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Look For Our BLUEBERRY FESTIVAL SPECIAL In The August 4th Issue Of The County Transcript

Issue Home July 13, 2004 Site Home

Slices Of Life
100 Years Ago
Along the Way...With P. Jay

From the Desk of the DA
Earth Talk

Slices of Life

The Cook Books

With bananas ripening faster than I could eat them, my mind went to banana bread. It’s not high on my heart-healthy diet, but with a family reunion coming up, I decided to bake it and put it in the freezer. So I went to my Ladies Home Journal Cookbook, circa 1960’s.

I remember the Christmas my husband bought this for me. In those days I didn’t have the shelves of cookbooks that I have now. I probably had only one, the Better Homes and Garden cookbook that I’d gotten for a wedding present. So this gift was well received. I’d sit and look through it for hours in the evenings after the kids were in bed. I don’t remember making many of the recipes, because they were a bit more sophisticated than my normal cooking, but I always made banana bread from the recipe in this book.

So today, while I had it off the shelf, I perused it again. What a revelation this was! Because I hadn’t used it lately, I had forgotten how rich the recipes were. In the good old days, a cup of cream, heavy on the mayonnaise, butter and bacon were all staples. But when "heart-healthy" worked its way into my vocabulary, most of these recipes went out.

I was amused at one breakfast recipe that called for six eggs, twelve slices of bacon and half a pound of cheese. Now there’s a coronary occlusion waiting to happen! Salt pork was a favorite in many of the soups. "Serve hot with lots of butter" seemed to keep repeating itself. Scrumptious-looking cakes made with ample portions of butter and whipped cream. It was a chef’s dream come true.

While not necessarily high in calories, the following recipe definitely got nixed. It called for four pounds of tripe and one calf’s foot cut into pieces. I was also not into the kidneys, sweetbread and brain combination!

That last recipe brought back memories from my teenaged years when I was baby-sitter/housekeeper for a young family. The lady of the house would leave the supper dishes for me to do when I came in early in the morning. One of her oft-repeated menus was the kidney, etc. combination, done in the broiler. So I would come in at 7:00 a.m. (when I could ride with the factory workers headed to town) to find this burned-on broiler pan soaking in now cold, greasy water. The odor was still lingering. Ugh! What a way to start the day.

Whipped cream was a staple at my home. With jersey cows and Mom’s great Kitchen Aid mixer, we ate whipped cream on every dessert. That was the only way I liked milk products, so it’s probably good that we ate lots of it. Vanilla was what made it palatable. And to be perfectly accurate I should say that I never turned down ice cream. Once again that was flavored. That took away the "milky" taste. It was also a real treat, usually reserved for Saturday night outings. No prepackaged ice cream in those days.

In my childhood days, mom had one cookbook. I think it was Woman’s Home Companion. For most things she didn’t use recipes, but her cakes and rolls came from that book. I still have what’s left of it. It lost its cover and many of its pages, but I know the butterhorn rolls are still there because, as you may recall, my granddaughter and I made them last Christmas.

Now I have so many cookbooks that I can’t live long enough to use them all. I have a real weakness for cookbooks, buying them at bookstores, yard sales, grocery stores... And day after day I fix the same foods; chicken breast, tuna fish, vegetables of every sort, fruit, and cereal. Not very creative and one hardly needs a recipe. But it keeps me going, and I keep reading recipes even if I don’t make many of them.

But banana bread. That’s a classic.

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100 Years Ago

LAUREL LAKE, Silver Lake Twp.: Georgia Hill and Ruth Meeker went to the Forks [Franklin Forks] awheel, on the 4th, and came home the next day, accompanied by their cousin, Agnes Summers, who is staying a few days with them. AND: The 10th reunion of the Hoag family was held the 29th of June 1904, at Little Lake, 47 being present. Mrs. W. D. Bolles brought a paper, the Montrose Volunteer and North Star, printed Dec. 1, 1842, edited by Abel Turrell and S.T. Scott, which contained an account of her parents' marriage, Daniel S. Hoag, of Silver Lake and Elizabeth T. Gurney, of Middletown, by W. G. Handrick, Esq. After dinner Elder W. C. Tilden gave quite a history of the old settlers, their hardships and privations. By the years of 1808 and 1811 several families by the name of Gage and Hoag came and settled near what is now called Brackney. Two deaths were noted, Henry Cole and Mrs. Carrie Baldwin; newcomers welcomed, Andrew Martin, Genevieve Coon and the bride of Edward W. Hoag.

