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Better Beware! – Bogus Debt Collectors

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Anson Shupe’s unexpected death was a shock to us all. Here’s his final column, just as he wrote it, giving some good advice on how to deal with scammers who threaten you if you don’t pay them money you don’t really owe.

Voices of Homelessness: Linda Collins

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Over the past month, WFHB reporters Sarah Panfil and Emily Beck have spoken with local people experiencing homelessness as well as employees at agencies that serve impoverished residents. They are exploring the myriad circumstances that cause local people to lose housing for a series called Voices of Homelessness. We bring you the first installment of that series now, for today’s WFHB community report.

Daily Local News – May 13, 2015

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Bloomington police announced this afternoon they had arrested an Indiana University administrator for possession of child pornography; Bloomingfoods is hosting the Bloomington’s Fifth Annual Bike to Work Day Block Party this Friday from 5:00pm to 8:30 pm; Bloomington residents debated the merits of the proposed parking garage downtown at a city Plan Commission meeting on Monday; The City of Bloomington Arts Commission has awarded grants to 18 organizations in the Bloomington community as part of the city’s 2015 Arts Project program; Last week Governor Pence signed a law pausing the construction of nursing homes in Indiana for the next 3 years; In the past it was rare to find lone star or blacklegged ticks in southern Indiana. However over the last 15 years those insects have become mainstays in the region.

FEATURE
Over the past month, WFHB reporters Sarah Panfil and Emily Beck have spoken with local people experiencing homelessness as well as employees at agencies that serve impoverished residents. They are exploring the myriad circumstances that cause local people to lose housing for a series called Voices of Homelessness. We bring you the first installment of that series now, for today’s WFHB community report.

BETTER BEWARE!
Anson Shupe’s unexpected death was a shock to us all. Here’s his final column, just as he wrote it, giving some good advice on how to deal with scammers who threaten you if you don’t pay them money you don’t really owe.

CREDITS
Anchors: Araceli Gomez, Kelly Wherley
Today’s headlines were written by Kara Tullman, Jordan Guskey, Jack Hanek and Joe Crawford
Along with David Murphy for CATSweek, in partnership with Community Access Television services
Better Beware was produced by Richard Fish
Our feature was produced by Doug Storm
Our engineers today are Adam Reichle and Matt Gwaltney
Our theme music is provided by the Impossible Shapes
Executive Producer is Joe Crawford

The County Employee Parking Garage Proposal Moves Forward

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Bloomington residents debated the merits of the proposed parking garage downtown at a city Plan Commission meeting on Monday. The Monroe County government wants to build the facility at the south-east corner of Morton and Eighth Streets. County employees would park there. This is the third time in three months the proposal has come before the Bloomington Plan Commission. The original proposal was for a nine story, ninety-four-foot tall facility. The height was well over the 50 foot height allowed by City Code. Since then, the County has downsized the proposed building to seventy feet tall. Bloomington Planning and Transportation Department Director Tom Micuda says changes have been made to make the building more compatible with its neighbors.  He compares the garage height to other downtown buildings and says that it is now in relation to all of the others in terms of the facade.

Micuda pointed out that many of the features of the proposal are still in violation of city code. Mayor Mark Kruzan then spoke in favor of the proposal. Despite the size of the building, Kruzan said the garage will help keep County government facilities downtown.  Kruzan said that Monroe County Government has made a choice loyal to staying downtown and that the parking garage  would benefit this initiative in maintaining a downtown presence.

The County Commissioners are looking into opening the facility to public parking in the evening, on the weekends, and during holidays. During the public comment period, there was both support and opposition to the proposal. Generally, supporters lauded the benefits of keeping county employees and their vehicles downtown. Opponents criticized the garage as expensive and inappropriate for downtown. They said the current shuttle service, which takes County employees to work from the convention center parking lot, is a cheaper option. Ultimately, the Commission voted 7 to 1 to approve the project. Commission member Jane St. John cast the only no vote. The recommendation will now go to Bloomington City Council for a final decision.

