For fans of big ideas and community conversations, the good news is that TEDxPiscataquaRiver is set to come back to Portsmouth for its fourth annual event on May 6 at 3S Artspace. The bad news, though, is that tickets for the day-long event, which features 11 regional and national speakers, a selection of local performers, and curated TED Talk videos, sold out within a day.
“We are excited to see that interest … remains so high, due in no small part to our phenomenal speaker line-up,” says Crystal Paradis, the event’s organizer. For those who didn’t score tickets, Paradis says the event will be streamed live online, and the Portsmouth Public Library will host a live watch party that same day.
This year’s theme is “On the Edge,” and speakers include writers Jeff Sharlet, Steve Almond, and Ethan Gilsdorf; Muskan Kumari, an exchange student from Pakistan currently living in New Hampshire as part of the Youth Exchange and Study Abroad program; Jennifer Dunn of Measured Progress, an educational assessment company based in Dover; and New Hampshire Superior Court chief justice Tina Nadeau, among others.
“We’re working on some exciting new community partnerships and will be telling the stories of people ‘on the edge’ of our community in various ways,” Paradis says. “We hope attendees will leave inspired, motivated, and ready to take action in their lives and community.”
— Larry Clow
Testing for Pease launches website
It’s been a little more than a year since city resident Andrea Amico began what has since become something of a second full-time job: advocating for awareness about water contamination issues in the three wells at the Pease International Tradeport. Amico, along with Alayna Davis and Michelle Dalton, began their efforts with a Facebook page called “Testing for Pease.” On March 22, the three launched a new website, testingforpease.com, which Amico says will act as a one-stop source for information about water contamination at the former Air Force base.
Levels of perfluorochemical compounds (PFCs) higher than federal Environmental Protection Agency limits were detected in one of the tradeport’s three wells in May 2014. That well was taken offline; since then, PFCs were discovered in the tradeport’s other two wells at levels lower than federal limits. The PFCs, identified by the EPA as an “emerging contaminant,” are believed to have come from firefighting foam used when Pease was an Air Force base.
Since then, city, state, and federal agencies have responded to the problem. Amico, her two children, and her husband, were all exposed to the contaminated water. In the last year, Amico has served on the city’s community advisory board charged with coordinating with the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The Facebook page, which she started in January 2015, was vital in raising awareness, Amico says, but “didn’t … bring people up to speed on what’s transpired.”
“It’s a very complex issue. There’s the Air Force, the cleanup of the wells … the blood testing (done by DHHS) … so when people would email me, or call me and ask me what was going on, I’d have to say, ‘Check the Air Force website, check the state website.’ It’s a lot for people to take on. We needed one place with all of the information relevant to the community,” Amico says.
The site includes details about PFCs and how firefighting foam was used at Pease, a timeline of events, a list of resources, and a calendar of upcoming meetings.
“Something I’ve learned in my experience with this process is … parts of our government are broken. … Everyone just works in their own department and no one looks at the whole picture,” she says.
DHHS has conducted two rounds of blood tests for people who have been exposed to the contaminated water. According to Amico, community members are still receiving results, and once all results have been returned, the state plans to host a community meeting, possibly some time this spring.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is currently working on remediation efforts for the wells. A public meeting on cleanup and water treatment efforts will be held on April 19.
Amico was recently named a member of a community assistance panel organized by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, a subgroup of the Center for Disease Control. The panel is set to hold a public meeting sometime in April, according to Amico.
“The focus … will be to address the health concerns and health effects” of the contamination, Amico says.
Police chief suspended for deer baiting
Police chief Dana Lajoie was suspended for seven days without pay beginning on March 18 after he was found guilty of illegally baiting deer.
According to a Portland Press Herald report, a jury in Penobscot County found Lajoie guilty of baiting deer and hunting using a stand that overlooked the bait. Lajoie was fined $900.
Lajoie has been the town’s police chief for 30 years and has worked in the town for more than 36 years. In a statement, town manager Perry Ellsworth said, “It is unfortunate when there is a breach of trust with a police chief. Dana acknowledges the need to rebuild that trust within the municipal offices, with his associates, and within the community, and will work with the town manager to accomplish this.”