Health & Environment articles

Below each article you will find links to other Web sites for more information on the various subjects. 

High cancer rate among Goochland's black men

Shortages delay H1N1 vaccination 


Salons team up to battle breast cancer 


Is there a nurse in the house? 


Louisa dentist gets taste of his own medicine


Where there's smoke

Bulldog appointed to state trustee board


Ticked off at Lyme disease:

Weston slated to be part of experimental study

Devil's Den group joins battle over waterways bill


Biosolids use stirs Goochland

Residents comment on new supplier request


Biosolids battle brewing


Growing and knowing


Hidden Rock methane levels down






Biosolids use stirs Goochland

Residents comment on new supplier request


Residents, county officials, and state agencies were all present for the public hearing on the biosolids application permit in Goochland on August 3.

The Virginia-based company NutriBlend has requested a land application permit which would allow the company to spread biosolids onto 1,555 acres in Goochland. There are nine Goochland residents hoping to receive the inexpensive fertilizer, including Goochland resident Paul Lanier who has almost 1,100 acres registered to receive biosolids. 

I've been using biosolids for over 30 years, Lanier said during the public comment period. I've got five grandchildren, and we've had no health problems."

Lanier and other farmers spread biosolids on fields to grow agricultural crops and then feed those crops to livestock like cows and goats. People then drink the milk from those cows or eat the meat, which has Goochland resident Linda Sasser concerned. 

"Plants take up nutrients, and animals eat the plants, and we eat the animals,"¯ Sasser said. "We truly are what we eat."

According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), biosolids are the treated at municipal sewage treatment facilities, which then pay companies like NutriBlend to remove the waste to be used on farms. DEQ states that biosolids are the materials removed from the municipal sewage that are suitable for use as fertilizer. 

According to county records, there are approximately 5,000 acres in Goochland where biosolids are applied by another company, Synagro. 

Seven residents spoke in opposition to the biosolids permit application, citing health concerns, lack of ordinance enforcement and lack of regular testing.

"The buffers are inadequate," said Wendie Roumillat, a Goochland resident, referring to the 10-foot road side buffer for applying biosolids and the 400-foot occupied home buffer.

The original buffer was set at 200 feet, said Neil Zahradka, manager of DEQ's office of land application programs. "That is based on the best scientific evidence to date."

DEQ officials told residents that the application process uses the best science available to determine testing and application procedures, as well as the buffers. 

"That's what the government said about DDT 30 years ago," said Linda Hosay, a Goochland farmer who opposed the permit. "They said it was okay for children, that it didn't harm anyone. They were wrong about that. They could be wrong about this."¯ 

Zahradka said that government policies are never made based on what-ifs. 

"There has to be substantial scientific evidence to prove otherwise," he said. 

Goochland resident Kathy Crockett has a constricted airway which makes her susceptible to choking on air particles potentially discharged by the biosolids. 

Crockett expressed concerns about children who ride on school buses, especially asthmatics.

"They're not allowed to carry inhalers or EpiPens," Crockett said. 

According to Dr. Linda Underwood, superintendent of schools, 194 Goochland students have asthma, and each year the number increases.

"We don't know what triggers attacks, it's such an unpredictable disease,"¯ Underwood said, adding that school officials are trained to handle attacks because the students are not allowed to carry prescription drugs.

The science on the issue is in hot debate, with some studies claiming that biosolids cause an array of health problems, and others suggest that biosolids are an environmentally friendly fertilizer. 

"We are still researching the best possible options for testing procedures," Zahradka said, addressing many citizen's concerns about the frequency of tests.

"We test according to how much a facility processes and how often they distribute the biosolids," Zahradka said. 

County records show that biosolids used in Goochland originates from facilities in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. 

The current residents included in the NutriBlend application are Paul Lanier, Wendell Flynn, Herbert Pickle, Richard Pruitt, Mary Ellen Pryor, Alfred Pryor, Jr., Ernest Pryor, Andrew Pryor, and A.B. Commercial. 


- Published in the August 6, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian


For more information, visit:



State Water Control Board

Virginia Biosolids Council

Virginia Department of Health

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Environmental Protection Agency


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Biosolids battle brewing

No. 2 applier okayed in Goochland, while opponents of the practice get legal muscle 


In the wake of much controversy, Nutri-Blend's permit application to apply biosolids on 1,555 acres in Goochland was approved by the State Water Control Board on Oct. 26. 

According to Mary Powell, spokesperson for Nutri-Blend, the company will begin applying biosolids in the coming week.

In August, Nutri-Blend held a public hearing in Goochland, and seven residents spoke out in opposition to the application, claiming that the treated sewage sludge known as biosolids posed a health risk to the community.

"My father almost died from it," claimed Wendie Roumillat of Jackson Shop Rd. at the public hearing. "It's awful. We didn't know what it was, all we knew was there was this terrible smell coming from a field near my Dad's house."

While there have been anecdotal claims of health problems from biosolids, none have ever been verified by medical or scientific investigation, said Robert Crockett, representative of the Virginia Biosolids Council. 

 "Biosolids is a time-tested material," Powell said in an interview, adding that Nutri-Blend welcomes emerging scientific evidence that would prove otherwise. 

In its efforts to support research, Powell said that Nutri-Blend is a member of biosolids associations, which donate funds to colleges and universities that research and evaluate the safety of biosolids use.

Local farmers like Paul Lanier stand firm in their approval of the fertilizer.

"I've been using biosolids for over 30 years," Lanier said. "I've got five grandchildren,  and we've had no health problems."

