Pollution problems big and small — and loud

Pollution problems big and small — and loud

By Jeffery Kurz

It was a selectman from a small New Hampshire town who years ago made an observation that I, obviously, have not forgotten: That even the faint, distant sound of a dog barking throughout the night can be maddening to someone who is trying to get some sleep. 

This, of course, is a subjective experience. Some people can sleep through the Fourth of July fireworks, others are going to stay up all night worrying about the buzz of that mosquito. 

But pollution is pollution, and noise is no exception.

We’re learning that pollution comes in all sorts of forms. There’s light pollution, but it turns out hardly anyone cares about that – most likely because hardly anyone is aware of it. All you have to do is walk into the lighting aisle of your home-improvement store to get blinded by the glare. It should be easy to surmise that the kind of lighting that blinds does not make you safer, but most people don’t see it that way. Plus, the energy companies like it just fine if you’re afraid of the dark.

We learned the other day of another kind of pollution, thanks to the reporting of the Record-Journal’s Bailey Wright. We all know big blobs of plastic are contaminating the oceans like something out of that old Steve McQueen movie (“The Blob”), but what about the little blobs of plastic that could be haunting your waters? A couple of fellows from Southern Connecticut State University, a student and a professor, have been taking samples from the waters of North Haven and Meriden treatment plants to see how much plastic there is. 

This is one of those circle-of-life-scenarios: These little pieces of plastics, called microplastics and microbeads, go from your toothpaste, clothing or cosmetics, to the treatment plant to the Quinnipiac River to the Long Island Sound to a fish that gobbles them up and back to you, when you eat the fish. OK, not exactly “The Lion King.”

“The microplastics are a particular problem for people as well because we eat the seafood,” observed Mary Mushinsky, who has represented Wallingford in Hartford longer than anyone now in Hartford has represented anywhere. She’s on the Environment Committee and is otherwise as expert as a lawmaker can get on these type of issues. So, yes, banning these microbeads is a good idea.

You can also look to avoid microbeads when it comes to shopping for your personal care products, and there’s an app for that, called “Beat the Microbead.”

No app is available yet for the type of pollution now being endured by some Meriden residents. Many more in the Silver City and beyond will be suffering soon if something isn’t done about it.

Good intentions run awry could be the headline, but something has gone seriously wrong with the state Department of Transportation’s installation of an automated horn system at Meriden’s Cooper Street rail crossing. The horns are, shall we understate, very loud.

The horns are supposed to let you know that a train is coming, but by all accounts they sound like the warning of Armageddon or alien invasion, or both. People living near the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford in the midst of a throbbing bass rock concert can now say that at least they don’t live near Cooper Street. 

This is no dog barking in the night. This is major decibel level abuse – and it must be a nightmare. When you read of a resident turning on air conditioning, situating a fan in a position so it will rattle and putting a pillow over her head it all sounds kind of amusing, at first. But this is a description of torture. 

It also must sound like some perverse joke because these horns are designed to mitigate noise. Not funny.

More bad news: This may just be the beginning. After the initial testing at Cooper Street and the Pent Road crossing in Wallingford this noise pollution threatens to become an epidemic all along the Hartford Line commuter railroad.

Make no mistake, this is a very serious situation, a type of pollution that is threatening the health and well-being of a lot of people and threatens to threaten the health and well-being of a lot more.

We now await the rapid response of government to a real-world, in-our-backyard crisis. Yesterday is a day too late to fix this problem.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com