All posts by M. F. Roberts

2016 Milestones So Far



I’m now well into my 95th year and haven’t yet heard the owl call my name. Whispers, hints, suggestions – yes, but marching orders, dated tickets or scheduled events – no. Oh yes, just one scheduled event. I’ve asked the Old Lyme Fire department to transport my remains to the Lily Pond section of the Duck River Cemetery, when my time comes, on the bed of the Ward – La France firetruck.

Actuaries have me in their sights and funeral parlors, nursing homes and retirement retreats all clamor for my attention. On the other hand, I still get asked to offer eulogies for friends far younger than I. How does this come to pass? I don’t know but I do speculate.

First, I never participated in contact sports. Second, I never in the last 60 years or so worked for a living. Yes, I did work but only to satisfy a curiosity or better explain something or tell an interesting story or to help some people in need or to correct an injustice.   These were the challenges.

How I resolved them was, I realize now, the force that motivates me to keep going. I do believe that were I to do nothing I could easily be nothing. That is to state that for me life without a challenge, a goal, is not worth the effort – and at my age the very effort of getting through ‘til tomorrow is a considerable effort.

I’m glad to note that our culture takes note of what others did and saw and contemplated on. I’m glad it gets recorded and I’m sad that we, most of us, don’t have the time or inclination to read, or listen to, what we have inherited.

Mervin at the Rockefeller Garden
Memorial Service for Douglas Chapman
Seal Harbor, Mt. Desert Island, Maine
August, 2016

Wastewater in Old Lyme Connecticut

With my growing family, my wife and I moved to Old Lyme over fifty-five years ago. Then it was another coastal town with a stable year-round population and a large vacationer transient group who came here to enjoy the Long Island Sound shoreline beaches for about ten to twelve weeks in summertime. Many of these visitors scheduled their time here to mesh with summertime school vacations. Some owned cottages, others rented for a week or two, and others for the season. These cottages were clustered to be within walking distance of the sound. The average family had but one car which the husband used to go to work, and he would drive to the shore only on weekends.

One example of such a cluster of cottages in Old Lyme was aptly named White Sand Beach. The sand was dug from borrow pits on Buttonball Road, about a mile inland from the shore. It was fine, white, and free of clay or soil. The developer of this community spread this sand on top of a salt hay Spartina marsh. Now, Spartina grass is nice to look at but doesn’t lend itself to beach recreation. This beach community, and others like it, were frequently state chartered beach associations with enumerated powers and responsibilities. The developer provided paved roads and summer potable water from upland wells. Water delivery was limited to summer, and many pipelines were hardly buried or were not buried at all. Winter ice was not a problem since these pipelines were all drained annually when the summer season ended. It didn’t matter since the occupants were gone and would not return until the following June. This pattern repeated itself in several Old Lyme chartered beach associations.

Septic waste disposal was primitive in many instances. Cottage house lots were rarely large enough to support a conventional septic tank and a leach field plus a reserve leach field. Some were simply a punctured 55 gallon steel drum that then drained quickly into the ground. Mother Nature sustained this insult for only ten or twelve weeks a year, but as the years rolled by – new technologies and new lifestyles put new loads on the natural remediation processes. Better roads, more autos, longer vacations, and disposal garbage grinders all contributed to additional loading on these already inadequate septic systems.

The thin layer of white sand over a mat of roots and dead Spartina grass and marsh muck is not the ideal soil for aerobic digestion of human waste. Smells of anaerobic decomposition would come and go, and sometimes the wastewater would actually erupt on the ground around a cottage.

The beach communities limped along in part because there were no drinking water wells near these failing wastewater “systems”. Remember, potable water was piped in. Sanitarians knew how to correct the problems, but other forces were also in play. In Old Lyme our Registered Sanitarian, operating under the rules of the Connecticut State Health Code and inhibited by rules from the State Department of Environmental Protection, had few legal tools to combat pollution. One attempt was by stamping the land records with the words “Summer Use Only”, but after several years, a court found the procedure to be invalid.

As time went on, land values rose, and those summer cottages on postage stamp lots continued to be enlarged, and insulated, and heated, and occupied for longer and longer periods.