Lanier added that his cows have always been healthy, and the biosolids significantly improved the health of his soil.

Andrew Pryor, District 1 supervisor, also uses biosolids on his dairy farm. 

"I've used it for a long time," Pryor said, adding that "it's economical."

In June, tensions between citizens and the county heightened as allegations arose regarding Goochland's biosolids ordinance.

Roumillat and Kathy Crockett of Community House Rd. sought an injunction to halt the spreading of sludge in the county, claiming that it was applied on a flood plain and there was a lack of advance notice.

Goochland biosolids monitor Hugh Hardwicke said there was no evidence of a violation, and that the James River was not in danger of being contaminated by run-off.

Despite some citizens' concerns, biosolids remain an attractive option to farmers, especially given the steady decline in commodities prices during the past year. 

Many studies have been done which uphold the safety of using sludge as fertilizer. The Virginia Department of Health claimed "there does not seem to be strong evidence of serious health risks when biosolids are managed and monitored appropriately."¯

However, the same study also concluded that "no concerted effort has been made to collect and analyze data on reported health effects resulting from biosolids applied to land," and that "it is impossible to determine the full extent of chemical content or biological makeup of a particular biosolids mixture..."¯

Currently, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) tests for 10 heavy metals and nine inorganic chemicals. Before it becomes biosolids, the sludge is treated through either aerobic or anaerobic digestion and/or lime stabilization before being certified for land application. 

The Environmental Protection Agency's 1993 risk assessment analysis determined which biosolids constituents posed the greatest hazard, and tests only for those constituents. 

However, a recent EPA study tested for 145 contaminants in 74 randomly chosen wastewater treatment facilities in 35 states. 

The results revealed an amalgamation of flame retardants, pesticides, plasticizers, pharmaceuticals, semivolatile organics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. 

Goochland records indicated that Nutri-Blend's biosolids come from 38 wastewater treatment facilities in five states. Powell said that Goochland's biosolids will likely come from Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico and/or Washington, D.C.

Powell added that Nutri-Blend gets paid to remove the biosolids from the wastewater treatment facilities, which are funded by taxpayers, then provides it to the farmers free of charge.  

Sewage sludge has to go somewhere, and the federal government advocates burning sludge to create energy, although that practice has also generated controversy. 

Health concerns regarding biosolids use have prompted several Goochland citizens to contact the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has helped ban biosolids in more than 70 communities in Pennsylvania.

"Ultimately, it's not about sludge,"¯ said Shireen Parsons, CELDF organizer. "It's about democracy. It's about who gets to choose what the county wants. Is it the citizens or corporations?"

CELDF supporters hope to establish an ordinance that would, in effect, ban corporations from applying biosolids in Goochland. 

Goochland records indicate that the company Synagro has also applied biosolids to approximately 5,000 acres in Goochland. 


- Published in the November 5, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian.


For more information, visit:


State Water Control Board

Virginia Biosolids Council

Virginia Department of Health

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Environmental Protection Agency

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

Biosolids articles


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Growing and Knowing


Shalom Farm is going back to the past to preserve the future. 

The two-acre farm, located on the 780-acre United Methodist camp at Westview on the James, was created to nourish a more sustainable community through food education and cultivation.

Rev. David Cooper is the executive director of the United Methodist Urban Ministries based in Richmond. Cooper's idea for Shalom Farm was prompted by the Westview board of directors' desire to reach out to inner-city youth.

 When the economy began its downward spiral, it provided the right opportunity to begin the operation.

"We expect to grow close to 8,000 pounds of food per acre,"¯ Cooper said. 

Part of Shalom Farm's mission involves the development and implementation of educational programs for urban youth. 

"It's a hands-on learning laboratory,"¯ said Jonah Fogel of the Virginia Cooperative Extension, who cofounded Shalom Farm with Cooper.

One of Shalom's learning programs allows third-graders from Chimborazo, Oak Grove, and Bellemeade elementary schools to visit the farm throughout the school year and participate in a curriculum designed to enhance their Standards of Learning science scores through lessons on food production and nutrition.

To pursue these goals, Shalom Farm has collaborated with several organizations, including the Blue Sky Fund in Richmond. 

"The Blue Sky Fund exists to get inner-city kids outdoors," said BSF executive director Lawson Wijesooriya. 

Wijesooriya will be taking inner-city third graders to the farm in the fall, as part of their agricultural curriculum. 

Ultimately, Fogel said the farm hopes to train volunteers as citizen educators to help improve food security in urban environments. It is an opportunity for volunteers from around the region to learn farming methods that can be easily transferred to a small urban setting.

"We want them to learn how to cook food in a nutritional way,"¯ Fogel said, "to learn food preservation like jarring and canning.  These are [skills] anyone can use."

For volunteers like Corey McWilliams from Colonial Heights, his experience at the farm gave him something to take home. 

"My grandmother had a farm when I was a kid,"¯ McWilliams said. "I've always thought about [having a garden]. This has been an inspiration." 

Rob Moore, the farm manager at Shalom Farms, said the community has been instrumental in the success of Shalom.

"The only things we've really purchased are the [pipes for the] irrigation system and a few hand tools," Moore said. 

Many of the farm's operations are based on trial and error, Moore said, although they have extensive consultative information from engineers, farmers, and the Virginia Cooperative Extension.  

 In addition to educating youth, the farm has high hopes for improving the relationship people have with food and where it comes from.