Interchange – PCBs Under the Rug: A 2007 Interchange Interview

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…in a community that would like to pride itself on being environmentally friendly and attracting people to a safe, comfortable place to live, such as Bloomington, we don’t want to admit that we’ve got this huge unresolved problem; it’s not good for our image. I think the community leaders, the elected officials, have been schizophrenic about dealing with this problem they’ve had a lot of reservations with facing up to it….You can’t just sweep it under the rug. It’s an ethical issue. –Mick Harrison, Public Interest and Environmental Attorney

Yesterday WFHB’s Daily Local News reported that though there has been relatively little public discussion about the contaminants in the past decade, a citizen group called Healthy Monroe County has recently reignited the issue. And on April 30th WFHB’s EcoReport aired an interview with Public Interest and Environmental Lawyer Mick Harrison, and Retired Senior Greenpeace Scientist Pat Costner about PCBs, their health effects, and the current state of the clean-up in Monroe County.

In complement to this we revisit an archive Interchange from September of 2007 about PCB contamination in Bloomington and the ongoing struggle of local activists and concerned citizens to make headway on a real clean-up of this environment hazard which was inflicted on Bloomington by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation between 1957 and 1977.

Westinghouse’s disposal practices were neither abnormal or illegal during this period. However, with the passage of environmental legislation in the 1970s, these disposal practices were halted. Furthermore, environmental legislation made those responsible for pollution strictly liable for the cleanup even if their disposal actions were legal at the time. In 1977 Westinghouse halted production of capacitors using PCBs due to the Toxic Substances Control Act that specified PCBs as a hazardous substance.

Since 1957…58 years and counting…

In this archive episode of Interchange Host Mylo Roze probes Bloomington’s PCB problem with key figures in the fight for public health. Mylo is joined in the studio by Environmental Attorney Mick Harrison and Citizen Activist Greg Moore. Addressed are the history, scope, sites and current status of PCB contamination in the Bloomington area due to dumping by the Westinghouse corporation. The state of then-current litigation against the EPA and the initiation of a new Action Group to get the remaining PCB contaminated materials and soil into sealed bunkers are explained. Possible liability of the City of Bloomington, cover-ups by local government officials and dump sites being ignored by the EPA are also mentioned. Toxic health effects, the ailments of former Westinghouse workers and our legacy of poisoning future generations are also dealt with in this ‘PCB episode’. The apathy and anxiety of the average Bloomingtonian regarding the issue are also spoken to by guests Moore & Harrison.

Related

Decades-Old Document Lists Properties Suspected of PCB Contamination
Health effects and clean-up options for PCBs- full 30 minute interview
Interchange – Mick Harrison
Frey v E.P.A

Credits
Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Board Engineer: Adam Reichle
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

Cast of Characters: Leslie Rowland

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Rowland holding her niece.
Photo courtesy of Leslie Rowland.

This is the story of Leslie Rowland, a local woman who lived with Lyme disease for 16 years before she was diagnosed, on another installment of WFHB’s Cast of Characters series with reporter Amanda Marino.

The Ins and Outs of Money – Dial This Extension for Money Smarts

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Along with every other Indiana county, we have a Purdue University Extension that offers free resources to the community. Among those resources, says Emily Roth, are information and education related to managing your money better.

Daily Local News – May 12, 2015

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Volunteers at Hoosier Hills Food Bank are in the process of sorting and sending 18 tons of food received over the weekend; Three-quarters of a million Hoosiers could be eligible for refunds from their cellular service providers, thanks to a lawsuit settlement announced today; A study done by an IU environmental scientist and colleagues finds the environment in the United States is exposed to far more animal hormones than once thought; Representative Todd Young is teaming with the City of Bloomington and WorkOne South Central to host a job fair in Bloomington this June; Indiana University has received two National Science Foundation research grants totaling $8.6 million, according to a press release from IU; The Monroe County Board of Zoning Appeals considered problems related to development in Karst areas at a meeting last week.