Concurrently, several other things were taking place. The State Legislature created a Department of Environmental Protection, and gave them a blank check for jurisdiction over sewage treatment plants. Also, they were granted power to regulate wastewater discharges of over 5000 gallons per day. The State Health Department retained its control over small flows, but they were restrained from any treatment except the passive septic tank-leach field arrangement. Furthermore, the DEP also assumed powers over what they called “areas of special concern” and thus claimed jurisdiction over a neighborhood. Also, they claimed jurisdiction over all wastewater treatment which employs modern technology. The Health Department must restrict itself to the passive septic tank-leach field treatment. Now both of our neighbor states, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, permit technology which by aeration and circulation, a home septic system could accommodate greater loads. This may not be done in Connecticut according to the DEEP, even by a registered sanitarian whose work is supervised by a health director, according to the published Health Code of our State Health Department. This, it seems to me, is simply a turf war in Hartford for control and the desk in the corner office. Registered Sanitarians, in both the DEEP and the Connecticut State Health Department, have the same qualifications and must pass the same examinations.

I believe that the drive to sewerize in Old Lyme is mostly from people and organizations that have motives apart from economy and the environment but rather for power or money. They should recuse themselves from decision making, since their views are tainted.

Take note that several of the beach associations in Old Lyme are charted by the State Legislature, and the charters clearly state that these associations may, if they wish, control their wastewater. However, this control would be at their expense. This is not quite what sewer proponents are advocating. They seem to want these projects to be town-wide and not at their expense. Rather, they seem to expect the municipality, or the state or federal government, to expend tax revenues to correct the problems of their increasing usage of lots that were never intended for year-round occupancy.

I believe further that the DEEP is the fox in the henhouse, making and enforcing rules, with little or no supervision or oversight by the legislature. For example, the State Health Department publishes a health code, but the DEEP has no comparable document.

If the DEEP is to dump its treated effluent from sewage treatment plants into our streams and rivers, that water should be pristine drinking water quality, and if it is pristine, then why is it not replaced into our aquifers or our ground waters? Dilution is not the solution to pollution, and the DEEP is the culprit.

Letter from The Old Lyme Shellfish Commission

It has come to the attention of this Commission that sanitary wastewater treatment in plants sanctioned by the State DEEP are discharging less than potable fresh water into our rivers flowing eventually to salty Long Island Sound. The view of the DEEP seems to be based on their opinion that dilution is the solution to pollution. The Connecticut River is closed to recreational shell fishing because they neglect to tell us, that the treatment plants they supervise are the source of much of this pollution.

With the name they give themselves, it seems to be odd that they, of all people, should control the very sewage treatment plants that pollute these waters.

“Seems to be” in the previous paragraph is there because it is difficult to document the culprit. This Commission believes that the DEEP (formerly the DEP) is the fox in the henhouse. They spend public money, but the results of their effort, is far from transparent.

          Several years ago, one example came to our attention when an official of the DEP told Old Lyme representatives that a proposed sewage treatment plant in Old Saybrook would discharge treated water into the Connecticut River midway between the Amtrak and the Baldwin Bridges. He told us not to worry because “The discharge pipe would be fitted with a diffuser.” When asked what a “diffuser” was, he said, “So it doesn’t all come up in one place.”

 For another example, the screens on the discharge at a plant near Middletown clogged up, and the plant operators opened the discharge directly to the River, and raw human waste arrived by tidal flow at Point O’Woods in Old Lyme a few days later. In this instance, officials in Hartford had the unmitigated gall to say that this human waste originated in Point O’Woods where there are, and were then, no open sewers dumping raw sewage into nearby waters. None.

One reason why this has been going on is that most people don’t relish talking about human waste. Another reason is sewage discharges are often located in obscure places like the bottoms of rivers. We believe the data is all there but “not available

There is no denying that in heavily industrialized or densely populated urban areas, conventional septic tank – leach fields are not adequate for the load, but even here the DEEP is abusing both the environment and home owners on lots which are too small for conventional septic tank – leach field treatment. This is because of still another factor. The DEEP in this state is in a turf war with the Connecticut State Health Department. Here, the DEEP holds a monopoly on about all wastewater treatment, except for the old fashioned passive septic tank – leach field, presently the only wastewater treatment available to sanitarians who work under the guidance and rules of the State Health Department. The result of this situation is that the local Health Directors and local Sanitarians cannot avail themselves of modern, proven systems now in use in Rhode Island and in Massachusetts to digest all septic waste on a small house lot.