"You teach a man to fish, and he'll feed himself for life,"¯ said Rick Holzbach, a food-resource manager with the Central Virginia Food Bank based in Richmond. 

The CVFB collects and distributes the produce grown at Shalom Farm to the Bellemeade and Church Hill neighborhoods in Richmond. Holzbach said they have a network of partnerships that work together to bring food to families. 

"The people have limited access to fresh, local produce,"¯ Cooper said. "We want to teach them the value of using local produce. Ultimately, it's about building trust relationships, which is how we build better communities."¯ 

Cooper also hopes to see residents consume less processed foods and more locally grown fresh produce. 

Shalom Farm is an extension of Communities of Shalom, a United Methodists community-building concept that focuses on strengthening relationships among neighbors and improving economic conditions through fellowship. 

To date, the farm has provided approximately 600 pounds of produce to Richmonders. 

"It's not about pounds of food," Holzbach said. "It's about raising awareness in the community. All green beans don't come from a can."

Currently, Shalom Farm grows soybeans, snap peas, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, bell peppers, okra, broccoli, cucumbers and watermelon. The farm has a staggered harvest to ensure the maximum freshness of its produce, and they also anticipate having a fall crop including collards and pumpkins. 

The program has an annual operating budget of $240,000 the first year, and relies on donations for its operations. Moore said they are accepting a variety of farming hand tools and equipment.  


- Published in the July 30, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian.


For more information, visit:

Communities of Shalom

United Methodist Urban Ministries

Virginia Cooperative Extension 

Central Virginia Food Bank

Blue Sky Fund


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Hidden Rock methane levels down

Citizen applauds county efforts


The landfill-groundwater situation at Hidden Rock Park has been mitigated. At least for the time being. 

Anthony W. Creech, a geologist with Resource International, gave a presentation that broke down the technical jargon into something palatable for the lay person. His company has been working with the county for several years and was the first to respond to Don Charles, director of community development, after Charles found a letter from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). 

The letter requested additional information regarding Goochland's measures to clean up its water at Hidden Rock Park, which in 2003 was reported to have excessive levels of the volatile organic compound vinyl chloride. The letter was dated for March 14, 2008 and went missing for more than a year. 

Ben Slone, an engineer and Goochland resident whose property is close to the landfill, seemed confident with how the mess is being cleaned up.

"I appreciate what Don Charles has done,"¯ Slone said, adding that Charles's takeover of the community development department has required a lot of paper shuffling and organizing. 

When Charles uncovered the year-old letter, he was quick to take action.

"He called me that day, or the next day at the latest," Creech said, regarding Charles's handling of the situation. 

Resource International immediately began to take the proper steps as outlined in the letter, which included the public hearing. 

According to county records, the landfill was built in 1979 before regulations went into effect regarding environmental safety. There is no liner underneath the trash, so chemicals from the decomposition process absorb directly into the aquifer, which is a semi-permeable decomposed rock known as saprolite.

In 2003, DEQ found that a chemical  compound called vinyl chloride exceeded the acceptable limit for groundwater concentration. This volatile organic compound (VOC) is a highly toxic carcinogen that is known to cause  damage to the liver and nervous system. 

According to Creech, vinyl chloride is the last of the degradation products of more complex organic compounds that break down via the anaerobic processes inside landfills. Commercially, vinyl chloride is used to make PVC plastics and vinyl products.  

After discovering the contamination, Goochland quickly took measures to mitigate the situation which included adding a semi-impermeable clay cap and collection and treatment of landfill gas. The EPA's presumptive remedies for solid waste landfills includes other remedies, but the county was only able to implement two, which, according to Creech, is working.

But not all residents are happy, including Slone. 

"What are the mercury levels?"¯ Slone asked Creech at the meeting. Creech was unable to answer the question, but has since reported that the mercury levels are not a problem.

Other organic compounds that showed up in the water include benzene, chlorobenzene, cis-1,2-dichlorobenzene, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, tetrachloroethylene, and trichlorothene. None of these compounds were found to exceed the groundwater protection standards (GPS), but according to DEQ, their presence is cause for concern since the levels can fluctuate over time. 

Currently, the DEQ practices assessment monitoring for 213 compounds. Assessment monitoring evaluates levels of each compound for a period of time, making sure that levels do not rise above the GPS. According to Creech, the DEQ updates it measuring standards twice a year. Creech also said that under Goochland's present permit, the county is obligated to monitor the groundwater at the landfill until 2025. 

Dean Starook, groundwater expert with the DEQ, said that the procedures currently taken are adequate enough to measure water safety.

"If there's an issue with the water, we should be able to [detect it],"¯ Starook said. 

Starook added that he felt confident that the DEQ tests for the correct compounds and that determining which compounds to add to the list of monitored constituents can be hard to determine. 

According to Creech, the EPA and the DEQ have not updated the list of monitored compounds since the EPA initiated groundwater monitoring programs 18 years ago.

The EPA sets the limits for acceptable concentrations of the monitored compounds. These limits are known as the maximum contaminant level (MCL). Based on the EPA regulations, the DEQ enforces an MCL of two parts per billion (ppb) of vinyl chloride concentration in the groundwater, but the EPA says that ideally the number should be zero.  


- Published in the June 18, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian.


For more information, visit:

Goochland County community development

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Environmental Protection Agency

Resource International


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Where there's smoke

Bulldog appointed to state trustee board


For years, many young people have turned to cigarettes, trying to be cool.

Corey Howell is not one of those young people. In fact, he's spent three years advocating healthy lifestyles and educating his peers on the dangers of smoking. 

