EDITORIAL: Remembering Ward Stone

READERS MAY ASK, “Didn’t he write about this last week?” The answer is Yes… and No. They’re both about people who alert us to the toxic effects of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Last week the subject was Dr. David Carpenter, a physician and the director of the SUNY Albany Institute for Health and the Environment. He’s an expert on the science of PCBs, a family of chemicals suspected of causing cancer and other threats to human health. Dr. Carpenter did not respond to a request for an interview by The Columbia Paper, but he has been speaking with the Times Union. A law firm representing a large company that once manufactured PCBs is raising questions about the testimony of the distinguished doctor.

This week’s public servant died a week ago. His name was Ward Stone.

His obituary says he served as state wildlife pathologist for 40 years. He was born in Hudson and grew up in and around Chatham.

I was editor of the Woodstock weekly newspaper in Ulster County when I first heard about charges against a Columbia County landowner accused of dumping hazardous materials at a private landfill. The landfill was permitted to bury construction and demolition debris. The hazardous waste was not. The pollution was confirmed by Ward Stone. I recall wondering what the wildlife pathologist was doing in a landfill, but it was a story too far away for us to cover. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Old threat lurks

WHO CAN KEEP the letters straight when what was a miraculous chemical invention, good for all sorts of uses, turns out to threaten our health, our lives and the value of our homes as well? Consider PFASs, a family of industrial chemicals found in numerous household products. The full name for this family of man-made concoctions is perfluoroalkyl substances. Members of that family escaped from a factory in the Village of Hoosick Falls a few years ago and found their way into the local water system. The list of health problems associated with exposure to this family of stuff is not comforting.

The PFASs exposure story echoes one that occupied public attention 30 years ago when the threat was from a different family called polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. General Electric used huge amounts of PCBs in places like the Village of Hudson Falls; the Monsanto company manufactured the PCBs that GE used. The PCBs that were not used were either stored or dumped in the Hudson River. By the early 1970s the state knew that fish caught in the river from Hudson Falls south to the Fort Edward Dam, a few miles above Saratoga Springs, were highly polluted. Something had to be done.

If anyone suggested a better “solution” for solving the polluted fish problem I have never seen it. The state removed the dam and the polluted fish headed downstream carrying PCBs with them, traveling as far as New York and the ocean depending on the species and the habitat.

But the human dam busters apparently had not reckoned with what would happen to the sediment—roughly 25 years of PCB-laced mud—that had accumulated behind the dam. It went downstream too, depositing PCB pollution as it drifted along, coating parts of the Mid-Hudson and Lower Hudson rivers, but not others. Polluted sediment remains there still. Read more…

EDITORIAL: I’m still here

IF YOU’RE READING THIS on a piece of paper the chances are you’re reading the first issue of the brand new Columbia Paper. . . kind of. My hesitation comes from not knowing whether having new owners will make a difference. But we’re about to find out.

I started The Columbia Paper as a website a few days after I was laid off from my job as editor of The Independent, a twice-weekly countywide newspaper headquartered in Hillsdale. All the Independent’s employees except two lost their jobs that day in early February. That included me. The Independent wasn’t making the revenue targets set by the Journal Record newspaper chain, which owned many small newspapers and by that time was busy closing them down.

It was a quiet exit. The publisher, who did not lose his job that day, told me to be the last person out and lock the newspaper’s door behind me. Earlier that day, when it was clear that the layoffs would not skip over anyone, there was some sobbing. But by day’s end, employees had returned to the job of producing that last issue and then probably to figuring out how to find a new job during The Great Recession, which was growing worse by the day. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Help Habitat house neighbors

I ONCE DESIGNED a building and helped my father build it. When it was done it looked like a large piece of cheese.

I’m tempted to call this “building” an example of architectural Dairy-modern design. It was actually a two-story shed. It quickly attracted spiders and other bugs to the rafters. Only a few human visitors ever braved a night there. Too spooky when you add the owl talk and whatever it was that snapped dry sticks all night in the woods.

It was a learning experience. It taught me that residential construction, or any kind of hard labor and skill would not be my career path. It also give me an appreciation for how many skills and how many people it takes to create a safe, sturdy house where people want to live.

There’s a lot of talk about affordable housing right now, here in Columbia County and around the world, but it’s important to keep in mind it’s not one thing. In Hudson, the only city in the county, the housing news generates headlines about financial support for multi-floor structures. Sometimes the story is what the rents will be and what subsidies the building’s owners will need. Sometimes it’s a question of: Who’s gonna pay rents like that? Read more…

EDITORIAL: Will we listen to the deer?

TELL ME THIS IS ONLY some bad joke waiting to happen: Man sits in an easy chair reading a newspaper. He calls out to his spouse, “Look dear, they’ve prohibited hunting in the woods near the school.”

It’s good news and bad for different reasons. It’s what the Kinderhook Town Board did and didn’t do at the board’s monthly meeting last week. That’s when board members voted to place a 77-acre parcel and all other town-owned property off limits for any kind of hunting. The local law singles out some but not all suspect weapons. The list includes “a bow, shotgun and/or rifle,” in case someone might have misunderstood.

The land in question is along State Farm Road close to Volunteer Park. Anyone caught breaking this new law could face a fine of up to $250 or up to 15 days in jail or both. Kinderhook doesn’t have a jail, so a scofflaw hunter would probably have to serve his or her sentence in the Columbia County Jail in Greenport.

As of last week the board was still wondering how to discourage hunting on the 77 acres owned by the town. There’s also the fact that these particular woods lie nearby the largest school district in the county—Ichabod Crane—not to mention the sports fields at the town park. This is not available as a place to collect trophy antlers or harvest venison. Read more…