FEATURE
The story of a local woman who lived with Lyme disease for 16 years before she was diagnosed, another installment of WFHB’s Cast of Characters series.

INS AND OUTS OF MONEY
Dial This Extension for Money Smarts – Along with every other Indiana county, we have a Purdue University Extension that offers free resources to the community. Among those resources, says Emily Roth, are information and education related to managing your money better.

CREDITS
Anchors: Casey Kuhn, Chris Martin
Today’s headlines were written by Kara Tullman, Joe Crawford and Sierra Gardner
Along with David Murphy for CATSweek, a partnership with Community Access Television Services.
Our feature was produced by Amanda Marino
The Ins and Outs of Money is produced by Ryan Stacy and edited by Dan Withered, in partnership with the Monroe County Public Library and The United Way of Monroe County.
Our engineer is Harrison Wagner
Our theme music is provided by the Impossible Shapes.
Executive Producer is Joe Crawford.

Decades-Old Document Lists Bloomington Properties Suspected of PCB Contamination

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For decades, a group of chemical compounds called PCBs have caused massive problems in Bloomington. Although there has been relatively little public discussion about the contaminants in the past decade, a citizen group called Healthy Monroe County has recently reignited the issue. That has caused some in the community to call for more information about the current status of PCB contamination in the city. WFHB contributor Emily Beck brings us this report.

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Following requests from the public, several weeks ago the Bloomington Utilities Department released a list of properties in the city that may be contaminated with PCBs. The list includes residences that may have received polluted sludge given away as fertilizer decades ago by the Winston-Thomas Waste Water Treatment Plant.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are a synthetic chemical harmful to humans. The Westinghouse Electric Company opened a Bloomington plant in 1957 and used PCBs as insulating fluid in capacitors and transformers. The chemical was banned in the United States in 1979, but not before spreading across Bloomington and the world.

Recently, controversy has surrounded the city’s list of properties. Members of the citizen group Healthy Monroe County, headed by John Smith, have been vying for government documents concerning PCBs. One of those documents is this list.

“As far as I know, people could be living in houses without knowing they’re contaminated,” Smith said. “There was one Herald-Times article published some time ago that addressed this list. It had a phone number to (Utilities Department Deputy Director) John Langley and said anyone that thinks they may have been contaminated on their property can give them a call and see if their address is listed. But one news article is really lacking for such a concern. I think the list should really be published.”

That Herald Times article was published in 2008, and gave an overview of the results from testing. The city provided Smith with a copy of the residence list several weeks ago. Smith has since provided a copy to WFHB.

The utilities department was hesitant about releasing the list, according to Langley. Langley has worked for the city for decades and he tested some properties for PCBs back in 1989 and 1990.  He says the list isn’t conclusive and it may not be completely accurate. The origins of the list go back to the mid-1970s, when city officials first realized PCB-contaminated sludge had been distributed to residents. At that time, Langley says the city decided to hold a press conference.

“And they said if you bring us a sample, we’ll test it,” Langley said. “The process was not controlled from a scientific standpoint whatsoever. So you could bring it in in a coffee can or a paper bag or whatever you wanted to. They sampled it and reported it later on a spreadsheet.”

Questions of accuracy

The list includes 126 properties throughout the city, lots of them in residential neighborhoods. But Langley says simply because a property is on the list, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is — or ever was — PCB contamination there.

Langley says most of the potentially contaminated sites have never been tested, often because the city couldn’t get permission to enter the property. He gives lots of reasons for that. Maybe an incomplete address was on file, or the original property owner moved and didn’t give a forwarding address, or the property owner was dead or unknown.

According to a testing report, “Although CBU has files on about 126 properties alleged to have received sludge, some of the files are very incomplete and not enough information exists to even contact the property owner.”