ARARAT: The Bushnell's held their family reunion June 30, at the Bushnell homestead. As this gathering is strictly a family affair and they are not numerous, it was a small gathering. Only the descendents of Albert and James gathered, viz: Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Warner, daughter Louise, and grandson, Kenneth Warner of Montrose; L.D. Shults and wife of State Line; P.K. Bushnell and son, Albert and daughter, Gertrude, of Windsor, Mr. and Mrs. L.E. Banker, of Oneonta, and H.A. Bushnell and wife, of Nineveh. The day was good and a good dinner and good cheer prevailed.

SPRINGVILLE: Theron Strickland has a horse which he sends a half-mile every morning after a load of milk, which it brings safely back, and is then driven to the milk station here.

JACKSON: Urbane Hall, a well known citizen of Jackson, who had been a great sufferer from nervous prostration for many years, died at his home in that place, July 4th, aged 82 years. Deceased was a Civil War veteran and in his time a noted musician. As a performer upon the fife, he was unexcelled, and for many years he, with B.H. and A.B. Larrabee and Leroy Cook, formed the well known "fife and drum corps," that in the early 60's made Susquehanna county justly famous for that style of martial music. A.B. Larrabee is the only survivor of this organization that in their time thrilled thousands with their vigorous and skilled performance. Mr. Hall was buried from the Baptist church, July 6th.

AUBURN: Homer Young, agent for the Deering machinery, was through here last week setting up the mowers, which he had sold thus far this season, which number 36. It is quite evident that the Deering is the machine. AND: In Beech Grove, Luther Jagger, one of our oldest citizens passed peacefully away at his home July 6, in the 86th year of his age. He had been very feeble for several years, gradually growing weaker till the end. He was buried in the Fuller cemetery where he had a lot and monument set a number of years ago. His wife survives him, his brothers and sisters having preceded him to the beyond.

UPSONVILLE, Franklin Twp.: We saw a report recently about a cinnamon bear being seen near Montrose. There was a specie of such a bear seen at Kistler Lake a short time ago, only that it was more of a creamy color; it seemed very bold, and finally took to the woods, where it was lost sight of.

SUSQUEHANNA: His friends will regret the removal of Dr. A.E. Hager from this place; he has decided to locate at Clifford, where he will continue his practice. The doctor and his estimable wife will be missed both in church and social circles.

MONTROSE:The largest freight car that ever came up over the L. and M. arrived here yesterday from the West. It is a furniture and vehicle car 50 feet in length and weighs 36,000 pounds. As Mr. Merrill, the veteran railroader says: "It looks like the grandfather of the others." AND" There is no truth in the report that the cutglass factory is to be taken to Lestershire [Johnson City]. That town seems to be particularly set on securing a cutglass factory. Becker & Wilson are pretty well satisfied with conditions as they exist in Montrose and it is doubtful if any great benefits would be derived by removing elsewhere.

FRIENDSVILLE: Camp Choconut, which is situated near the quaint and quiet village of Friendsville, opened on June 24th with 32 members in attendance. Tho aweary from travel, the change of scenery and all thrilled the boys with a renewed ambition and Camp Choconut seemed alive with busy forms preparing their little nooks and corners for the summer's outing. The Camp is located on a proud and majestic hill overlooking beautiful Calmalt Lake--that quiet sheet of water which inspired a young girl to write in charming verse of its beauties some years ago, and to betake with her to the cloister afterwards, sweet memories of its shimmering waters, and fern-bordered banks. There are thick woods dotted here and there over rich and verdant pastures, and it seems like a very peaceful place hid among the hills north of that illustrious chain of mountains, the Blue Ridge. The air is fine and exhilarating and the boys have a run of 600 acres, which includes a base ball field, large tennis courts and tempting golf links. On Sunday mornings the hours are devoted exclusively to writing letters home, and in the afternoon the Episcopal service is read in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit near by and at the edge of the woods.