As part of his ongoing efforts to dismantle the myths about tobacco, the Goochland High School sophomore was recently appointed by Gov. Tim Kaine to serve four years on the board of trustees for the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth. Howell will serve alongside state delegates, physicians and health professionals from across the state. 

The 16-year-old is one of two high school students appointed to the board. As a board member, he will have equal voting power with his elders.

"I was speechless when I heard I was chosen,"¯ Howell said during a phone interview. "I was really happy. As soon as I got off the phone, I called all my friends and family."

VFHY is part of the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation which was established by the General Assembly in 1999 in an effort to reduce and prevent youth tobacco use. 

According to a VFHY brochure, its $12 million annual budget is funded by the nation's major tobacco manufacturers through the Master Settlement Agreement. 

Howell will participate on VFHY's marketing committee, according to Danny Sagesse, director of marketing for the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation. 

"He's going to be involved in the development and approval of the full scope of the marketing campaign,"¯ Sagesse said. 

Sagesse met Howell at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Phoenix, Arizona this past June. Sagesse was responsible for manning his organizationā€™s booth, and Howell was to assist him.

"Corey owned that booth," Saggese said. "He owned that session. He just took charge and empowered himself. Since he has worked directly on the campaign, he was a better presenter than I ever could have been. I stepped away and observed. It was fascinating."

Howell also works with Y Street, a statewide anti-smoking campaign designed to redefine what teenagers consider to be cool.  

"Corey stands out above the vast majority of kids in Y Street,"¯ said Kyle O'Grady, project coordinator for Rescue Social Change Group, the non-profit organization that manages Y Street. "He has the confidence and competence to approach strangers and have intelligent conversations. That's rare for a teenager."¯ 

Working with Y Street, Howell implemented a fashion show at Goochland High School to raise awareness for the GlamRock campaign, a program that sent hundreds of letters to Glamour and Rolling Stone magazines, criticizing the number of tobacco ads the magazines publish. 

Howell's project is now used as a model for other Y Street campaigns, O'Grady said. 

According to its Web site, VTSF utilizes Y Street to reach more than 60,000 children across the commonwealth every year with  community-based instructional programs.

Through Y Street, O'Grady said that Howell has engaged in street projects such as surveys and video testimonials, and online message boards and forums. 

Howell is one of 15 Y Street membership leaders, which includes youth from across the state. 

But Howell's efforts continue to expand beyond his work with Y Street and VFHY. 

In an effort to promote healthy lifestyles amongst teenagers, Howell started the Greater Richmond Anti-Smoking Project (GRASP) with two of his friends.

Howell is also a member of the National Society of High School Scholars, which is a student organization that connects young people with each other and to additional resources to help them succeed. Membership requires students have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.5. 

In addition to attending school full-time and all his extra-curricular activities, Howell manages to spend time volunteering as a conflict resolution trainer with Richmond Peace Center. 

He is also a volunteer at St. Mary's Hospital, one the many feats that make his grandmother, Elizabeth Howell, proud.

"We're so excited,"¯ she said. "Corey is going after whatever he wants. He is special."¯

Elizabeth raised Corey since he was three months old, and Corey noted that she has been a positive influence throughout his life, giving him the drive to succeed. 

Corey said that he hopes to attend George Washington University and major in psychology.

"I'm set in stone that I want to go to medical school" he said. "I've been looking at med schools since eighth grade."

After college, he said that he would like to become an anesthesiologist. Until that day, he has his hands full promoting healthy lifestyles and leading his peers by steadfast example. 


- Published in the December 31, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian


For more information, visit:

Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth

Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation

National Conference on Tobacco or Health

Y Street

Rescue Social Change Group

National Society of High School Scholars


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High cancer rate among Goochland's black men



Franklin Brice spent his adult life working amongst cancer patients at the Medical College of Virginia. Soon after retirement, he began his own battle with the debilitating disease. 

"He never had any health problems,"¯ said Irene Brice, Franklin's wife. "He'd never even been to the hospital. I was floored."

Brice was a healthy 71-year-old living in Goochland when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. He had spent 25 years working as a housekeeping director for MCV, witnessing people battle the very illness that he would eventually face. 

Since his surgery at Henrico Doctor's Hospital, his cancer has not returned, although he has since survived several strokes, which have left him without the ability to speak. 

"At least he knows everybody,"¯ Irene said. "He can say some things."¯ 

Brice joins the scores of African-American males living in Goochland who have been diagnosed with cancer. Black males in Goochland are more likely to get cancer than black males living anywhere else in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Health's cancer registry. 

According to VDH's most recent data, African-American males in Goochland are twice as likely as their Caucasian counterparts to become diagnosed with cancer. 

However, cancer rates in Virginia and in Goochland have decreased dramatically during recent years. Between years 2000 and 2004, 792 cases of cancer were reported in Goochland. That number fell 75 percent to 197 reported cases from 2002 to 2006, although the decrease in cancer cases amongst black men fell by 68 percent. 

But the number of reported cases do not necessarily provide an accurate picture  of the actual number of cases in an area, according to Dr. Jim Martin, director of the Virginia Cancer Registry. 

Registry data is considered conservative because not all facilities report cases and not all patients receive care. 

The rate of cancer amongst minorities also tends to be higher than reported, according to Rebecca Siegal, an epidemiologist with the American Cancer Society. 

Additionally, self-reported racial identity plays a factor, Siegal said, noting that minorities are more likely to indicate a race of "other"¯ rather than report more specific information.

