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Thursday, January 30, 2014

More Charlestown Tapas

Ten bite-sized nuggets of news for Progressive Charlestown readers
By Will Collette

Congratulations to state Representative Donna Walsh for making GoLocalProv’s “Who’s Hot” list. This weekly list is one of GoLocal’s popular political features and notes who made a difference (“Who’s Hot”) and who screwed up (“Who’s Not”) that week. She not only made the list, but was their lead.

Donna was featured for her new legislation that would mandate collection of food scraps from commercial establishments so it can be diverted for composting and recycling, rather than take up space at Rhode Island’s Central Landfill which is rapidly filling up.

Found in space

Congratulations also to Scott MacNeil and the Frosty Drew Observatory for a terrific photo that was featured on, one of the leading on-line astronomy journals. It’s a great shot; click here to see it.

Money Makes the World Go Around

Congratulations to Chariho School District Superintendent Barry Ricci for almost making the Top Ten among Rhode Island’s highest paid school superintendents. He was beat out for the #10 spot by only $100 by Lincoln super Georgia Fortunato. Ricci’s salary is reported as $149,130.

South Kingstown super Kristen Stringfellow came in at #7 with an annual $151,008 salary, the only other South County administrator to reach the top ranks for pay. The top-paid school superintendent in Rhode Island is Susan Lusi of Providence at $190,000

Amen to that

The American Bible Society came out with its rankings of the 100 largest metropolitan areas for “Bible-Mindedness.” These rankings were based on the percentage of adults who answered their survey about whether they read the Bible every day and believed what it said. The Providence Metro area (including Charlestown) ranked dead last, while Chattanooga, TN rated first place.

I asked for comments from the only person I know with direct recent personal experience in both parts of the country, former Charlestown Town Clerk Jodi LaCroix who retired from town service and followed her husband to his new job in Chattanooga. Jodi’s comment: “I find it so funny that I moved from last place to first.  Now is that a good thing or bad?”

Steve Hartford lands on his feet

Former Westerly Town Manager Steve Hartford just landed a $110,000 gig working for Governor Lincoln Chafee. Hartford recently resigned under pressure due to rapidly declining Town Council confidence in him, brought on to a great extent by his mishandling of the Copar Quarry mess that has roiled Westerly and Charlestown neighbors of the infamous Bradford operation.

Hartford will become Chafee’s “Special Advisor to Policy and Legislative Affairs,” a position that pays $110,000. Said Chafee: "I welcome Steve to my staff. Steve is a proven leader who has served as the chief executive officer of a municipality and as an attorney."

It’s a short-term job, given that Governor Chafee is not running for re-election and his term ends this year. Hartford was not out of work long, compared to his colleagues, former Charlestown Town Administrator Bill DiLibero and former Narragansett Town Manager Grady Miller.

Increasing safety limits on silica dust delayed

Also related to Copar: one of the neighbors biggest health concerns is the silica dust that blows off the Copar Bradford site every time the company blasts and just about every time the wind blows. Click here for details.

Neighbors have noted that medical research shows silica dust to be the cause of a wide range of health problems. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been in the process of trying to reduce the allowable amount of dust workers may be exposed to in half.

Those efforts have met strong resistance from industry, especially from the construction and mining industries. OSHA just announced that it was extending the comment period for its proposed regulations by two weeks to February 11. The process has already been delayed once.

After the comment period closes, OSHA is expected to begin public hearings on March 18. OSHA’s attempt to increase worker safeguards from silica is considered one of the 10 most controversial regulations from 2013.

Not so Smartie®

I recently reported the latest thing some people in Rhode Island are worried about: kids crushing up and then snorting or smoking those old-fashioned sugar candies Smarties® and, among other things, attracting flies to lay eggs in their noses where they spawn into maggots.

Portsmouth RI parents received notice from school authorities warning parents to be vigilant about this new peril.

Lizzie Crocker at the Daily Beast took on the story and didn’t think much of this latest drug epidemic:  
“But the only epidemic in this case is a moral one—an outbreak of chimerical social concern, existing only in the fevered minds of Portsmouth Middle School administrators. (There is no empirical data suggesting snorting Smarties® or smoking candy cigarettes makes kids more likely to experiment with the hard stuff.) When officials and parents aren’t cracking down on kids experimenting with real drugs, they’re panicking about kids mimicking drug experimentation—and a resulting case of Maggot Nose.”

Here’s something else to worry about

According to Buzzfeed, Rhode Island now has its own “official” cocktail called “The Rhode Island Red” and concocted to honor the 350th Anniversary of our state’s Royal Charter. It’s made with, chambord, lemon juice, agave nectar, orange bitters, and ginger beer. Oddly, this cocktail combination was created in 2009 by Vincenzo Marianella at Copa d'Oro, Santa Monica, CA, not in Rhode Island. Get the recipe here.

And yet another thing to worry about

If you’ve ever seen a Charlestown Town Council meeting where septic systems or sewage is discussed, you’ve probably seen Town Council Boss Tom Gentz react with shocked embarrassment anytime someone uses the word “toilet.” I’ve seen this several times and it appears to me that he has some visceral issue that may require a considerable amount of time with a therapist.

Anyway, that word, Tom, is about to come up, so please avert your eyes.

It seems that there is a serious recall notice issued by the Consumer Products Safety Commission noting that the high-tech Series 503 Flushmate III flushing system could cause your toilet to explode. I’m not making this up.

This system is sold at Home Depot, Lowes and many other home goods retail outlets. Pressure can build up in the unit, burst and then shatter the tank or lift and shatter the tank lid posing a serious threat of injury.

This particular problem has been going on with the Flushmate Series 503 since 2012, and this latest notice is being called an “expansion” of their previous recall. Flushmate has already recalled almost two and a half million. This “expansion” applies to over 360,000 more. Flushmate is a subsidiary of the Sloan Valve Company.

And if you still don’t have enough to worry about yet

Operators of the Millstone Nuclear Power plant outside of New London say they want to learn the lessons of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in the wake of the devastating 2012 earthquake by hardening the site against natural disaster.

According to the New London Day, Millstone plans to spend $10 million for facilities and equipment to help the power plant handle natural disasters such as hurricanes. The most visible feature will be a 10,000 square foot reinforced concrete dome that will house emergency equipment. It will 38 feet high and be 115 feet in diameter and will be designed to resist hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, built 30 feet above sea level.

Though tsunamis do not happen as often in the Atlantic as they do in the Pacific, they do happen. The most famous was the quake and tsunami that virtually wiped out the city of Lisbon, Portugal in 1755 and killed as many as 100,000 people. A 1929 tsunami hit Newfoundland, generating a 40-foot high wave that killed 28 people. Thirty feet may not be high enough based on the geological record.

Over three million pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste is being stored, more or less permanently, at Millstone. Breached cooling ponds were the cause of the most devastating radioactive fires at Fukushima which sent a deadly plume of radiation fifty miles out from the site. Charlestown is only twenty miles, mostly downwind, from Millstone. But I guess that’s another good use for the Rhode Island Red cocktail (see above).