ELK LAKE: Lee and Homer Green, sons of N.E. Green, met with quite an accident recently. Their horse backed down an embankment, overturning the horse and wagon. Little Homer was found under the overturned carriage, slightly injured about the head and face.

BROOKDALE, Liberty Twp.: July 11th was Luman Allen's 84th birthday and he is sawing wood. Mr. Allen enjoys excellent health as does his aged companion, who is a few months his senior; she has been a devoted wife for 59 years.

CLIFFORD: A party of four from Carbondale came in town last Sunday in an automobile weighing about two tons. They complimented our landlord on the fine dinner they had.

FOREST LAKE: Allen Shay is in the possession of a fine new buggy, one of Titman's (Montrose). It's all right!

NEWS BRIEFS: The pure food agents are after Wilkes-Barre butchers, a number of whom it is claimed have used embalming fluid to preserve their meat. AND: Susquehanna county's state appropriation for the improvement and maintenance of public highways this year amounts to $10,868.18. It might just as well amount to 30 cents, so far as some sections are concerned. AND: Fresh eggs are now advertised in the magazines, to be delivered by express. A smart, careful woman can make more raising poultry than a careless farmer can raising corn. Women need money of their own; they can get it raising poultry. By the way, every woman who raises poultry should have the proceeds. That money should not be used to buy tobacco or coffee.

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Along the Way...With P. Jay

A major snafu

Don’t look now, my friends, but your county commissioners just blew one. Big time!

At a time when many private industries are making their employees contribute to their health insurance plans, the commissioners approved a new union contract that gives county employees 100 percent paid hospitalization insurance for the next four years

I did some research on the Internet and found out that, on the average, employers pay about 73 percent of the health insurance premiums for their employees who then pay the remaining 27 percent. I learned that the number of employees who contribute toward their health insurance increased by almost 50 percent since the 1990’s. Last but not least, I also found out that, nationwide, employees pay an average of $201 a month toward their health insurance coverage.

In Susquehanna County, there are about 120 employees covered by health insurance plus the elected county commissioners and row offices. If we took the national average of $201 that employees pay monthly toward their health insurance, and applied it toward the premiums paid by the county, it could result in a monthly savings of about $25,000. If we only deducted $100 a month from the employees and applied it toward their health insurance premiums it would mean a monthly savings of $12,000 to the county. Following it through, the annual savings based upon the national average would be right around $300,000. Based on a monthly deduction of $100, the county would be saving about $144,000.

Of course your elected officials are well aware of the fact that if they begin deducting money from county employees for health insurance, they would also be forced to kick in some of their money toward their health insurance. That would not set to well with the commissioners and the other elected officials. And so, for the next four years, your commissioners will shell out more than $500,000 in health insurance premiums that should be paid by the county employees but ends up being paid by the county taxpayers. There oughta be a law.

Other than making you and I pay every red cent of the premium for the health insurance of all county employees, the contracts, expected to be signed soon are not bad. For the next four years, those covered by them will receive pay raises of four percent for 2004, 3.5 percent in 2005, and two percent in each of the years 2006 and 2007.

And I am told there is some good news in the contract for dispatchers at the 911 communications center. The starting rate will be increased from the present $7.35 to $8.50. Many people, including this writer, have been campaigning for a better pay rate for the comm center people. It is a highly responsible position and one that most certainly is equal to as much or more of a starting rate than a clerk typist.

Thank you Justin?

It’s been a been a number of years since the county created its Department of Economic Development and it seems like this is the year that all the foundation work, the public relations and goodwill, and the persistence of the DED’s ousted director Justin Taylor is beginning to pay off.