The utilities department began what is called a Uniform Testing Program in 1989. That included sending letters to 102 of the owners whose properties were on the list. They couldn’t get contact information for all 126.

72 out of the 102 letters were received. The rest were returned unopened, according to Langley. Just more than half of the property owners on this list were ever successfully contacted about the alleged contamination of their land.

The letters contained a questionnaire asking how much sludge property owners used on their yards. It also asked them to give the city permission to test their soil for the chemical, according to Langley.

39 property owners said no to testing. The letter made it clear that the results would be public record. Owners may have feared repercussions, including reduced property values or liability issues — and the city was concerned too.

“So it became obvious to us rather early, that information as to whether or not you’ve got PCBs, you can be on this list and we’ve got no proof of anything,” Langley said. “So do we really want to make public a list of maybe maybe nots? And if we do that, do we damage people who are either trying to sell real estate or buy real estate?”

In total, 29 of the 126 sites were tested for PCBs. The city tested 26 as part of the Uniform Testing Program. John Langley tested two before the program began, and one property owner opted to have tests done independently.

In most cases, the tests didn’t find PCB levels that government officials considered dangerous.

At seven of the sites, no PCBs were detected. According to that Herald Times article, “…four sites had detectable concentrations between .1 and 1 parts per million; twelve sites ranged from 1.0-3.7 ppm and three sites ranged between 3.7 and 22 ppm.”

If PCB levels were above 10 parts per million, which is a level determined by an EPA policy, a second test was done.

“The preponderance of the data said, “less than a part per million,” Langley said. “Great news.”

More contaminated sites possible

But the majority of the residences on the list — 97 total — went untested. Their levels can’t be known for certain.

Other sites could exist as well.

Some citizens took old capacitors home to harvest for their valuable parts. Local attorney Mick Harrison, who has been working on the PCB issue for decades, says that could have caused even more contamination.

“There were several of what we call salvage sites where folks had taken some of the PCB capacitors and transformers off the dump sites,” Harrison said. “They actually transported this material to their homes and salvaged the copper and aluminum for resale in their backyards, dumping the PCBs in the process. We now have a number of properties contaminated that way that are not being cleaned up.”

Despite concerns from some Bloomington residents, Langley says city officials have reservations about how this list of 126 properties is used.  He says the data on file could have come from a bad sample. Homeowners who had nothing to do with the sludge, but who own property on this list, could be damaged.

Smith and members of Healthy Monroe County, however, want property owners to know if PCBs are present in their soil — that way they can deal with contaminated land and avoid becoming sick from exposure.

In a recent interview with WFHB, Harrison asked the city to consider entering a mediation process with residents affected by contamination.

“I would encourage listeners to contact their elected officials locally and see if the city would accept our, at the moment, informal invitation…to sit down with us in a formal mediation…and to talk through the problem and to see if we can come up with a path forward that we can all agree on,” he said.

So far the city has not made any public statements in response to the request of a mediation process. Langley said citizens concerned about the possibility of PCBs on their property should contact the city utilities department for testing.

 

Editor’s Note: For some of the reasons explained in this article, WFHB has chosen not to publish the list of potentially-contaminated properties online at this time. Copies are available from the City of Bloomington. WFHB will continue researching the status of PCBs in Bloomington in the coming months. 

Bring It On! – May 11th, 2015

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Beverly Calender-Anderson and Leila Randle welcome Donald Griffin Jr.

PART ONE
On tonight’s show, Beverly and Leila welcome Donald Griffin Jr., real estate broker and owner of Griffin Reality. He joins us to talk about his realty business and also educate listeners on effective strategies for home buying and selling.

PART TWO
Headline news and local calendar events of interest to the African-American community.

CREDITS
Hosts: Beverly Calender-Anderson and Leila Randle
Bring It On! is produced by Clarence Boone
Executive Producer is Joe Crawford
Our News Editor is Michael Nowlin
Our Board Engineer is Chris Martin

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