Letters to the Editor: July 6, 2012

ALA grateful to Carper and Coons for vote

The American Lung Association in Delaware extends our gratitude to U. S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons for defending healthful air by voting against a dirty air resolution that would have given coal-fired power plant operators indefinite free rein to belch unchecked volumes of toxic pollutants, such as mercury, arsenic, formaldehyde and acid gases, into the air we breathe.

Toxic emissions can make breathing difficult and can worsen asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchitis and other lung diseases. Some of them can cause neurological and developmental birth defects, and can damage the reproductive system and the immune system. Pollutants from coal-fired power plants can also cause heart attacks and strokes, lung cancer and other cancers, and premature death.

As a result of the Senate’s defeat of this extreme measure heavily favored by the coal industry, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards can rightly move forward. When fully implemented, these standards will prevent 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 childhood asthma attacks, and save up to 11,000 lives nationwide every year.

Many utilities have already taken much responsibility for controlling these emissions and can already meet these standards, but others have yet to do so, making the air dirtier for everyone. All power plants nationwide must be held accountable to the same standards that other industries have been held to for years. Instead of letting polluters off the hook, we should properly reward all those utilities that have already done the right thing by installing stringent controls.

The Senate’s action not only helps ensure that controls of toxic air pollution from power plants will be put in place but also supports regulatory certainty for the power industry going forward. Those outcomes will allow everyone to breathe a little easier.

Deb Brown, President & CEO
Kevin M. Stewart, Director of Environmental Health
American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic

Booth urges altering of program

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to the Hon. Carl Danberg, Commissioner of Corrections for the State of Delaware and was forwarded to the Coastal Point for publication.

I read with interest the article about the work-release program operated by Sussex Correctional Institution and the decision to halt it temporarily. I am in support of this popular program and wish to present a few comments on the matter.

The program has assisted many non-profit agencies, as well as facilitating State drainage projects over the years. Small businesses, which account for 85 percent of the jobs in Sussex County, utilize this labor to keep costs down. Farmers have relied on this program to plant their crops and help with harvests, because finding employees for sporadic work can be difficult. My understanding is that there is a waiting list for workers, and particularly in the summertime.

The purpose of this letter is to suggest that recent highly publicized misuse of the program is but a small dent in the program’s overall success. The public was assured of SCI knowing where the inmates were and for whom they were working. The lack of recordkeeping can be easily fixed, and our goal should be to get the inmate labor force back in action as soon as possible. I would suggest a system that would suspend use of the program by those connected with abuse of the system for certain time periods.

The other concern is in regard to the pay and proper compensation to inmates. This too can be rectified with an easy-to-understand payment system program that I am sure the State Auditor can assist in creating.

I do believe the vast number of people that have used inmate labor for the past 23 years, have done so without incident. Recently, the State Senate considered a bill on neglected cemeteries in our state that are using this labor pool for maintenance and upkeep. Little Leagues and schools have used the work-release prison labor without incident as well. The Georgetown Boys/Girls Club needs them to cut the grass on property that they manage.

The many uses and benefits of this program are too great to keep this program suspended for very long when there are simple solutions. I urge you to pursue those solutions with the goal of getting inmates back to work to the benefit of our community.

State Sen. Joseph W. Booth
R-19th District

Bethany resident upset about park proposal

Like many other Bethany residents, the removal of the trees on the former Neff property caused me dismay, but not nearly as much as Town Manager Cliff Graviet’s discussion on the proposed “park” on that property. There is obviously some very poor resource management advice being provided to the Town, and, hopefully, this will be corrected before the Town makes an ugly mistake on this prime piece of property.

I am not a certified arborist, but I do have enough college and professional training in arborculture to question the context of “hazardous trees.” Such trees would exist in a street-tree setting, where normal urban activities take place.

The trees in question existed in a freshwater wetland that had virtually no human traffic, pedestrian or otherwise, and posed no danger to any human activity. There is a good argument to be made that such trees promote beneficial wildlife (bluebirds, woodpeckers and such) and had very attractive foliage during the autumn months. But this is a moot point now; the trees are gone and the best we can do is not make poor decisions going forward.

Mr. Graviet’s published comments moved on to a proposal to fill in a valuable freshwater wetland and replace it with a “park” that would include a manmade excavated pond.

Mr. Graviet displayed outdated thinking in inferring that such boggy areas are eyesores that need filling. Such areas are important in such functions as absorbing stormwater, recharging aquifers and filtering urban runoff before eutrifying our Inland Bays. Indeed, one of the town’s water supply wells is located on that property and, no doubt, benefits from the recharge of this currently non-urbanized site.

Also, these freshwater wetlands, or the fact that they are disappearing from our Inland Bays watershed, is a critical factor in whether we can preserve swimmable, fishable surface waters. Additionally, can anyone remember a time when flooding issues were not a problem in Bethany? Can removing this stormwater sponge do anything other than aggravate our ongoing drainage problems?

The rest of the story borders on bizarre in the pond proposal. Construction of such a pond would require sizable ongoing inputs. The pond would require supplementation from wells, as the water in man-made ponds fluctuates considerably during dry seasons. This would require pumping from the aquifers that provide us drinking water, which are already threatened by saltwater intrusion.

Man-made ponds in this area require substantial pesticide applications to control aquatic vegetation (both on the bank and in the water column) and some type of aeration device (requiring a substantial electric input) to prevent water stagnation, associated public health concerns and produce desirable aesthetics. Such a pond would also be a draw for nuisance Canada geese, which are a public health threat in their own right.

So, in constructing a pond, we are going from a beneficial use that improves water supply and quality at virtually no cost to an expensive, input-intensive and certainly non-natural feature that is highly likely to aggravate our existing water problems.

Bethany deserves better than this cockamamie scheme, and we have indeed gotten better from Mr. Graviet in the past. His foresight was instrumental in the formation of the Bethany Beach Nature Center on the former Natter property. I respectfully suggest that the Town look to the conservation-minded decisions that made the Natter project a jewel for the town.

While we can’t bring back the trees, we can protect the freshwater wetland, reforest with native plants and preserve the natural beauty of the Neff site.

Bob Collins
Bethany Beach

Reader tired of council prayer issue

It’s time for the Sussex County Council to get over it. The Constitution, the courts and the people have spoken: keep prayer, psalms, any religious affirmation, out of government discourse.

If the council and their followers wish to pray before a meeting, then they go can to church, pray at home or pray on the sidewalk outside of the government building before entering. I do not want to be preached to through prayer or a psalm if I’m attending a meeting, as I do my praying on my own time, in my own way.

The Council needs to start concentrating on the people’s business and not constantly talk about issues that don’t matter to most citizens. Continually harping on their “want to pray” is a distraction and is disingenuous to the folks that voted for them to run the County government. Move on or move aside.

Ron Yanuszewski