This seems to be the year that Susquehanna County will start to come into its own. Outsiders are taking a second look at what the county has to offer. There are some impressive construction plans on the drawing board including, so I hear via the grapevine, a Best Western Motel complex. I mention that I heard it through the grapevine because the new EDD director is to busy doing public relations work for the county commissioners to take the time to keep the press updated on things that are far more important than politics.

It will take time, but sooner or later the Republican Majority on the Board of County Commissioners will realize that they threw the baby out with the wash when they got rid of Mr. Taylor. If you have any doubts that the commissioners made a mistake, take a gander at what Mayor Justin Taylor has accomplished for the City of Carbondale in the past six months.

Where have all the flowers gone

Last week, for the first time in a long, long while all the biggies were absent from the county commissioners’ office. There was not one commissioner in the building; the chief clerk was gone; and, even the assistant chief clerk was among the missing.

The powers that be should consider themselves fortunate to have employees who know what has to be done and just go ahead and do it. But I cannot help but wonder who would man the controls in the event of an unexpected development or a matter that required a decision maker.

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H/GB POST 357 Elects Officers – Elections were held at the June meeting of the Hallstead–Great Bend American Legion Post for the 2004-05 term. They are as follows:

American Legion: Commander, Richard Rood; Vice Commanders, Russ McCracken and Terry Rafferty; Adjutant, Jack Bennett; Finance Officer, Tom Wood; Historian, Russ Leonard; Chaplain, Susie Nelson; Sgt. at Arms, Ivan Smith; Service Officer, William Kienzler; Executive Board, Ken Wescott and William Kienzler.

Ladies Auxiliary: President, Peggy Merwin; Vice President, Karen Sinnett; Secretary, Pat Yonkin; Treasurer, Margo Merritt; Chaplain, Irene Welch; Historian, Evelyn Woolbaugh; Sgt. at Arms, Terry Copp.

Sons of Legion: Commander, Andy Pickney, Jr.; Vice Commanders, Dale Jesse and Earl Lindsey; Adjutant, Don Horvatt; Treasurer, Roger Rinker; Historian, Gary Richardson; Chaplain, Al Anderson; Sgt. at Arms, David Axtell.

Members are urged to attend meetings. Legion meets third Wednesday of the month at 8 p.m. Installation of officers will be held August 7, at 6 p.m.

TAKEN FROM a 1971 Transcript – (Date of paper Monday, December 20) – Fire destroys 84 year old Presbyterian Church Sunday. Fire, for the second time in three months has struck a Susquehanna Church. On Tuesday, October 12, a fire believed caused by a bolt of lightning heavily damaged St. John’s Catholic Church. In the early hours of Sunday morning, firemen were called to the Jackson Avenue Presbyterian Church, next to the Catholic Church, to put out a fire that evidently had been burning several hours before its discovery. Prior to the Presbyterian Church fire (while the Catholic Church was being repaired) the Catholics were using the Presbyterian Church for services. After the fire the Catholic Church held services in their Parish hall. (The Presbyterian Church was never rebuilt.) Susquehanna firemen, along with help from Windsor, Hallstead and Great Bend, did a great job in containing the fire. The Church, according to one of the Church officials "was a total loss."

MORE YANKEE Fans – During the past few days, I have discovered two more Yankee fans – in addition to veteran fan Fred Holtzman – Betty Powers, a resident of Turnpike Terrace has admitted being a Yankee fan. We were quite certain that Fred Collins, who did a few innings in his day, was a Yankee fan. The other day – Terry a T.T. volunteer – he showed me a beautiful Yankee jacket that was a gift from his son, then I believed he was.

PAVELSKI "Player of the Year" – Not only did New Milford Blue Ridge High School win a state softball championship, two of the girls were named to the Scranton Tribune All Star team. Brittany Pavelski, BR pitcher was named Player of the Year and Devin Glezen as Utility Player. For the year, Pavelski batted .421, scored 31 runs, 5 doubles, pitched 14 wins, no losses, 10 shutouts including 2 in the championship series, ERA .27. Glezen batted .366, 16 runs, 4 doubles, 15 sacrifices, 12 runs batted in.