 So to win this turf war, the Connecticut DEEP resorts to another ploy. They don’t test the soil. They simply measure lot size and lump neighborhoods as those having houses too close together. By a formula that they don’t make public, they declare a lumped discharge of 5000 gallons per day from several sources, and they claim jurisdiction, whereas the State Health Department is limited to control only the individual smaller discharges. In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, such small individual discharges would get individual treatment with modern technology, thus avoiding the loss of fresh water to the ocean and the costs and hazards of sewage treatment plants and leaky sewers.

 So who loses when we have unnecessary sewers? First, the environment loses ground water. We exhaust the aquifer and cause dug wells to dry up. Taxpayers lose as we pay to move wastewater that could easily go back through leach fields into groundwater at no cost to the taxpayers. Instead, they dump partially treated water into the ocean.

What must be done to correct this situation? We must get the fox out of the henhouse. The DEEP should not be permitted to monitor itself. Data concerning sewage treatment plant discharges for both quantity and quality should be readily available for anyone to scrutinize. The use of alternative technology for sewage treatment should be made readily available to any registered sanitarian or health director, without any interference by the DEEP.

When sanitary waste water is sewerized and discharged into a river we are throwing away a valuable resource that could, and should be, recycled efficiently to improve our environment and save money too. Modern technology permits this, but the DEEP prohibits alternative technology for single home installations and hides the data which would indict them.


Some words in a sentence modify nearby words. These include adverbs and adjectives. Other words identify something. These are nouns. Some nouns are universal and others are used infrequently or only in small localities or in highly specialized fields. One example of localized use is a very common fish Brevoortia tyrannus. In the English language this fish is known in various localities by at least thirty-one names, including for instance: menhaden, pogy, wife, bonyfish, bunker, bugfish, greentail and cheboy. Thirty-one English names in use for just one fish. Notice that these examples don’t seem to relate to each other and some don’t even hint that they name a fish.

About twenty years ago I came upon a book titled The Sawba and his Secretary. It was a story set in the border region between Burma (now it calls itself Myanmar) and China. This story is about the experiences of a petty potentate (Sawba) who ruled there. It attracted me largely because my son Neel was working in Southeast Asia as a missionary. I gave the book to him. Now fast forward from about 1990 to 2015. Recently, he gave me another book about that same part of the world. It is titled The Art of Not Being Governed by James C. Scott and on page 114 there is a reference to a Shan petty potentate who was called a Saohpa. That rang a bell in my mind. Two words Sawba and Saohpa both from the same area in Indo-China.

Armed with a miracle of modern electronics, I pressed two buttons on my cell phone and my son promptly explained how the sounds of words are expressed and spelled when they are translated. I then began to realize the tremendous burden borne by missionaries and Bible translators who strive to make sense of words originally writ in Aramaic and Greek in order to be understandable when printed in the language of a Burmese Shan. I barely manage with thirty-one English names for one, just one, fish.

Even more so, I marvel at how one translates a faith-based intangible concept that many of us have been exposed to all of our lives and still don’t fully understand.

Did I Ever Work for a Living?

Mervin F. Roberts – October 2015   

Now, in my 94th year, I am occasionally asked just what I worked at for a living. Repeatedly, I rethink it, and each time I conclude that to date I’ve done little or no work for a living. Yes, I certainly did work, but I did not work for a living.

I worked to put out fires, both literally and figuratively. I worked to satisfy my curiosity, to solve problems, and to answer my own or other people’s questions. I worked to create new products or to improve something. I worked to expose scams.

So, yes I worked, but I didn’t work for a living. I worked mostly for a challenge or for fun. Frequently, there was someone who paid me for what I did or tried to do. Did I always succeed? Not always but often enough. I attempted taxidermy and failed, also failed with painting, dance, music and the typewriter. Did I cheat or fake it or steal someone’s ideas? No. Did I plagiarize? No. Did I spend my life in the field of my formal education? No. I did get jobs from three employers because of my degree, but rarely did I actually apply my special training in glass technology. Soon after I started to repeat something, I found another challenge.