Given those factors, this could mean that the actual number of African-American males with cancer may be higher in Goochland than the cancer registry indicates.

However, Siegal noted that "if the rates for all the cancer sites in black men are significantly higher in [Goochland], it is likely that there is an issue with.... the population estimate..."

But minority population estimates are often inaccurate, Siegal said, and are typically an under-representation of the actual population. 

Despite the evidence, the situation is not defined as a cluster by the Centers for Disease Control and VDH. 

"We can't detect a [cancer cluster] unless somebody has a suspicion,"¯ Martin said, adding that clusters usually involve either high instances of rare cancers, high rates of cancer among young people, or a rare cancer occurring amongst people living in close proximity. 

According to VDH and CDC, no Goochland residents have reported a potential cluster. Irene Brice, however, said that she knew many people in her area with cancer, but none would be interviewed for privacy concerns. 

In general, black males are the ethnic group most likely to be diagnosed with cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Martin said that much research is being done to understand the role that ethnicity plays regarding an individual's risk of developing cancer.

Other risk factors for developing cancer are behavioral, such as smoking and eating habits, Siegal added. 

But lifestyle choices aren't the only things that can cause cancer. A number of fertilizers and chemicals are being investigated to determine if they have carcinogenic effects on humans. 

It just happened to Eugene Brice, without warning. But he and his wife are no strangers to the cancer fight. Irene defeated cervical cancer more than 30 years ago.

- Published in the January 21, 2010 edition of The Central Virginian.

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For more information, visit:

Virginia Cancer Registry

Centers for Disease Control

American Cancer Society

Relay for Life Goochland





Shortages delay H1N1 vaccination 

Goochland, Orange students left in limbo


People looking for an H1N1 vaccine have to wait a little longer to get their fix. 

On October 15, Virginia Department of Health officials began administering the vaccine. Five days later, it was discovered that supply was not meeting demand. 

"There is a delay in production," said Dr. Brooke Rossheim, Chickahominy Health District director. "What the [Centers for Disease Control] has told us is that we will get our doses of the vaccine, but that it's going to take some time." 

Rossheim added that the CDC had not established a set date for vaccine distribution. 

"We have been pretty much assured that we will get our vaccine,"¯ he said. 

Amanda Aldridge, spokesperson for the CDC, said that the delays are the result of a combination of factors.

"Growing the virus went a lot slower than expected," Aldrige said, adding that problems with manufacturing exacerbated the delay.

"They were having problems with their fill lines,"¯ she said. "They had to shut down and fix the machines, then restart the process."  

The delay will initially affect public school systems, which were slated to receive the vaccine after public health and emergency rescue personnel. 

Goochland County Public Schools offered vaccinations at Byrd Elementary, but the remaining four schools have not yet received any doses.

 "All schools have had high absentees,"¯ said Brad Franklin, school spokesman. "It tends to ebb and flow. We seem to have weathered the storm." 

Goochland Middle School experienced a steady increase of absences, which peaked in early October, resulting in 10 percent of the student body being absent. The attendance numbers have since increased as fewer flu cases are being reported. 

To receive a voluntary flu vaccination, students must provide parental consent.

Dr. Robert Grimesey, Orange County Public Schools superintendent, said that 43 percent of public school students are scheduled to be vaccinated. 

"We had a major increase at Locust Grove [Elementary School] last week,"¯ Grimesey said, adding that OCPS has seen a pattern of rapid increases in each of its four elementary schools followed by a quick decline in cases.

According to data released by OCPS, reports of influenza in the division increased 54 percent from the week of October 12 to the week of the 19th. 

Rossheim stated in a report that all influenza-like illnesses are being treated as H1N1 because 99 percent of tested cases were confirmed as the novel flu. 

However, not all schools are waiting for the vaccine. 

Dr. Patty Culotta, Fluvanna County Public Schools assistant superintendent, said that FCPS has distributed vaccinations to four out of five schools, and that the high school is scheduled for November 4. 

"We may have seen some decreases in the amount of students [absent]," Culotta said, noting that the high school was scheduled to receive the vaccinations on October 23 but the delay pushed the date back nearly two weeks.  

The vaccine itself is cause for concern for some individuals. Dr. David Schwartz of Louisa stated in a letter to The Central Virginian that the H1N1 vaccine "was given fast-track approval, opening the door to shortcuts in safety testing." 

According to the CDC's Web site, some H1N1 vaccines will contain thimerosal, which is 49 percent ethylmercury. 

In 2003, Dr. David Geier and Dr. Mark Geier linked thimerosal to the development of autism. However, the CDC refutes the Geier and Geier study, claiming that the results were not recorded properly.

In June of 2000, a joint statement on thimerosal in vaccines was prepared by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Public Health Service recommending the CDC develop vaccines that are free of thimerosal due to increasing health concerns.

Additionally, VDH reported that the vaccine should not be taken by people with egg allergies, because the vaccine is harvested from chicken eggs injected with the virus. 

Rossheim said that there are several mechanisms in place for people who experience an adverse reaction to the vaccine, including the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and the Vaccine Safety Data Link.

"There's a lot of people in a lot of places looking at the safety and possible side effects of the vaccine,"¯ Rossheim said.

To date, H1N1 has killed 10 people in Virginia, including the recent death of a first grader in Amelia. The tragedy helped fuel the decision of Amelia County Public Schools to close from October 26 through 30.


- Published in the October 29, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian.