WORTH REPEATING – In an area newspaper a cartoon showed two GIs talking. "Our tour," they said, "has been extended so we can recapture Saddam after the new Iraqi government loses him."

AREA ON AGING – For adults age 60 and older who require the level of care of a nursing home, there are different programs available. There is the "Waiver Program" and the "Bridge Program." For more information call your Area Agency on Aging, 1-800-982-4346, or in Susquehanna County call (570) 278-3751 or toll-free 800-634-3746. Also you can get in-home services, such as home delivered meals, personal care, nursing services and many, many more home services.

HOW CAN You TELL! – Watching a ball game with a friend a few nights ago, this big muscled guy came to the plate. My friend remarked, "Boy, oh boy, he doesn’t look like a ball player." I asked, "How is a ball player supposed to look?"

QUICK THINKING! Two friends were beginning a game of golf. The first man stepped up to the tee, hit the ball and got a hole in one. The other man said, "Now I’ll take my practice shot."

GOOD LEARNER! A woman in my office, divorced after years of marriage, signed up for a refresher CPR course. "Is it hard to learn?" someone asked.

"Not at all," my co-worker said. "Basically you’re asked to breathe life into a dummy. I don’t expect to have any problems. I did that for 32 years."

SMART ALEC! The board of education in a nearby town sold off a building that had been a one-room schoolhouse. The buyer converted it to a tavern. One day an elderly man was walking by with his grandson and pointed to the building. "I went to school there when I was your age," he said.

"Really?" said the boy. "Who was your bartender back then?"

NO WORRY! Rushing to a bridge tournament, I was pulled over for going 43 in a 35 mph zone.

"What’ll I tell my husband?" I worried, explaining to the police officer that he was a self-described "perfect" driver.

The cop took a second look at the name and address on my license.

"Did your husband go duck hunting this morning?" he asked.

Baffled, I answered, "Yes."

"I stopped him for going 47 miles an hour!"

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From the Desk Of The DA

It is common to receive reports during the summer months of parties where adults furnish alcohol to persons under the age of 21 years. This conduct is particularly disturbing, as the adults understand that the conduct is criminal, but manage to justify their criminal acts. I hear the same excuses repeatedly, i.e., if you can vote or die for your country, you should be able to drink a beer. Other adults justify the conduct by stating that they will make sure that no one drives an automobile or that it is better that they drink under my supervision than somewhere else unsupervised. Regardless of the excuses or the safeguards implemented, the furnishing of alcohol to a minor is a criminal act.

Further, those charged with the furnishing alcohol to minors are often shocked at the potential consequences resulting from such actions. The criminal offense of furnishing alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor of the third degree, punishable by up to one-year incarceration and a fine up to $2,500. The legislature, however, has deemed this offense to be so severe that a mandatory fine of $1,000 for each violation must be imposed. Therefore, the potential financial consequence for each act of furnishing alcohol to a minor will be at a minimum fine of $1,000 up to a maximum fine of $2,500.

If you consider this matter practically, the potential financial penalty for furnishing alcohol to minors can be staggering. If a parent were to throw a graduation party for his child and allowed his child and 9 friends to consume alcoholic beverages at the party, the parent would have committed ten separate acts of furnishing alcohol to minors. Thus, the parent faces a MINIMUM fine of $10,000 and a potential period of incarceration of up to 10 years.

As to the minors, they also face criminal prosecution. The consumption (or possession) of alcohol by a minor is a summary offense, resulting in a fine of not less than $300 for a first offense, and not more than $500 for any second and subsequent violations. For the minors, the financial penalty may not be as severe, but a conviction also results in a suspension of the minor’s driver’s license for 90 days on the first offense, one year on the second offense, and two years for a third or subsequent offense.