I was never employed to manufacture anything. So then what did I do? I invented a color sorter to recycle glass bottles. I helped govern a town. I taught school. I monitored two nuclear power plants cooling water intakes for fish, consulted in aquaculture, wrote about 40 books and booklets about tidemarshes and pet care, did feasibility studies for benevolences in Ecuador, Brazil, India and elsewhere, improved electric switches, pioneered in the development of frameless aquariums, invented a water pump, experimented with perfect binding, photographed pets, aquarium fishes, jumping frogs, shot strings and bumble bees in flight. I rebarrelled shotguns and fixed mantle, pendulum clocks.

I did spend a couple of years experimenting with the phenomenon of oxygen as a “wetting agent” affecting the surface tension of molten glass, and I also helped develop a plasma for melting porcelain enamel, all funded by the U.S. Navy (Bu. Ships) and by the Office of Naval Research. This work was the one rare direct application of my college training in Glass Technology.

I designed and built photoflash equipment. I served the U.S. Navy as an officer during WW2 in the Pacific, and I earned two combat stars. I was a licensed Third Mate in the Merchant Marines, any gross tons, any ocean, steam. I navigated a ship across the Atlantic. In college, I kept two or three horses, shod, rode and drove a buggy before I could drive an auto.

I chaired the Connecticut Marine Resources Council and was president of the Connecticut Association of Conservation Commissions. I also founded the Old Lyme Conservation Commission and the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Commission. I am, and have been for over 30 years, the Old Lyme Shellfish Commission Chair. I’ve been awarded “Citizen of the Year” by the Town of Old Lyme. I’ve been recognized by American Men of Science.

 I owned and navigated the 68 foot, 45 ton motor yacht Shell-Fish for about ten years and cruised between the St. Lawrence and the Carolina mangroves.

I’ve hunted ducks, fished commercially, and served actively in the Old Lyme Fire Department since 1968, first as an attack truck driver, and now as Chaplain.

I’ve been a church trustee and property chair, and have married about 100 couples as a Justice of the Peace. Together with my wife, we parented six children.

Even today, I don’t work for a living, but I do work, and it’s still fun.

There is in Kerala, a state in southwest India, a Catholic Bishop with whom I cooperate to alleviate poverty. He addresses me as “Reverend”. I think because he learned that my middle name is Francis.

Memorial Day 2015


Good morning, I’m glad to be here and I’m glad that you are here also, for today continues something of a tradition that originated during the Civil War.

I pray to God that the words of my lips and the thoughts from my heart are acceptible to thee O’ Lord. This address of mine is not intended as an Invocation, asking God to do something. It is rather a Homily to suggest to you a God-like thing each of us might do.

Now, there is an ambivalence about our coming here today. We gather on this designated day and in this place to mourn the dead; and simultaneously we celebrate their lives. Yes, here and now we both mourn and we celebrate. On other designated days. we often gather divided and then we depart still divided as on some town meetings, election days, sports contests and even sometimes after a sermon in church that strikes a discordant note, but today, I believe we can all be of one mind. For those who come here to mourn, there is plenty to mourn about, lives cut short, lovers separated, children orphaned, tragic accidents, diseases, fires, lost at sea, killed in a war. And for those who come here to celebrate, there is plenty to celebrate. We honor genuine public servants, judges, soldiers and sailors who offered and sometimes gave up their very lives. They volunteered their service to defend our liberties. Also we celebrate firefighters, authors, poets, police, ambulance, nurses, doctors, athletic coaches, clergy, artists, and teachers buried here who helped us find beauty and purpose in life. And as an afterthough please don’t forget fire department chaplains!

They are all here, or on their way, with name and date and perhaps some inscription to inspire the passerby.

In the baker’s dozen cemeteries of Old Lyme, over the course of more than 300 years, are the remains of towns-people. People we read about, heard about, knew about, knew personally, loved, honored, admired, revered, esteemed. They are here, ever reminding us that they’ve lived here, and that they contributed something to make our nation, our culture and our Town something special. Something upon which we can build. Something for which we can be proud.