For more information, visit:

Centers for Disease Control

Virginia Department of Health

Goochland County Public Schools

Fluvanna County Public Schools

Orange County Public Schools

Amelia County Public Schools


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Salons team up to battle cancer


Cancer. Few words carry as much fear as those six letters, and almost everyone has a connection to a cancer victim or survivor.  

When Anna May Butler of Henrico was diagnosed in 2006, it was breast cancer. 

"I'm not one of those people who worry," Butler said. "You do what you gotta do."¯

Butler went through a year of chemotherapy, and is presently undergoing zoledronic acid injections into her spine to slow the cancer which has spread into her bones. 

During her chemotherapy, she was told she'd be out for six to eight weeks, but she was back at work after less than a month. 

"It was rough at times, but I still went [to work],"¯ she said. 

Butler owns Anna May's Hair Stylist off Hockett Road in Centerville. She has been styling hair for more than 40 years, and she was not ready to let cancer keep her hands from working their creative magic. 

"The hairdressers in Goochland meet once a month,"¯ Butler said. "That's when Debbie [Wilds] told me her idea."¯

Wilds owns Shear Wildness in the Courthouse area, and told Butler about a fundraising idea which would coincide with breast cancer awareness month. 

"Anna has fought heroically," Wilds said. "I wanted to honor her. I wanted to do my part, what little part I can do."

Wilds suggested that the two businesses donate $1 per haircut during the month of October for Relay For Life, the non-profit that raises funds for the American Cancer Society. 

Wilds also gave free haircuts during the Goochland Expo on October 13, with donations given to Relay for Life. 

"We don't really have a goal," Wilds said, "But I hope to collect at least $500."¯ 

Butler and Wilds have collected more than $200 during the first week-and-a-half. 

Valerie Pace, Goochland's Relay for Life chairperson, said that ACS uses the donated money for cancer research, information services, community programs and advocacy. More than 40 percent of the money raised goes to local programs.

"Relay For Life is about celebrating our cancer survivors,"  Pace said, "and it's also about creating awareness."¯ 

Wilds said that she hopes more businesses will participate to help raise breast cancer awareness.

"We don't just want to work here," Wilds said, "we want to give back to the community."

Butler's family is no stranger to struggle. Butler was born deaf and received a cochlear implant in 2001 which has given her partial hearing. Her 85-year-old mother, Maria Alvis, was also diagnosed with cancer and continues to work in Butler's shop.

Butler's husband of 31 years, John, testified to his wife's strength.

"Nothing gets her down," he said. "She's a remarkable person." 


- Published in the October 15, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian.


For more information, visit:

Goochland Relay for Life

American Cancer Society

Shear Wildness


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Is there a nurse in the house?  

Goochland schools may need more nursing staff


Students at Goochland's elementary schools are hurting – not with academics, but with their health. 

Heather Earley, the chair of Goochland's School Health Advisory Board, reported to the school board that 360 children in Goochland's elementary schools have chronic illnesses. That amounts to 30 percent of the elementary school population, compared to the national average of 26 percent.

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that schools with a high percentage of students with chronic illnesses employ one nurse per 225 students. 

In Goochland, three full-time nurses and one part-time nurse care for more than 2,400 students and 300 faculty and staff during the school year. 

With four nurses working in the schools, one nurse cares for 600 students. But when the part-time nurse is off-duty, that leaves 800 students per nurse. In that case, Goochland may be understaffed by as many as seven full-time nurses. 

"Our nurses do a fantastic job," Earley said. "But they have their hands full. Because we have 30 percent of our students with chronic illnesses, we really need another nurse. But I recognize the [financial] situation the [school division] is in."

This is cause for concern for many in Goochland, including Ivan Maddox, District 3 school board member, who has children at the middle and high schools.

"I know we need to address it,"¯ Maddox said. "We have a lot of students with a lot of visitation and we got one person handling it, and I agree [that something needs to be done]." 

Andrew Meng, District 4 school board member, said it all comes down to money.

"We get cut every year, more and more, on our budget,"¯ Meng said. "We need a more coordinated effort from the community to make the supervisors realize how important this money is to us."¯ 

William Quarles, District 2 supervisor, said the supervisors are willing to hear the school board on the issue.

"Of course we want to help," Quarles said during a phone interview after the meeting. "But we can't do anything until they come to us with a proposal. We need to hear all sides of this issue."

The health situation is not the same in every school. Goochland and Randolph elementary schools have a full-time nurse each because they have more chronic health cases than Byrd Elementary, which shares a nurse with the high school.

Currently, there is only one nurse for the high school and middle school, which means she has the duty of caring for 1,270 students. She shares nursing duties with the part-time nurse. 

Speaking on behalf of SHAB, Earley recommended that the county add another full-time nurse for Goochland Middle School.

Earley also discussed the importance of health education within the school system, and the integral role that nurses play within that system.  

According to Earley, there are several national trends in declining health among the nationā€™s youth, especially increased obesity and mental disorders.

"Approximately one third of children are now overweight,"¯ Early stated in the report. By 2015, obesity will reach an all time high of 42 percent (13 percent in 1960). As obesity continues to rise, youth are more at risk of developing chronic illnesses such as sleep apnea, renal disease, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes, the report stated. 


- Published in the July 23, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian.


For more information, visit:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Goochland County Public Schools


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Louisa dentist gets taste of his own medicine

Dr. Kurt Williams is getting ready to break his own jaw – literally. 

The Louisa dentist has suffered from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder for the past decade. He has decided that enough is enough.

