Epa Declares Love Canal Clean

Its discovery 25 years ago led to the creation of the EPA Superfund Program for the cleanup of toxic waste sites. Now, the Environmental Protection Agency says cleanup work is finished at the infamous Love Canal dumpsite in Niagara Falls, New York. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell has more:

Transcript

Its discovery 25 years ago led to the creation of the EPA Superfund Program for the cleanup of
toxic waste sites. Now the Environmental Protection Agency says cleanup work is finished at the
infamous Love Canal dumpsite in Niagara Falls, New York. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Bud Lowell has more:


The Love Canal neighborhood became a national symbol for the problems of toxic waste in 1978.
Nine hundred families were evacuated. An elementary school and two streets of homes were
bulldozed. The remaining landfill was sealed off.


Today, EPA says the 70-acre site can come off the Superfund List but Mike Schade with a
Buffalo-based group called the Citizens Environmental Coalition isn’t so sure. He says about 22-
thousand tons of World War II era chemical byproducts remain buried at the Love Canal site.


“Now, while the EPA and Occidental are monitoring the landfill, time will prove that landfill will
eventually leak. It’s really, inevitable.”


Schade believes the EPA announcement seeks to defuse criticism of a recent U.S. Senate vote.
That vote blocked reauthorizing a law taxing oil and chemical companies to support the
Superfund program.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bud Lowell.

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RESCUING FARMS WITH ‘AGRI-TAINMENT’

According to the food policy group Oxfam-America, more than 300,000 small farms have gone out of business in America over the last 20 years alone. Falling prices, imported produce and encroaching suburbs have all taken their toll on the family farm. But some farmers are finding new ways to keep their land and their lifestyles intact. More than a dozen of them in the Great Lakes states and southern Ontario are doing it by marketing their farms as a great place to visit. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell reports from Hilton, New York:

Transcript

According to the food policy group Oxfam-America, more than 300-thousand small farms have gone out of business in America over the last 20 years alone. Falling prices, imported produce and encroaching suburbs have all taken their toll on the family farm. But some farmers are finding new ways to keep their land and their lifestyles intact. More than a dozen of them in the Great Lakes states and southern Ontario are doing it by marketing their farms as a great place to visit. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell has more from Hilton, New York:


“We all love the outdoors. It’s fun it’s something we can all relax at. Its not far from where we live and we love doing it.”


Brian Camp is in the middle of a 15 acre cornfield with his family and friends. They’re more than half-a-dozen people who drove to this farm in the Town of Hilton. They’re not farmers. They’re here to have a good time wandering through a maze:


“It’s an interactive game right in the middle of mother nature. It’s a 15 acre cornfield that we carved an intricate pattern into.”


Pat Zarpentine and her husband have run Zarpentine farms and its apple orchards for the last 25 years. This year, they’ve been trying out one of the newest tools small farmers are using to keep their land in the family. It’s called “agri-tainment” – packaging a visit to a farm as an experience that people will pay to share.


According to the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association, more than 400 farms in the United States and Canada are making money by turning at least part of their land into entertainment ventures. Charles Touchette is the association’s Executive Director:


“This is becoming very big. Especially in what we call direct farm marketing, where the people are encouraged to come to the farm directly or the farmer.”


The fall hayride at Zarpentine Farms circles land that’s been in the family since 1832. But today, the farm is under pressure from the expanding Rochester, New York suburbs. Foundations are being dug for new homes just a few hundred yards up the road.


Pat Zarpentine says she and her husband have been watching the Town of Hilton change:


“We’ve seen other people having to sell off lots and parcels to survive. But we wanted to hold onto this. There’s such a strong tradition here.”


Zarpentine Farms already sells directly to customers through a farm market. Pat Zarpentine says the family wanted something that would draw new customers, but be in touch with their farming heritage.