I’m glad to have been part of that something. I’m grateful for those who paved the way. I hope that those of you, younger that I, can find joy and inspiration from memories stirred up by this Memorial Day. So, enjoy this designated day, the parade, the hot dogs, the music, the ceremony. And what might you do? Continue the tradition, keep coming back and do remember that you, each and every one of you here, are actually the most important part of what’s going on. So ends my homily.

Old Lyme Wastewater

Years ago homes here discharged their wastewater into cesspools. A cesspool is a very primitive digester of septic waste. Cesspools work, but now as we use much more water for bathing, laundry, garbage disposal, dishwashing and flushing toilets, we had to improve the cesspool. Today it has morphed for most residences into a septic tank, compartmented, and connected to a leach field of perforated pipe that permits the water portion to re-enter the earth where digestion continues naturally. Solids that float in the septic tank (called scum) and those that sink (called sludge) accumulate in the septic tank and periodically they are pumped out for further treatment elsewhere. In Old Lyme, pump-outs are ordained to be performed not less frequently than once in seven years. My home system accumulated two inches of scum and thirteen inches of sludge in about twenty years with an average of five people in residence. Other septic systems in Old Lyme are pumped much more frequently.

The pumped out wastewater and solids were then taken to a municipal lagoon facility where aerobic decomposition and evaporation and slow seepage into the soil further reduced pathogens, nutrients and volume. The end product of these septic lagoons was then buried in landfills or incinerated. It is virtually harmless.

Over the course of this last half-century, the process was modified by technology so that by 2000 the pump out material was rendered inert and compacted in Old Lyme in a filter press resulting in a dry product that was mostly cellulose. The liquid that was extracted was then treated further in a municipal sewage plant. Outside of Connecticut, in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for instance, this liquid is often used to irrigate forest land, but in Connecticut the DEP insists on still more treatment before they discharge it into streams that flow eventually into Long Island Sound.

One might wonder why the DEP would insist on this wastewater treatment process in a sewage treatment plant and then dump the water in Long Island Sound, instead of injecting it back into upland forest soils or spray on forests to replenish our groundwater. I think it is because they know that their treatment often leaves a product still not clean. Amazing, because my septic tank and leach field are only about 100 feet from my dug well. Generations of people have been drinking this well water for at least 150 years, and all of us have been healthy. The sanitarians, registered and licensed by the Connecticut State Health Department, have never faulted my waste water treatment or my well water.

So one might ask why the DEP (or DEEP) wants studies to justify sewering of Old Lyme Septic Wastewater to New London for treatment, and then why would they dump that treated water into the Thames River and eventually to Long Island Sound?

I think I know. First thing for the reader to know is that in my college years I took courses in sewage and sewerage at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. These are the very same courses taken by Registered Sanitarians here in Connecticut. Here in Connecticut, I served as a Councilor to the Governor for Marine Resources, and in Old Lyme variously as Conservation Commissioner, WPCA Commissioner, Shellfish Commissioner and for ten years as a Selectman. I first moved to Old Lyme in 1960. At that time there was no DEP (now the DEEP). Parks and Forests, Fish and Game, and others were consolidated sometime around 1970 and septic waste management was split up. Discharges of more than 5000 gallons a day were assigned to the DEP and small residential units remained with the State Health Department, where the State Health Code governed.

The Health Code was, and still is, enforced by appointed Health Directors who usually were local medical doctors. Towns hired sanitarians who were formally educated in best practice before they were licensed as Registered Sanitarians (RS). Some of these people were employed by the DEP, with the very same education and the very same license (RS).

Town-employed Registered Sanitarians working through local town medical doctors use the State Health Code as their authority. They inspect restaurants, wells, and small septic systems as they were built and as they are operated. They monitor failures and supervise repairs and modifications. The system works. The Health Code works for small residences and it depends on strict zoning enforcement. The DEP was given statuary control over large discharges. They have another set of rules and these seem to change from time to time. There is, to my knowledge, no DEP equivalent to the State Health Code in print. All I can rely on to evaluate their goals is what filtered down to me in these past thirty or so years. Their primary initial task was with urban and industrial discharges, and sewers and treatment plants.