"Ninety-nine percent of people have some kind of problem with their bite,"¯ Williams said. "My lower teeth don't line up with my upper teeth, so I have some fairly painful joint discomfort."

On July 16, Williams will go in for a bilateral sagittal split osteotomy. Basically, an oral surgeon will break his lower jaw and move it forward, thus fixing his bite.

"Surgery is not for everybody," Williams said. "It's only for extreme cases. Some people will benefit from wearing a splint that you can buy over-the-counter."¯ 

The splint can be worn overnight and is intended to seat the jaw better, which makes chewing food less stressful on the facial muscles.

In addition to the surgery and splint options, dentists can also grind down teeth or add composite onto teeth to fix the problem, Williams said. 

Many people who experience headaches are actually suffering from TMJ symptoms. The Academy of General Dentistry reported that as much as 75 percent of all headaches are caused by muscle tension, which may be related to the bite. 

A Tufts University study found that symptoms of TMJ disorder also include grinding teeth at night, ear aches, jaw fatigue, neck stiffness and cheek pain. All of these may be bite-related. 

"It's important to catch it early, when you're a teenager,"¯ Williams said. "Preventative care is the best medicine."¯ 

The problem is that dentists are still trying to figure out the best procedures for TMJ diagnostics and treatment, Williams said. 

The OBI Foundation for Bioesthetic Dentistry studies dental occlusion, or how teeth fit together, and proposes three principals to a healthy bite: stable jaw joints, form of the teeth and form of the teeth in contact. 

"Many dentists are taught not to pay attention to occlusion," said Kay Storey, director of operations for OBI. "They are taught to fix individual teeth, rather than fixing the bite."¯ 

Storey added that dentists also have to worry about the business of dentistry, and that judging the best care for a patient involves careful attention to details such as cost analysis and paying the bills.

Williams is determined to use his case to shed light on the misunderstood and often ignored area of occlusal dentistry. 

"I've heard all these horror stories about people going in for brain surgery and at the last minute a dentist convinces the person that he can fix the problem, that it's his bite,"¯ Williams said.  "And the dentist was right."¯

After his surgery, Williams will spend the following six weeks eating through a straw, and nine months in braces.


- Published in the July 9, 2009 edition of The Central Virginian.


For more information, visit:

Dr. Kurt Williams

The Academy of General Dentistry

OBI Foundation for Bioesthetic Dentistry


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Ticked off at Lyme disease: Weston slated to be part of experimental study


In addition to eliminating ticks, bifenthrin could also kill beneficial insects and contribute to the disappearance of honeybees.

By Patricia Gay and 

David DesRoches


A new effort to battle Lyme disease in Weston could help to reduce the number of tick-borne illnesses in the area, but critics worry that the proposed pesticide could damage the environment. 


The Westport Weston Health District is seeking 130 households in Weston and Westport to participate in an experimental study that begins in May.


For this study, the health district is partnering with the Centers for Disease Control, which is funding it, and Yale University’s emerging infections program, which is monitoring the results.


The project calls for spraying a single application of the pesticide Talstar around the perimeter of a yard to see if it decreases the incidents of tick-borne illnesses. Half the yards in the study will be sprayed with the pesticide, while the others will be sprayed with plain water to avoid false positives.


After the pesticide is applied, surveys will be sent to each participant for four months to see if any ticks were found or if anyone in the household contracted a tick-borne illness.


In November, the health district will inform residents if their lawns received the pesticide or the water placebo. Participants will receive up to $40 in gift cards for their time.



However, there are certain risks associated with using Talstar. Its active chemical ingredient is bifenthrin, a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide that affects the nervous system of insects and is commonly used to kill termites.


Bifenthrin is designated as a class C carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning there is “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.”


While no harm to people has been documented from bifenthrin, the EPA warns that it is highly toxic in aquatic environments — especially to fish.


Donald Weston, Ph.D., a toxicologist at University of California Berkeley, has studied pyrethroid pesticides since 2003, and documented significant risks associated with the pesticide.


“Bifenthrin is by far the most common contributor to aquatic toxicity,” Dr. Weston stated in an e-mail. “If there are compelling human health reasons to treat lawns, then I think that virtually any other pyrethroid would be preferable to bifenthrin in order to minimize environmental effects in nearby creeks and rivers.”


However, Kristin Norlund of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said bifenthrin was chosen for the study after careful study and scientific review.

Between 23% and 44% of Connecticut households reported using pesticides to control ticks in their yard, according to a 2008 study.


“Given this widespread use, it is important to know whether pesticide use actually prevents human illness, and if so, how to minimize the amount of pesticide used. Lyme disease is an enormous public health problem in Connecticut and other states involved in this study. Tick-borne diseases are a serious problem and this sort of prevention research is more than warranted,” Ms. Norlund said in an e-mail.


The study’s coordinator, Julie Ray of Yale, said the topography and hydrology of each property in the study will be assessed before applying the pesticide, and no chemicals will be sprayed within 200 feet of a waterway. The chance of rain will also be considered because rainfall could cause runoff and subsequent water contamination.


“We really need to balance these risks,” Ms. Ray said. “I consider myself very environmentally conscious... I can’t think of another pesticide application that would be more targeted in terms of reducing tick-borne diseases.”


Dr. Weston contends that even if the study avoids areas with high runoff, it “may do little to limit contamination of waterways if the treated lawns are in neighborhoods served by storm sewers. Runoff from lawns will go through the storm drains and into the nearest waterway, though it may be quite distant from the treated properties.”


