Friday, October 9, 2009

The use and misuse of hysteria

This week has been an interesting week with news concerning the H1N1 influenza novel circulating about, the arrival of the vaccine at the health department, some differed knowledge about rabies, more information and misinformation on the Scofieldtown dump and surrounding wells and several unrelated well water issues.
The news about the influenza is that there are deaths, which is not surprising, all flues kill an amazing number of people. The issue is that this flu is particularly dangerous for Healthy individuals. the vaccine is here and we should be fore armed with it.
The rabies info had to do with a scratch of someone pregnant. I do not know the issues with the rabies vaccine and pregnancy. I deferred that info to more qualified persons. The person calling called the incident minor ( a scratch by a raccoon), but I had to say that because a raccoon is a major vector of rabies, it is still serious.
The hysteria about the dump is currently very difficult to manage, there a lot of erroneous information being spread by word of mouth that only heightens fear and serves basically none one. The most ridiculous one was that the water company uses the water from the Rippowan river for drinking. that was a malicious lie and anything else that person spreading that lie should also be disbelieved.
The demand for heavy metal testing is one I can understand because most people do not understand metals. in the environment, especially here in Stamford a well drilled 50 feet away from from a well high in the normal metals found in the area (iron and manganese) will not have any.
The reason is because metals tend to turn into not just insoluble compounds of oxides, chlorides, carbonates, sulfates and the like, but these compounds actually bind with the surrounding soil making it almost impossible for them to move through the ground. This is true of most of the metals found at the dump. they will be carried above ground by rivers and streams and rain, but in the ground they do not move well at all.
Of course because of the real concerns in the Hannah's Road, Very Merry Road and Larkspur Road, many people are becoming aware that they need to have their water checked.
Well's have seals that over time can fail, about 5% in a 30 year period. When the water does not taste "right" suddenly, check for bacteria.
Such was the case this week and it was contaminated with bacteria. The issue is that the seal on the well can deteriorate and allow surface water into the well and also the bacteria it carries. It is not an underground problem, it is an above ground issue, soil carried the bacteria we look for, wells should not have it. Of course the question was first asked by the homeowner, "We do not live anywhere near the dump, how could this be?" Of course it had nothing to do with the dump.
The final story had to do with a plumber/ well person calling me hysterical because I called Hydrogen Sulfide dangerous. Strange, you can look in any hazardous chemical book and find out how dangerous it really is. the source may be very simple, a uncared for "swimming hole" which was full of decomposing organics (leaves and such) creating an anaerobic (without oxygen) situation where bacteria creates hydrogen sulfide. The well was close to this spot and so would draw it down. the battery of treatment units on the water did not remove the problem. There were other issue with the home, but the constant head aches can be linked to constant exposure to the hydrogen sulfide at low levels over time.
The good news? Water company water is readily available.

Other issues had to do with bacteria being found in homes with carbon filters. Carbon filters do NOT remove bacteria, but the tests were done by outside labs but when I repeated the test, there was no "coliform" bacteria. There were a few non-coliform colonies which the people will take the info to their doctors because of special situations. the bacteria may have been introduced by plumbing work (most likely).

So endeth the lessons.
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