Some farmers have put in paint ball courses or motocross tracks. But the Zarpentine family found their answer through a Utah-based company called “The Maize” – that designs and cuts intricate mazes in cornfields:


“We deliberately chose a big maze. We wanted it so we could have the design so you couldn’t see from one path to the next path.”


The corn towers above your head in the maze and the wind rustles the stalks. You walk on beaten-earth paths, and follow clues in the form of riddles that can help you find the exit.


After about 45 minutes in the maze, 14-year-old Owen Camp and Shannon Popowich say it’s a good way to spend a Saturday:


“It’s a good way to spend a day…like when you have all day!”


Zarpentine Farms charges seven dollars a head for adults to wander through the corn maze. Pat Zarpentine says her family’s first experiment with agri-tainment hasn’t actually turned a profit. But she says the visitors have definitely boosted sales at her farm market, and the maze attracts the right people:


“We get a lot of families. It’s a good outing. It’s wholesome, a great time for family to come together and spend quality time enjoying the outdoors in a setting where most families don’t ever get an opportunity.”


Agri-tainment is a growing business. Charles Touchette of the Farmers Direct Marketing Association says it’s driven by a desire for some Americans to get back to their roots:


“It used to be a generation or two ago everybody knew their grandparents farm. Now that’s not the case – that’s three and four generations ago. It’s unique, it’s a novelty to most Americans yet it’s something that’s still in our blood – seeing some green grass and enjoying a favorite season.”


Touchette says there are no reliable numbers yet on how many farms in the U.S. are offering “agri-tourism,” but it’s growing aggressively as people start to appreciate farms at a different level. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bud Lowell.

Problem Geese Herded From Suburbia

Canada Geese are a familiar sight across the Midwest. Every fall the massive birds wind their way across the area as they migrate from Canada. But now, the region is also playing home to growing populations of resident geese. Instead of migrating, they stay near shopping centers and residential areas, where there’s a ready supply of food. For several years, one such population kept the residents of a Rochester, New York suburb feeling like they were in a state of siege. The geese chased pedestrians, caused traffic accidents, and left unpleasant signs of their presence almost everywhere. So town officials have hired an unusual business to encourage the geese to live somewhere else. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell has more:

Transcript

Canada Geese are a familiar sight across the Midwest. Every fall the massive birds wind their way across the area as they migrate from Canada. But now, the region is also playing home to growing populations of resident geese. Instead of migrating, they stay near shopping centers and residential areas, where there’s a ready supply of food. For several years, one such population kept the residents of a Rochester, New York suburb feeling like they were in a state of siege. The geese chased pedestrians, caused traffic accidents, and left unpleasant signs of their presence almost everywhere. So town officials have hired an unusual business to encourage the geese to live somewhere else. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell has more.


“There’s hundreds of geese here. They come in the springtime, and after me being here about three or four times, I ended up right down to about 30 or 40 of them.”


Gordon Kornbau is at Westfall Town Park in Brighton, New York with his border collie, Arrow.


“You have to hit ‘em very hard in the beginning, just aggravate the heck out of them twice a day…. different times of the day. They get used to the fact that you’re not going away and they decide to nest somewhere else.”


Kornbau and Arrow are at this park to herd geese. There’s a 10-acre, roughly Y-shaped pond here…tucked up against an expressway. Neatly manicured lawns slope down to the water – and it turns out, that’s paradise for geese. They don’t like tall brush that conceals predators, so there are a lot of them here in the short grass.


But the geese don’t leave the park looking like paradise to humans.


“Look around here and notice all the…this whole blacktop last year was…from one end to the other, a square foot, you couldn’t walk. Same with the grass and stuff like that…Goose poop? Yeah…now we’ve got it down to a minimum. But we’ve got to keep after them. Now they’re done molting and the goslings are ready to fly so we’ve gotta get on them heavy again…. Arrow! C’mere…Arrow (whistles).”


Kornbau sends his collie to circle the pond. The geese know she’s coming. They splash, honking into the water as the dog runs toward them.


