Archive for Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Letters to the editor

September 25, 2002

To the editor,

A point of clarification regarding last week's Signal article on the Baldwin City Council vote on overtime police costs for the Maple Leaf Festival.

1I voted against the $2,500 cap because I thought it was too high; I supported the $1,500 cap the Maple Leaf Festival Committee requested and frankly would have supported waiving the overtime costs.

Other police agencies that work the festival, notably the Douglas County Sheriff's office and the state patrol, do not pass their overtime costs onto the volunteer festival committee. Only Baldwin City bills its police overtime cost, a practice that began about eight years ago.

The $3,000+ expense amounts to less than $1 per person per year for Baldwin taxpayers. It is a small expense for the city. However, the $3,000+ expense is a substantial cost for the festival, which volunteers operate on a $20,000 budget with all proceeds (roughly $6,000 to $10,000) going to local groups for kids, such as the Cub Scouts and two $1,000 college scholarships.

The money that the city bills for overtime would otherwise be distributed to area groups that help our kids.

The great thing about the festival is it draws 30,000 people to town. The money raised by the festival and local groups that work booths at the festival is money coming from outside Baldwin City to help support our kids. Without the festival, these groups would have to raise the money from within the community.

The Maple Leaf Festival is a valuable institution, operated by volunteers, that has many many intangible benefits that cannot be recorded on a spreadsheet. City employees, including public works and police, do a lot of work to support the festival as well and their work is greatly appreciated.

I hope the council will reconsider the overtime issue for next year's festival. I think it is a reasonable and affordable request.

Todd Cohen

City Council member

To the editor:

With all that is going on in our country, we would like to acknowledge there is still love and caring abounding in our area. Saturday, Sept.14, was the workday for Neighbors Helping Neighbors, an organization of Trailside Parish churches (area United Methodist Churches and Baker University) that does repairs for homeowners without charge for those who need help in this area. Some furnish their own supplies and some cannot.

Early Saturday morning several volunteers and about twenty students (organized by Rev. Ira DeSpain) started to shingle our roof, paint yard posts, etc. Mid morning refreshments were served and at noon the ladies of the church served lunch. At 2 p.m. they were picking up tools, all done. What a beautiful job! The fellowship and joy was amazing. They want no recognition (To God be the Glory). What an amazing group of people!

Other crews were busy in other areas. About 60 students, and we don't know how many volunteers, some Home Builders, some Heating and Air Specialists, retired people, etc., took their days off to do this for us and for others like us.

It's so good to know that some things still work like the Good Lord meant them. We're forever grateful.

Jerry and Jean Moore

Baldwin City

To the editor:

Recent activities suggest that yet another application will be submitted to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) by the promoters of the John Coen Dairy to construct a giant commercial dairy on land owned by Gerald Anderson. Apparently the 2.5 acre manure pad and the giant dairy barn confining 1,428 cows will remain in a location only 400 feet from Homer and Mattie Perry's home, one of 16 residents in the immediate area. The fecal lagoon, the size of 5 to 7 football fields, will be moved about 3/8 mile from the dairy barn to higher ground in an attempt to avoid the underground water located at 8 to 10 feet in this area.

Unchanged, however, is the fact that this giant dairy will produce over 2,000 tons of solid manure and 8.5 million gallons of liquid fecal lagoon contents annually. Originally, this foul-smelling and highly-dangerous fecal material was to be hauled and disposed of in the Princeton area, but it now will be spread on other farmers' land in the Tauy Creek basin since John Coen does not own a single acre of farmland in this area, according to the county register of deeds.

There are serious health and environmental hazards associated with massive confined animal facilities such as the proposed John Coen Dairy. Nitrates, pesticides, heavy metals and salts are concentrated in these giant earthen lagoons that frequently leak and contaminate ground water. These toxic materials cannot be removed from ground water and can cause severe illness, birth defects, cancer and death if this water is consumed.

More alarming are the recent findings that virtually all of these giant commercial dairies have cows infected with the bacteria called E coli 0157:H7. Although E coli 0157:H7 has not captured the attention of the media like the West Nile Virus, this silent killer causes illness in approximately 70,000 and death in 70 persons yearly in the United States. Individuals infected with this bacteria develop abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, and vomiting, and approximately 30% require hospitalization. Many individuals infected with E coli 0157:H7 have progressive illness (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome) and develop bloody diarrhea, sepsis, shock, kidney failure, stroke, blindness and other serious complications. There is no specific treatment for this illness and each case is potentially fatal.

It was once thought that infection from E coli 0157:H7 predominately occurred by drinking contaminated water, or eating poorly cooked ground meat ("The Bad-Burger Disease"). But recent studies reveal that a large percentage of infections in humans are transmitted directly from contact with dairy animals and facilities, persons working in dairies and manure.

A recent large outbreak of E coli 0157:H7 in Pennsylvania was traced to a dairy using molecular subtyping. Dairy cows, heifers, calves, animal hair, fence rails, and feeding facilities were culture positive for this deadly bacteria. Fifty-one visitors at this dairy became ill. Sixteen individuals required hospitalization and one child lost all kidney function and required a kidney transplant.

Nearly every physical structure an infected animal contacts becomes contaminated with E coli 0157:H7, including flies that live and breed in the dairy environment. Pastures inhabited by infected animals and farmland used for manure disposal often contain viable E coli 0157:h7 organisms for months, and can infect individuals who come in contact with the soil and run-off water. Huge outbreaks of E coli 0157:H7 have occurred after individuals have eaten lettuce, radishes, alfalfa sprouts and other vegetables grown in soil containing contaminated manure. Studies have shown the higher the concentration of animals in an area, the greater the chance for serious illness for humans from this organism. Apparently, the promoters for this giant shareholder owned commercial dairy are either unaware of the dangers of E coli 0157:H7, or have chosen to ignore the overwhelming scientific data regarding the dangers of this highly pathogenic bacteria as they persist in their efforts to build this facility in this highly populated area. The point source for E coli 0157:H7 infection in humans can now be easily traced with molecular subtyping and this has liability implications.

One obvious questions arises: why don't more dairy workers become ill from exposure to these bacteria? Studies, in fact, have revealed that dairy workers suffer far more gastrointestinal illnesses than non-dairy workers. Many dairy operators unknowingly have E coli 0157:H7 in their feces and they can infect other people. These dairymen develop immunity to the toxins of these deadly organisms from chronic exposure, but can be carriers of these bacteria. However, this immunity is not present in non-dairy personnel especially children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems. At this time, there is no magic vaccine to prevent E coli 0157:H7 infection in dairy cows or in humans.

I and the other neighbors surrounding this proposed dairy are alarmed about the health and environmental hazards posed by this facility in this highly populated area. We believe that others in this region should also be concerned including the citizens of Ottawa and Baldwin City. The solid manure and fecal lagoon contents from this proposed facility will be spread on hundreds and hundreds of acres of land in the flood prone Tauy Creek basin where the Midland Railroad runs, Boy Scouts camp overnight, children are cared for in day care centers and families live. Flies contaminated with this deadly bacteria have no boundaries. We can only hope the KDHE will continue to take the necessary steps to protect the health of the area residents and our environment.

Arlo S. Hermreck, M.D.


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