Finally, the furnishing of alcohol to minors can also have tragic consequences. For instance, in Commonwealth v. McCloskey, Judith McCloskey allowed her child to have a "keg party" in the basement of her home. McCloskey assisted with the party, getting ice and blankets for the kegs. Approximately 40 underage drinkers were in the basement of the home, with over 20 cars parked outside the residence. During the party, McCloskey interacted with underage drinkers while they consumed alcohol in her presence. A neighbor called the police. As the police arrived, one of the teenagers fled, got into his vehicle with three other teenagers and drove away from the McCloskey residence. As a result of his intoxication and high speeds, an accident occurred, resulting in all four of the teenagers being ejected from the vehicle, and three of the teenagers were killed. The teen driver’s blood alcohol level was 0.20%.

McCloskey was prosecuted for three counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of the three teenagers, which required proof that McCloskey caused the deaths of the teenagers through reckless or grossly negligent conduct. A jury convicted McCloskey on all counts, and she was sentenced to a period of incarceration of 12 months to 54 months. McCloskey filed an appeal, contending that her behavior was not reckless and that there was no proof that she caused the deaths.

As to recklessness of McCloskey’s conduct, the Superior Court stated: "This is not a case of an unwitting parent who was tricked into hosting a party at which alcohol was served without her knowledge. Instead, . . . McCloskey knew alcohol was being served in her basement and the minors were drinking it. She interacted with teens as they drank and allowed the party to continue for hours into the night, interrupted only by the arrival of the police. As a result, her recklessness was established."

As to the causation argument, McCloskey argued that she did not cause the teenager’s voluntary decision to drink in excess, operate a motor vehicle at high speeds while intoxicated, and not wear a seat belt; rather, McCloskey argued that all of these factors were outside her control. The Superior Court rejected this argument, stating that the deaths were caused by McCloskey’s "outrageous conduct, in knowing the teens were consuming alcohol, interacting with them as they drank and allowing the illegal and unsupervised behavior to continue into the night."

In short, there are substantial criminal penalties arising from the furnishing of alcohol to minors – regardless of the steps taken at supervision or safeguarding. Further, if a tragedy occurs, there is a potential that the person furnishing the alcohol will be prosecuted for a criminal homicide charge, namely involuntary manslaughter.

Please submit any questions, concerns, or comments to Susquehanna County District Attorney’s Office, P.O. Box 218, Montrose, Pennsylvania 18801.

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Dear EarthTalk: I’ve heard that some foods are now being irradiated. Why is this and what are the implications for our health and safety?

Emily Worden, Monroe, CT

Food irradiation – used to kill bacteria, parasites and insects in food and to retard spoilage – is actually not new. Research began early in the 20th Century and picked up in the 1950s as part of the U.S. government’s "Atoms for Peace" effort to find non-wartime uses for nuclear technology. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began approving food irradiation in 1963 to rid wheat and flour of insects, and to control the sprouting of potatoes. It later approved irradiation of spices and seasonings to fight insect infestations, then pork (to prevent trichinosis), poultry (to prevent salmonella and other food-borne bacterial pathogens) and more recently beef, lamb and pork (to kill E. coli).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO) both endorse food irradiation, and over 40 countries have approved its use. WHO calls the practice "sound food-preservation technology – badly needed in a world where food-borne diseases are on the increase."