“All the way out – (whistles) – keep going!”


(Sound of geese honking)


“Basically, border collies are trained on sheep for years and years. Just transferring them from sheep over to geese isn’t that big a deal.”


Arrow, the Border collie, is half the geese herding process. Under his arm, Gordon Kornbau has been carrying a radio controlled, gas-powered model boat.


As the dog chases the geese into the water, he drops the boat into the pond


(Sound of model boat engine)


Kornbau steers the boat in circles. The annoyed geese take flight, and make for the far corner of the pond.


The Border collie rounds the pond and chases them back. Kornbau launches his boat again.


Every day he does this, a few more of the birds decide to leave for a quieter home someplace else.


“I send Arrow out and she’s scaring them all up…and people are standing there saying, ‘What are you doing – my kid’s having fun feeding the geese!’ Well –I’m sorry but – I have to be the bringer of bad news.”


This “geese herding” has been checked out by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC worked with Gordon Kornbau and the Town of Brighton, and gave the Town’s geese control program it’s OK.


Once in awhile, though, some people do get upset with Kornbau and Arrow. But he says they calm down once he shows them his business card.


A few passersby today seem intrigued by what he’s doing.


“What kind is it? –Border Collie – oh…so this is what a border collie looks like. Yeah…I’ve read about you guys in the paper. Having fun chasin’ those geese, huh?”


The Border collie, Arrow, knows the job is done. She’s back in the station wagon and ready for the next pond.


(Sound of door slamming)


“Nothing to it…good girl…. she’s the best!”


So how does somebody become a geese herder?


Gordon Kornbau was a mechanic at a golf course. He was looking for a business of his own, and that’s when he ran across a newspaper article about businesses in North Carolina and New Jersey that made money by herding geese.
He decided he could do the same thing. Now, Kornbau says he’s got the “best job he’s ever had.” No comment other than a lot of tail wagging from Arrow.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bud Lowell.

Making Solar Power Accessible


Rising natural gas and electric rates are bringing with them a risinginterest in alternative energy. The result is that powering your homewith solar energy is no longer a project for the experimenter. Thetechnology can now be bought off the shelf, as the Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Bud Lowell reports:

Transcript

Rising natural gas and electric rates are bringing with them a rising interest in
alternative energy. The result is that powering your home with solar energy is no
longer a project for the experimenter. The technology can now be bought off the
shelf, as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell reports.


Just five years ago, Nancy Allinger and Duane Basch built a home heated and powered
by the sun.


It was a lot of work. They had to get it designed and find a builder who’d tackle it. They
searched high and low to find equipment that would let them achieve their vision of generating
their own electricity. And they had to deal with skeptics, who said solar power wouldn’t work in
the Great Lakes snow belt.

“My mother, the first year we moved in the house, was calling me every morning to ask me If I was warm –
and it was yes mom – we’re warm.”


Today, Nancy Allinger’s friends and neighbors are no longer skeptical about the house,
which gets its electricity from photo-voltaic panels on the roof and from a windmill.
And something else has changed. If Allinger and Basch were to build their solar house
today, they could buy the solar-electric system off the shelf.


The solar power industry is still small. But in the last five years, household solar electric
systems have gone from something cobbled together by experimenters to something you buy
from a dealer. And there are options that didn’t exist five years ago.
Doctor Gay Canough is President of the New York Solar Industry Association.


“Most of the solar homes have been stand-alone systems, but that’s rapidly changing. In California there are
entire housing developments that are putting in solar electric systems and doing net metering. So the numnbers are
starting to really grow, now”


When Nancy Allinger and Duane Basch built their house in Mendon, New York, stand-
alone solar energy systems were state of the art.


They use solar or windmill power to charge a number of car batteries, usually housed in
the basement or garage. The batteries store power for night and for cloudy days, and a device
called an inverter turns the 12-volt D.C. battery current into standard house current.