The first time I ran up against the DEP was when they told Old Saybrook that it was polluting the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound with improperly treated septic wastes. They would build a sewage treatment plant in Old Saybrook and eventually discharge treated wastes into the Connecticut River somewhere near the railroad bridge. This plant would also handle waste from Westbrook and perhaps Clinton. I was at that time the Old Lyme Shellfish Commission Chairman and by State law we had collected revenues from Connecticut River Oyster Harvesting Licenses amounting to several thousand dollars. By law, this money did not go into the General Fund of the Town of Old Lyme, but was to be used by our Commission for the improvement and protection of the resource and for education.

I went to see the point man for the DEP to learn about the planned discharge, since our oysters might be contaminated by their discharge. I learned that the effluent would go into the river “through a diffuser, so it wouldn’t all come up in the same place.” His exact words.

The Old Lyme Shellfish Commission paid the WLIS radio station in Old Saybrook several thousand dollars to broadcast messages urging the voters of Old Saybrook to reject this proposal at their referendum. And they did reject it. Then I heard from the State Election Board that I had violated a law, one that I didn’t know about, by spending municipal money to influence an election. Fortunately, someone else discovered that another law exempted me because that law was only effective after the date of the referendum was published, and someone else had neglected to publish that date.

Later it turned out that they really didn’t need a treatment plant, and now they are doing something else. But I learned how this State plan came into being. Old Saybrook town fathers heard that there was State grant money available for studies of ground-water pollution. Old Saybrook applied for the grant (and bear in mind this was for a study). Old Saybrook got the money and then they were told they were polluting. “But we haven’t even started the study,” they said. Not necessary, you accepted the grant so you have acknowledged you are polluting and we are here from the government to help you.

Here in Old Lyme there are State Chartered Beach Associations and some of the charters clearly state that they may, at their expense, install sewer service. As summer occupancy morphs into year round, and what was ten weeks of summer use becomes fifty two weeks, many of the systems, especially those buried in water and lacking leach fields, were getting help through the agency of “midnight plumbing” into streams like Sheffield Brook. Many of these houses had their property cards marked for “Summer Occupancy Only”, but somehow that provision has been overturned. Old Lyme Sanitarians have found and corrected nearly all these offending systems. As the owners continue to use or rent their summer cottages all year, the small lots on high water tables cannot accommodate these loads.

There are now several ways to correct this problem. They could sewerize their chartered beach associations land at their expense. The law permits this – at their expense. Or individuals could buy up nearby house lots to accommodate adequate septic systems at their expense. Or they might use modern technology at their expense, except that the Connecticut State DEP does not permit modern technology for these residential applications.

On an occasion when the Old Lyme Registered Sanitarian used such modern technology in full accordance with the State Health Department Health Code, “his Bible”, he was threatened by the DEP with revocation of his license to practice – which license was awarded to him by the State Health Department. Perhaps you want to that paragraph again?

Or they could get the Town of Old Lyme to foot the bill for their decision to build small inexpensive summer cottages sixty or seventy years ago on high water table, often on filled tide-marsh land, often on postage stamp sized lots inadequate in area for proper septic systems including adequate leach fields and leach field reserve areas. All at their own expense – unless the Town picks up the tab. Incidentally many of these summer cottages have gotten larger over the decades with porches closed in to form bedrooms and other modifications.

Or they could get the DEP to force the Town to sewerize at Town expense even though ground water tests by recognized engineering firms show that there is no general pollution and that with application of the State Health Code, individual problems can be corrected at the owner’s expense.

It should be noted that the Town of Old Lyme adopted by unanimous vote a policy of sewer avoidance several decades ago. This policy guided the Old Lyme WPCA for many years. It was crafted by the world class engineering firm, Dames and Moore and monitored by Nathan Jacobson Associates of Chester, Connecticut. The framework of this policy was established by none other than engineers and Registered Sanitarians of both the Connecticut DEP and the Connecticut Health Department.

Years later the DEP reversed itself and their representatives told us that what we were doing was all wrong and that we were polluting ourselves and also Long Island Sound.

In one written communication they said human waste was found in Long Island Sound off Point O’Woods about four miles east of the mouth of the Connecticut River. They blamed failing septic systems in Point O’Woods. They neglected to note that our Sanitarian found no such systems or discharges into Long Island Sound waters. Our investigation confirmed the waste and established that it came after heavy rains near Middletown on the Connecticut River caused a combined storm water – sanitary sewer to clog the screens on their treatment plant and that in turn forced the plant operators to open their valves and screens and discharge storm debris and human waste directly into the river. About two days later some of it got to Point O’Woods.

