there’s a weighing station for trucks near the highway as part of the complex, but the rest of the site feels like a big park. By whatever means of travel, all are welcome!

 The Welcome Centers are staffed with people who can update us on possible side trips and events in their area and they know how long it takes to get there and a few things we can expect that aren’t necessarily in the brochures.

 As we enter the next three months filled with weddings, family reunions, vacation trips, and any other reason for travel we can negotiate, making good use of travel rest stops will go a long way toward keeping each other well. Enjoy!!!

It’s All About Water

May 5, 2012

What’s all this about water? Why is a health columnist so worried about our water supply? We’ve got plenty of water in NH. Just take any hike and you’ll probably have some brook to contend with. Isn’t health about eating three squares and getting enough exercise, making some friends, and breathing diaphragmatically?

 Keeping well involves all of the above and more, but it begins with drinking enough safe water. It may seem needless to be alarmed at what’s happening to lake Mead and LakePowell; they’re out west, but I like to think we can learn from what happens out west so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes here in the northeast. Mead’s at 40  percent capacity and could cease being able to generate electrical energy by 2013, much less provide the area with adequate drinking water.

 Large dams cause people to relocate and businesses to develop below the dam which continue to depend on the dam after it has exhausted the environment.

 The Klamath Basin Restoration Project in Oregon involves dismantling old dams and restoring the river areas. The cost to repair a dam is 2-5 times the cost of original construction, something Pacific Corp is not interested in doing. The AP reports that “some farmers, conservation groups and Indian tribes in the basin support dam removal as part of a larger plan to solve a century of conflicts over sharing scarce water between fish and farms.” History we can learn from.

 While we have been assured that Hydro Quebec is not interested in damming up our rivers in the distant future, please note that HQ  already owns a dam on the Connecticut in Stewartstown, NH. The James Bay Project completed 3 dams by 1984 and already reports decreases in the reservoirs behind those dams (30 years later), as HQ continues to build more dams moving on down through the Rupert.  40-50 years from now, depending on the rate of global warming,  HQ may have a new agenda that includes NH rivers.

 Our goal is to continue to have accessible drinking water. There may be as much water in the world today as there ever was,  but much of it is polluted and desalinization purification systems are both costly and high energy consumers. Now, more than ever, we need to protect all rivers and refuse to support new hydroelectric power that we now know outlives its usefulness in 80 years or less.

 Now is the time to dream up sustainable innovative ways of producing/utilizing energy. How can we harness the energy people generate in gyms: spinning, treadmilling, weight lifting, swimming,…?

Deer Tick Time

May 4, 2012

Warm, sunny days are here again, the wildflower parade has started, and we humans have switched to spring mode, glad to leave heavy boots and jackets behind as we make fresh starts into the woods. Ticks are also strutting their finest in this parade and they need to bite friendly hosts to survive. Hopefully they will not bring us a new round of Lyme Disease.

  If you get a bite, here’s an easy way to remove ticks: apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the cotton ball for 15-20 seconds and it will fall off on its own and stick to the cotton ball.

 To know what we’re dealing with and how to prevent bites, it helps to understand the life cycle of the Deer tick and what it needs to survive. The tick gets its name because the preferred host is a deer. Adult ticks feed on the deer’s blood, mate and, once the female eggs are fertilized, both the male and female die and drop to the ground where the eggs hatch to larva. The larva seeks a new host, a mouse or whoever is handy. The larvae molt to nymphs and continue to feed on mouse blood and other small mammals. Ticks are usually found on grasses, waiting for other victims, like us and deer, to pass.

 Currently, the Centers for Disease Control recommends DEET, Picaridin, and Permethrin for insect repellants. All are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. In the past, readers responded that DEET had not served as a protection from tick bites for them. Permethrin is the insecticide that people are finding effective against tick bites. Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide made from the flowers of a species of the Chrysanthemum plant. Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide whose chemical structure is based on natural pyrethrum. As an insecticide, it is currently sold as a 0.5% Permethrin Pump Spray.

 When used as directed, Permethrin appears to have no harmful effect on the environment. It is NOT used on the skin. It is sprayed on your clothes (shirt, pants, socks, everything but your underwear) and one treatment will last up to six launderings or six weeks before clothing has to be treated again. You need to wash the sprayed clothes between wearings or check the product label for specific instructions.

 Other readers have found Permethrin Tick Tubes to be effective, especially if you live in a wooded/grassy area, have pets, and need protection right in your own yard. Tick Tubes are designed for the little critters. The tubes are biodegradable cardboard tubes filled with permethrin-treated cotton balls. Mice gather the cotton for their nests. Deer ticks intending to feed on the mice are then killed when the mice return to their nests.

However, the mice and other mammals are not harmed. Put these tubes around your yard and the mice will love you for it. Caution needs to be taken that children do not take them apart out of curiosity and handle the cotton.

 If you are interested in purchasing either of these products, check your local camping or hunting supply store. Otherwise, both products are available on line.

 IMPORTANT CAUTIONS: DEET comes in varying strengths and preparations, in roll-ons, sprays and liquid. If applied to the skin (which hikers and gardeners often do,) it needs to be thoroughly washed off with soap and water when home safely. DEET is potentially toxic. Body checking, especially the head and hairline, remains a must. Our heads have a rich supply of blood just under the surface. Check and re-check each other after time spent in tick-infested areas, especially if near grasses; get out of your clothes, do a complete body check, and shower well.  Wash clothes to avoid spreading ticks to your home. Check pets routinely. Walk on the center of trails and save bushwhacking for winter.

 Permethrin is ONLY applied to clothing, NEVER to the skin. It is highly toxic to humans but safe when applied to clothing and not when clothing is being worn. For safety, clothing is sprayed according to specific directions on the bottle and left to dry for 2 hrs. before wearing. One reader has a separate bag he stores Pmethrin sprayed clothes in between wearings.

 A Deer Tick may only be the size of a sesame seed but if it has been sucking your blood, it will swell up much larger. If you are bitten and the tick has been on you for more than 24 hrs, or if you develop a fever, chills, headache, muscle & joint pain, fatigue, rash or any other symptom that seems odd for you, bring yourself and the tick to your health provider.

 Time to spread the word and send in suggestions for what works for you. Thanks!