In recent years a series of highly publicized events led to increased use of irradiation. In 1998, Sara Lee recalled millions of pounds of hot dogs and deli meat after 21 people died in a Listeria outbreak. In 2000, a young Milwaukee girl died after eating watermelon splashed with E. coli at a Sizzler restaurant. The E. coli, which made 600 other people sick, was traced to a Colorado meat plant. In 2002, ConAgra recalled 19 million pounds of E. coli-contaminated beef. There are some 33 million cases of food-related illnesses each year, and 9,000 deaths. Food poisoning caused by E. coli affects up to 20,000 people annually.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says irradiation is safe, but critics charge otherwise. Irradiation does not make food radioactive, but it can create toxic byproducts and some "unique radiolytic products" that haven't yet been identified or tested, says Dr. John W. Gofman of the University of California at Berkeley. "We know that irradiation causes a host of unnatural and sometimes unidentifiable chemicals to be formed within the irradiated foods," he says. "Our ignorance about these compounds makes it simply a fraud to tell the public 'we know' irradiated foods are safe to eat." The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) claims that irradiation saps food’s nutritional value, and charges that irradiation deactivates raw food’s natural digestive enzymes and encourages fats to turn rancid.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, Director of Food Safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), says that irradiation’s benefits outweigh its risks, but fears irradiation may be seen as a "silver bullet," leading to neglect of effective sanitation measures in the production of food in the first place. Patty Lovera of Public Citizen agrees: "People are getting sick because cattle are crowded into small pens, sleeping in their own waste. Then they move through slaughter so quickly that mistakes cause fecal matter to contaminate the meat." Even the pro-irradiation American Dietetic Association says: "the process is not a replacement for proper food handling practices."

CONTACTS: U.S. Food and Drug Association, (888) 463-6332,; Organic Consumers Association, (218) 226-4164,; Center for Science in the Public Interest; (202) 332-9110,; Public Citizen, (202) 588-1000,; American Dietetic Association, (800) 877-1600,

Dear EarthTalk: What is the environmental impact of sewage from boats and ships on our waterways?

Eileen Macaw, Traverse City, MI

There is a clear relationship between the number of boats in a given area and the levels of coliform bacteria in both water and shellfish, reports the San Francisco Estuary Project. High levels of coliform bacteria, which indicate sewage pollution, can spread disease, contaminate shellfish beds and decrease oxygen levels in the water. Studies on swimmers, scuba divers and windsurfers show the effects of contact with bacteria-infested waters, which include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Individuals may also become ill by eating shellfish that have consumed human sewage.

Even coral reef communities are affected when high bacterial levels cause an overgrowth of aquatic plants and algae. Dead zones, like the one currently in the Gulf of Mexico, are areas of the ocean starved of oxygen because sewage has spurned robust algae blooms that consume all available oxygen when they die and decompose. Fish and plants can no longer survive in these areas.

According to the Oceans and Coastal Protection Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), slow-flowing rivers, lakes, marinas and "other bodies of water with low flushing rates" are particularly susceptible to the havoc brought on by boat sewage. To counter the problem, in 1998, the Federal Clean Water Act allowed states to designate all or portions of their bodies of water as no-discharge zones. These zones help to ensure that public drinking water is not contaminated. Currently, six states have adopted the policy. The act also regulates standards for marine sanitation devices – boat toilets. Such legislation aims to improve the quality of water at recreation sites for both human and aquatic life.

One of the largest waterway polluters is the cruise ship industry, which often dumps raw sewage directly into the sea. According to Jackie Savitz, Pollution Campaign Director and Senior Scientist for the Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization, Oceana, the cruise ship industry alone discharges tens of thousands of pounds of sewage a day into some of the most pristine parts of the ocean. The extent of the effect of such pollution depends on where you are, she explains. In more sensitive ecosystems, such as in Alaska and Hawaii, cruise ship sewage is a huge percentage of the water pollution problem, where other sources, such as sewer overflows, may have more of an impact on water quality in places such as New York. Discharge into the ocean by cruise ships is not covered under the Clean Water Act, but states can take action. Alaska was the first to pass a law requiring tougher standards for cruise ships, says Stavitz.

Oceana recently targeted Royal Caribbean to pressure them to clean up their dumping practices. After an 11-month campaign, during which some 90,000 people signed a pledge to not sail with Royal Caribbean until it took action, the company agreed to adopt sophisticated wastewater treatment technology to treat sewage on board, and is now installing systems throughout its entire fleet.

CONTACTS: San Francisco Estuary Project, (510) 622-2465,; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Oceans and Coastal Protection Division, (202) 260-1952,; Oceana, (202) 833-3900,

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; or submit your question at:; or e-mail us at:

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