The latest household solar technology is net metering. It goes a step farther, by making
the homeowner a partner in the energy grid. With a net metering system, you buy power from
the utility company at night and on cloudy days. But when the sun is bright, your electric meter
runs backwards as you feed current back to the power company.


Bill LaBine of Avon, New York installs stand-alone electric systems. Today, he’s gearing
up to sell net metering equipment.


“Well, net metering really means you can sell the electricity for the same cost that the utility company’s
charging you for the electricity.”


Not all states in the region have net metering yet. Some of them still need to change
state laws so that small-scale producers can sell back to the electric companies.


Gay Canough of the New York Solar Industry Association says this has the potential to
make solar-electric panels a common household accessory…..


“The reason why we’re pushing the net metering system is because it’s essentially a no maintenance kind of
system. You put ’em up, they feed your house load. You don’t have to have any special wiring, you don’t have to worry
about your load – although you should try to be energy-efficient – and they just sit there and they work.


You don’t have to do anything to them. So those kinds of systems are taking us into the mainstream where we
can get a lot of people using solar energy.”


Most of today’s solar electric users took up the idea because they’re environmentalists.
But solar equipment dealers are beginning to stress the cost savings of combining home solar
electric with home energy conservation.
They say for the cost of a new small car, you can outfit your home with a stand-alone or
a net metering solar electric system, and essentially free yourself from monthly electric bills.
Finding out about solar power can be as easy as checking “solar energy systems” in the
yellow pages. On the Internet, the American Solar Energy Society supplies basic information, and
can help locate a solar energy dealer in your area.
Some states – like New York – offer tax credits and other incentives to buy solar
generating equipment. Your state utilities commission should be able to tell you if any are
available in your area, and how to proceed.
I’m Bud Lowell for the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

Selling Energy Back to the Power Grid (Part 2)

Interest in solar power faded in the 1980s along with memories of the1970s energy crisis. But as most of us cope with rising costs forheatingand lighting our homes this winter, some pioneers are turning to the sunonce again as a way out of high utility bills. They’re taking advantageof a little-known federal law and the new era of utility deregulation togenerate their own electricity. And some of them are even selling itbackto the utility companies. They say that despite what skeptics maybelieve, there’s enough sunlight hitting the Great Lakes region to makesolar power viable. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell hasmore:

Transcript

Interest in solar power faded in the 1980s along with memories of
the 1970s energy crisis.
But as most of us cope with rising costs for heating and lighting
our homes this winter, some pioneers are turning to the sun once again
as a way out of high utility bills.
They’re taking advantage of a little-known federal law and the new era of utility deregulation to generate their own electricity. And some of them are even selling it back to the utility companies.


They say that despite what skeptics may believe, there’s enough
sunlight hitting the great lakes region to make solar power viable.
WXXI’s Bud Lowell has more.

Bill Labine is a true believer. He drives an electric pickup
truck. He keeps it charged with panels of photo-voltaic solar
batteries in his back yard.
His garage and workshop are powered by batteries, kept
charged by solar panels on the roof. And then there’s his house.


“From the road it looks pretty much the way it did a hundred years ago when it was build. You know anybody walking their dog down the road is going to have no idea that this home is electrically self sufficient.”


Bill Labine and his family live in a century-old Victorian house, in
the heart of the Western New York village of Avon. He has what’s called
a “net metering” electric system.


“We have on the roof in this case, 20 solar panels. DC electricity, direct current, comes down from the roof. It plugs into this little white box on the wall, which converts it to utility grade AC electricity. Like we’re used to using for our appliances, and pretty much goes right into the breaker box.”


At night or on cloudy days, the Labines are buying electricity from
their local utility company — Niagara Mohawk. But when the sun is bright,
the solar batteries generate more power than they need.
Their electric meter then runs backwards – building up credits on
their bill as they sell energy back to the electric power grid.
The goal of a net metering setup is to have your energy credits
offset your energy purchases, so you’re left with only the monthly
connection fee.
The Labines have gradually replaced their appliances with new
energy- efficient models and have heavily-insulated their hundred-year-
old home.
With those changes, Bill Labine says it’s working out so far.