In addition to Weston, other towns in Connecticut participating in the study include Bethel, Bridgewater, New Fairfield, Newtown, Ridgefield, Roxbury, Westport and Wilton. Identical studies are being conducted in Maryland and New York.



Lyme disease was named after the town of Lyme, Conn., where a large number of cases were identified in 1975.


Lyme is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks. Its symptoms can range from fever, chills and body aches, to joint swelling, weakness, severe fatigue, trouble concentrating and temporary paralysis. Some who have the disease may experience a bull’s-eye rash between three and 30 days after infection.


While Lyme is treatable with antibiotics if caught early, delayed or inadequate treatment may lead to serious and disabling conditions.


“Lyme disease is hyperendemic in this area and is one of the fastest-growing vector diseases,” said Dr. Steven Phillips, a Lyme disease specialist based in Georgetown. He said his practice is very busy and never slows down. “It’s a sad situation,” he said.


More than 4,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in Connecticut in 2009, with nearly 700 of those incidents occurring in Fairfield County, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

And, according to a 2008 report conducted by the University of New Haven, as much as 90% of adult ticks in the area may be infected with Lyme bacteria.


Mark Cooper, director of the Westport Weston Health District, said the long-term goal of the pesticide study is to offer the public “an efficient and safe way to reduce the likelihood of contracting Lyme disease.”


As a part of Yale’s emerging infections program, Associate Director James Meek anticipates a successful experiment. “We haven’t been able to show scientifically that different interventions can reduce the number of cases of Lyme disease. This may be one of the first to show that a particular intervention can reduce cases of Lyme disease. That would be fantastic,” he said.


Weston First Selectman Gayle Weinstein called Lyme disease “a huge issue in town.” She said if the study proved that Talstar eliminated ticks and was safe for pets and children, it was something the town should seriously consider.


Balancing the risks

The pesticide study may not be right for every home in Weston, Mr. Cooper said, especially those near waterways. “Properly used, the pesticide is supposed to be safe,” he said.

But in addition to snuffing out ticks, bifenthrin could also kill beneficial insects and contribute to the disappearance of honeybees, a condition known as colony collapse disorder.


A study published in the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Journal indicated that sublethal doses of bifenthrin “significantly reduced bee fecundity, decreased the rate at which bees develop to adulthood, and increased their immature periods... The impact of pesticides on the colony may be severe.”


Weston beekeeper Marina Marchese lamented that the pesticide treatment may hurt the propagation of her honeybees. She owns Red Bee Honey and is president of the Back Yard Beekeeper’s Association, one of the largest groups of its kind in the U.S.


“This is going to make my stomach turn,” Ms. Marchese said. “If this study by the health district commences, it will be a very sad for the 400-plus families who raise honeybees and the farmers and gardeners who rely on them here in Fairfield County and the vicinity.”


Mr. Cooper said if people don’t like the idea of pesticides, that’s fine, because the study is voluntary and will be limited to 130 households, half of which will get plain water instead of the pesticide.

“Of course we need to protect our water resources and water supplies,” said First Selectman Weinstein, but this is one case in which the town needs to weigh all the options. “There needs to be a balance,” she said.  

  - Published in the March 17, 2011 edition of The Weston Forum.

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Devil's Den group joins battle over waterways bill   

Connecticut lawmakers, businesses and environmental watchdogs are involved in a heated debate over water management legislation that could affect Devil's Den Nature Preserve in Weston.

Raised Bill 1020 seeks to soften the blow of a 2005 law that protects streams from overdevelopment. However, opponents of the bill say it would go too far and wreak havoc on natural water systems if passed. Dozens of people weighed in on the issue before the Connecticut General Assembly on Thursday.

The Nature Conservancy manages Devil's Den and opposed Bill 1020 during the public hearing. "If we cannot abide by the extremely reasonable proposal that has been developed [after passing the 2005 legislation], we are basically saying that we will never regulate stream flow in any meaningful way in the state," said David Sutherland, director of government relations for the Nature Conservancy.

The Connecticut Council of Small Towns – of which Weston is a member – sees things differently. "Although COST supports efforts to protest our rivers and streams," says council Executive Director Bart Russell, "we are concerned that [the 2005 law does] not provide the appropriate balance needed to ensure sufficient water supplies to meet the needs of Connecticut's citizens."

The conservancy counters this argument by saying, "The existing statute already calls for the regulations to provide 'for the needs and requirements of public health, flood control, industry, public utilities, water supply, etc.'"

The 2005 law required the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to establish regulations by working with various stakeholders such as public water companies and environmental groups. It has spent five years developing these regulations to meet that balance, but Bill 1020 supporters say these regulations go too far.

Russell says the state environmental regulations would reduce public water supplies and increase service charges. This "will have a severe financial implication for municipalities across the board," Russell said, adding that it would lead to "further economic decline and job loss."

State Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, said Bill 1020 "is easily the most destructive environmental bill of 2011" and it would "reverse years of progress reclaiming our fresh waters since the polluted days of the 1960s."

More than a dozen state lawmakers have signed a petition against Bill 1020, including state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, a Republican who represents Greenwich, New Canaan and parts of Stamford; state Rep. Fred Camillo, R-Greenwich; and state Rep. Chris Perone, D-Norwalk.

The Nature Conservancy's website says Devil's Den is its most frequently visited preserve, hosting more than 40,000 people per year. The area has many waterways and represents a significant portion of the Saugatuck River watershed.

- Published in the February 26, 2011 edition of The Daily

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