On another occasion, we were told that proof we were polluting was shown by the absence of migrating river herring in the Four Mile River. What they neglected to note, although it is shown on the topographical maps, is that this river has dams on it too high for these fish to jump and there are no fish ladders.

Also, they stated that the coliform counts of Four Mile River water were high and this was proof positive of pollution. Again they neglected to note that just upstream of Point O’Woods there was an active cow farm and wastes from these animals were generated and deposited nearby, constantly. Coliforms are found in the guts of both cows and people.

These lies from our State Government officials are but a small sample; but they were more than I could stomach and I quit my membership in the WPCA.

I conclude after fifty years of closely observing this Town, that consultants can be paid to opine whatever the client pays them to opine.


What Goes Around, Comes Around

During 1986, or so, a Roman Catholic Bishop from India came to Bar Harbor Maine to raise money for destitute members of his various parishes.  His domain was Alleppey (also spelled Allaphuzza) in Kerala, a state in Southwest India.  His seat was in the fabled Malabar forest on the shore of the Arabian Sea.

This is what Bishops do.  They raise money in order to spread the Gospel and to alleviate poverty.  Sometimes what they propose is truly based on real poverty, but is not practical.

The Bishop spoke in Mt. Desert Island, Maine, Catholic Church where a longtime friend of mine, Douglas Chapman, heard him.  Now, Chapman, an attorney, maintains in his office a non-profit benevolent organization in order to distribute money from some of his wealthy clients who want to be benevolent but remain anonymous throughout the entire process.  Their very private lives are not to be interrupted.  Atty. Chapman sees to that.

He accepts the responsibility for the program feasibility and the strict accountability of the sometimes large sums of money involved.  He enlists experts in public health, animal husbandry or whatever to advise him.  This would include site visits, interviews, feasibility studies, and even cost-benefit analysis to assure that there is a true need, and that money can be expended with a strong fact-based opinion by experts that it will help the parties in need.  His goal is to help people help themselves.  These are not ongoing support charities or doles or subsidies but jump-start initiatives.  Every challenge is a special case.  No two are alike.

On one such occasion, I helped in Alleppey starting in 1986.  This project took 13 years to “debug” and it helped nearly 1000 women.  Each raised fish in her own home pond for her own family.  Extra production was traded over the backyard fence with neighbors for eggs or vegetables or whatever.  The reason we remained involved for so long was not animal husbandry, but rather it was to adjust to the culture of people who needed help.  The farming of fishes is all well-known and has been published worldwide.  In this instance, the men in the community didn’t like the idea of having women independently accomplish something without involving the men’s domain of the marketplace with its drugs, alcohol and walkman radios.

Now, fast forward from 1986 to about 2010 and another Catholic Bishop in another nearby Catholic Indian Diocese.  This one was located not on the seacoast, but in the foothills of the Western Ghat, a mountain range forming a spine through southern India.  Again, I was involved.  Here there was no standing water, no lakes, no ponds; just small fast-moving streams tumbling down over rocks on their way to the sea.

Now, to culture pond fish you need ponds, and the geology there didn’t permit ponds.  Incidentally, the Bishop was assuredly Catholic, but most assuredly not Roman Catholic.  He was Syrian Orthodox, ordained by the Pope in Rome but permitted to marry.  In fact, he told me that the came from a long line of Bishops.

As was the case in Alleppey, so also in this Orthodox Diocese of Pathanamthitta, most of the Christians came out of the untouchable or unscheduled class of Indians.  These people broke away from the Hindu religion in order to gain humanity.  In that part of the world, an untouchable, even today, is considered by a high caste Hindu to be somewhat less than human.  Don’t fall for that myth that Gandhi eliminated untouchability.  He was himself a Hindu and he simply changed their name.  He called them the “unscheduled” class.  In Pathanamthitta there was, as I mentioned previously, a lack of standing water.  There were many fast-moving mountain streams down steep hillsides, but there were no ponds.  There were however, plenty of dense mountain forests with bushes and shrubs that goats naturally choose to eat.

Of course, goats became my preferred animal to help these people pull themselves out of poverty.  The program, now in its fourth year, seems to be working, but there are some parallels with Alleppey to observe and ponder.  In Alleppey, poverty was largely due to a gradual failure of the domestic rice crop.  This was caused by the gradual Indian neglect of the tidal gates which the British built and maintained for the Indians until they were kicked out in 1949.  These tide gates restricted the incoming salty water but opened on the outgoing tide to drain out the marshes, until gradually the salinity went down enough to support a good rice paddy crop.  The Indians neglected to pick up the job of maintaining those British built tidal gates and eventually the productivity of the paddy, an Indian food staple ceased.  Indians told me that rice farming was “too labor intensive.”

However all was not lost, because in nearby Thailand (Siam) there was plenty of farmed rice and even more coming because the Thai Prime Minister was getting farmers’ votes by supporting the price of rice.  To maintain or raise the price of rice, he simply had his government buy it.  Then he sold some to the Indians who bought it gladly with money loaned from the World Bank that likely will never get repaid.  Soon Thailand was rice rich but the price support subsidy left the government broke.  Eventually the King winked at an Army General and the Thai Prime Minister got booted out.  Good riddance, he was also a crook.  Then, he, the deposed Prime Minister, was succeeded by his younger sister, who also “supported” the price of rice to get the farmers continuing vote.  So again the King winked and she also got booted out.

In the meantime, the World Bank slowed the flow of money the Indians used to buy Thai rice.  Remember, prior to 1949 India had enough rice – locally grown.

So, what has this got to do with Pathanamthitta, Kerala in southwest India? Plenty, but it’s not simple.  Those forested hillsides, where the goats love to browse on undergrowth, are critical to the economy of the Indians in that area.  It seems that these forests are also home to great numbers of wild rubber trees.  It is really rubber that drives their economy.

Unfortunately, as the rice boom declines in Thailand the Thai rubber plantations are now being stimulated by subsidies from the government.  This is being done to encourage Thai rubber growers to vote for their Prime Minister, since the rice market is now swamped with plenty of rice but no customers.

Rubber incidentally suffers from boom and bust because, in part, rubber trees are also grown in many other tropical places besides Thailand and India.

I think dear reader, you can see where this may be heading.  What goes around – comes around.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s the price subsidy of rice or rubber in Thailand or India.  When politicians buy votes with subsidies of government money – the people lose.  I plan to wait and see.  In the meantime the goat and fish projects do help keep food on the table, without a doubt or a subsidy.

Sewers in Old Lyme are NOT Needed

Today, 10 October 2014 at about 11:50 AM I write now what I remember of what I said without notes at a Selectman’s meeting on 6 October 2014 held at 3:30 in the afternoon.

I was the third of four men who spoke during the Public Comment part of the Agenda. The other three were Todd Machnik, Gary Yuknat and Harold Thompson.

I stated that I have been a resident of Old Lyme for over 40 years, and a public servant to the Town for many of those years. I was even a Selectman for about 10 years. I do not support the proposed sewer project at the beaches.

I stated that too many of the people who are involved in this sewer project are involved because someone recruited them. I spoke to the responsibilities of the Sanitarians, who all receive the same education, have to pass the same exam, and the fact that they disagree on how to apply what they learned, depending if they are employed by the CT Department of Health or by the CT DEEP. What I said, in essence was that dealing with the DEP over the past forty years was frustrating because their employees with whom I tried to work were dishonest. I said “they lied”, and those were my exact words. I gave two examples of their lies; the first example was that after a failure at the treatment plant near Middletown, human waste was traced as it moved down the Connecticut River and east on our shore until it reached Stanhope Beach and the mouth of the Four Mile River where it polluted the area around Point O’Woods.

The DEP spokesman and the DEP Commissioner used this human waste to claim that POW was polluting and POW required sewerizing. The second example I gave was that the DEP went on to say that the absence of migratory fishes in the Four Mile River confirmed their charge. I responded that there are no migratory fishes going up the Four Mile River because there were several impoundments on that river that these fish could not get over or around. I pointed out that there were dams, shown on official maps to prove what I stated.

I concluded with a statement that I could fill a book with more of their lies.