“As a whole, it works wonderfully. It’s past the autumn equinox, so we’re not making as much energy as we consume. But again, once we hit spring, I’m planning to put up a few more panels in the spring. And at that point I expect not to have an electric bill for the rest of my life.”

The genesis of net metering is a federal law signed by President
Jimmy Carter in 1978 to encourage alternate energy sources. The law
was mostly ignored until federal utility deregulation in the 1990s.
That’s when mechanisms were set up for independent power
producers to sell electricity back to the big utilities. And some states
even adopted their own laws forcing utilities to buy electricity back
from their customers at the same price they sell it.
Net metering isn’t very popular with America’s investor-owned
utilities.
Mike Oldak is director of State Competition and Regulatory
Policies for the Edison Electric Institute – an industry trade group.


“It transfers cost of the system to other rate payers.”

Oldak says the cost of building and maintaining power lines is paid
by adding a couple of pennies per kilowatt hour to the cost of
everyone’s electric bill.


“This is zero sum game. If they’re not paying for their electric wires that are strung to their homes, and their transformers, and all of the infrastructure needed to deliver power to them. Then basically, under the regulated model, the other citizens, everyone else in the State, are going to pick up those costs. That’s not right and that leads to inefficient markets.”

Oldak says state net metering laws also force utilities to pay
retail price for electricity they could get for much less on the
wholesale market.


Bill Labine says on the contrary — his net-metering system
produces high-value power when it’s needed the most.


“When you think about it happens during the summer in the middle of the day. That’s when anybody would have excess electricity to sell back to the utility company. And that’s precisely when the utility companies are cranking up every one of their last generators to try and meet the demand of all the air conditioners in the state. So it correlates very well with the utilities peak demand.”


It’s hard to get a handle on how many people are actually net
metering their electric power. The solar industry says thousands are
doing it. The electric power industry thinks the number is far smaller.
However, supporters of the practice say a long, cold winter this
year may turn more people into converts.
In Avon, New York, I’m Bud Lowell for the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium.

Homeowners Harness Sun’s Energy (Part 1)

All around the Great Lakes people are worrying about heating
their
homes this winter. Some are trying to save up money to pay rising oil
and
natural gas bills. Others are stockpiling wood. But some families
aren’t
worried about utility rates. They heat and sometimes light their homes
with solar power. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell has
more:

Pesticide Link to Parkinson’s Disease?

A research team at the University of Rochester has found that acombination of two commonly-used pesticides produces symptoms ofParkinson’s disease in mice. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s BudLowell has more:

Transcript

A research team at the University of Rochester has found that a
combination of two commonly-used pesticides produces symptoms of
Parkinson’s disease in mice. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell has more.


Maneb is a fungicide and Paraquat a herbicide — both widely used in
agriculture. A federally-funded research project at the University of Rochester
Medical School has found that exposure to both chemicals together may have
unintended results.


Dr. Deborah Cory-Slechta has found that mice exposed to both
Paraquat and Maneb have something in common with humans suffering from
Parkinson’s disease.


“They have motor deficits — deficits in their motor behavior. And they
basically have damage — selective damage, even — to the same
neurotransmitter systems, the dopamine systems — that are damaged in
humans.”


Cory-Slechta says it’s too big a jump to say Paraquat and Maneb cause
Parkinson’s disease in humans. She says there are probably a range of
factors, some of them genetic.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bud Lowell.

Superfund Remediation

The Great Lakes Region is home to thousands of inactive, abandonedhazardous waste sites. Cleaning them up is often the responsibility ofeach individual state. But the process often takes years and ishampered by a lack of funds, a lack of scientific knowledge, and a lackof political will. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bud Lowell isfollowing the clean-up at one New York site. Today, the siteassessment: