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Left In Lowell » Environment

Left In Lowell

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February 8, 2012

Lowell’s Movers & Shakers Are Trapped??

by at 5:40 pm.

Is the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council holding many of Lowell’s “Most Valuable Players” hostage?

A small blurb in the Blog of Record listed the identities of those for and against Enel’s proposed “Bladder Dam.”

In Enel’s corner: The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua; the City of Nashua; the Lower Merrimack River Advisory Committee; Lowell Motor Boat Club; City of Methuen; Pennichuk Water Works; Greater Lawrence Community Boating; National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Massachusetts and New Hampshire fish and game officials; Merrimack River Watershed Council; the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council; UMass Lowell rowing coach Veronica Platzer; local fishermen; a handful of local residents; a Methuen business owner; and the chief engineer for new Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services.

In opposition: The City of Lowell; the National Park Service; Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Northern Middlesex Council of Governments; the town of Chelmsford; the town of Tyngsboro; U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas; state Rep. Tom Golden; the Massachusetts Historical Commission; Lowell Green Building Commission; Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the property manager for the Williamsburg condominiums in North Chelmsford; and several Lowell residents, including members of the Lowell Flood Owners Group and Pawtucketville Citizens Council.

(bold mine)

What’s interesting is that the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council (MVEDC) has a big chunk of its Board of Directors that are, on an individual basis, OPPOSED to the bladder dam. Yet, as demonstrated by the letter below, MVEDC’s president David A. Tibbetts has bundled a number of political and business heavyhitters, endenturing their “gravitas” under his letterhead.



January 13, 2012

Recycling Drop Off Tomorrow (Sat. 1/14)

by at 10:05 pm.

If you read my November blog post A Recycling Adventure, then you know all about Lowell’s local business, Northeast Material Handling, where you can bring electronics and other items for disposal and recycling. Well, starting tomorrow, and every second Saturday of the month going forward between 8am and noon:

NorthEast Material Handling (38 Prince Ave) will host a Recycling Drop-Off event

Residents (especially those without City ‘curbside’ services) can bring “EVERYTHING WITH CORD”.

Most items have very nominal drop-off charges. NO Furniture… ie mattress/boxe spring /couch.

Visit http://www.RecycleLowell.com for more details!

Got clutter? Been waiting to figure out what to do with your electronic waste? Now you know you can get rid of it properly and that it will be fully recycled!

November 16, 2011

A Recycling Adventure

by at 11:09 am.

I went on an adventure yesterday, a journey which started with a thorough “de-cluttering” of our home - which for years has had various computer and electronics parts strewn about waiting for a proper disposal solution. We host Thanksgiving at my house, and I was tired of tucking these old things in little corners or closets temporarily in order to have gatherings.

My batch of undesirables

In desperation over the weekend, I piled up a 10 year old tower computer (the one I started my business with, now two “generations” past) by the front door, along with a batch of CFL light bulbs which need careful disposing, an old motherboard, some cell phones, and a keyboard and mouse with the “old” connectors. I piled them there, and called the Solid Waste & Recycling Office to ask if there was a way to see them recycled.

I got several answers, including that one can bring some of these things to places like Staples, or Lowe’s and Home Depot for CFLs - and then one name was mentioned, but he told me to call first to see what they could take. That name was Northeast Material Handling, which a year ago moved from North Chelmsford into the old Prince Spaghetti factory off of Gorham St. Little did I know pursuing that tidbit would bring me lock, stock and CFL to the imposing building which is the old factory, with everything in my little car. Because when I spoke to Patti, she told me they take all of what I was looking to get rid of - for free! (You can check out their website here.)

The city should have the NMH’s name and phone number and website prominently on the Solid Waste and Recycling’s web page, because after my experience there, I found out that a partnership with NMH would be a win-win-win for residents, the city, and for the company as well. A win for residents who want to get rid of stuff without paying a fee (in some cases, I think there may be a nominal fee, but not usually), for the city, which is struggling with its waste management budget deficit, and which had to impose fees to carry away bulk items, and a win for the company, which tears this stuff apart for the materials, and makes a profit.

Electronics recycling dissembling area

The company gets its profitability from the size of its massive operation, Patti told me. As I took a tour of the place (I came for the recycling, and stayed for the tour!) I can fully believe it! Huge containers of old CRT monitors, a big assembly line of dismantlers to break apart such complex items as computers and cell phones into component parts, a massive store of furniture both home and office (for sale! more on that later). Everything they break down is recycled, said my tour guide, and that means everything. From the “painted aluminum” of computer cases, to the heavy metal of the printed circuit boards, to all the plastic bits that hold it together - and much of this is done on site. (The big thing they don’t do on site, Patti told me, is break down wood, which they send out). All of the materials are reclaimed, recycled, and sold for reuse.

Giant aisles of office furniture

Miles of computer chairs! (It seemed!)

You find the coolest, oddest stuff there

What’s more, she also talked about the security they have, and they even do work for the Department of Defense. For companies or government entities with very sensitive data, they offer specially monitored destruction. For the average cell phone or hard drive, when I expressed that I was concerned about possible data still left on them, she showed me just how thoroughly they take these things apart, degaussing drives, and then breaking them down and melting them, all under the watchful eye of video cameras. When I saw their operation I wasn’t so worried about my cell phones going into the mix. It was a relief, because even if I’d found their proper cords, I wasn’t sure I could boot them up after all this time to wipe all my contacts and info, and even if I did, I didn’t really want to spend the time on it!

They also took my CFLs and will de-mercury them and recycle them properly. It was one stop shopping for all my disposal needs. They will do pick up by arrangement, too, for appliances and items that are too bulky for your vehicle to carry.

The rest of my tour was of their furniture/for sale section. I have never ever seen so many computer chairs in one place! And a huge aisle of file cabinets! I will never go to Staples for office furniture again. They have couches, and tables, and dining room chairs, of every style you could think of. Cubicles and big executive desks. Some were outdated - some were very nice and in good shape. I’d have a hard time working there, seeing the inventory going in and out without buying a lot. The prices are what you expect - a lot lower than for new items, priced based on condition and desirability, but they take the care to clean the factory dust (the place can’t help but get dusty) before you pick them up or they deliver them. If you want to see their current inventory (or part of it at least) they post it on their website - but it changes daily, as things come in and get sold!

If you are interested in going to buy furniture, call Nick at 978-459-9595, he’s the furniture guy.

They also take washers and dryers and fridges and big appliances, again to tear up and recycle every bit of it. You can find a list of things on their website, and I’m sure you can call (978-459-9595, ask for Patti) and find out more details, talk about pick up (for things that you can’t get there yourself) and drop off hours of operation. They are talking about working with the city to arrange hours for resident drop-off on Saturdays, and I really hope that happens.

Northeast Materials Handling also does a lot of fundraising for schools and organizations - the LHS Crew team’s bring-in-your-items day was run by NMH. So if you want to recycle your items for a good cause you can bring them to one of their events, or even create an event of your own for your school or org. The materials, I was told, are also resold right here in New England for use - not only are you recycling locally, but the material stays here to be used!

I found them really friendly as well, and since I am a gregarious girl, I love meeting new people. I never thought I would say this, but I had a hard time tearing myself away from the browsing and the conversations at this recycling and reuse business. There were many fascinating things to be found, like that old-fashioned hot dog/popcorn stand, a castle and glass top side table, and just a ton of other things, artwork and knick knacks and throw pillows and lamps. You really do have to see the place to get the scale. I concluded my adventure by finding a little piece of furniture I’d been looking for for a while and making a purchase. I have the duel contentment that not only did I get a good price, but I am finding a new home for something that could have, in someone else’s hands, taken up space in a landfill.

And that is a feeling worth having!

July 31, 2011

Video from the Lowell Folk Fest

by at 12:22 pm.

I can’t resist the blogging bug I guess. I just love sharing the great music and atmosphere with everyone.

The first video, Eden Brent. What an awesome smokey voice, piano chops to rival anyone’s, and an amazing stage presence.

More to come if I can.

Ok, here is some Dervish, Irish music. And, I am officially cooked…

February 24, 2011

More Solar Compactors

by at 9:40 am.

Good, because the trash bins downtown are overflowing (and buried in snowbanks) and there’s no place to put your pooch’s little poo bags anywhere. Try carrying one of those things an extra block to find a bin on top of which you don’t have to balance the poo bag precariously.

Just sayin’. ;)

Also, the move to flat-fee instead of per-thousand fee for solar panels is all well and good, but the thing holding us back from getting solar panels (on lease for very little up front costs from SunRun) on my otherwise-perfect location is an old roof. We face south, we have height, but an engineer would tell us that the old construction would not be approved for holding up panels. The city should think about doing a program - perhaps even an affordable loan program so that it is self-sustaining - to help the many residents with older houses to prep their roofs for solar, because then I think you’d see more interest. We’re an old city and I suspect most of our roofs are not acceptable for the additional weight of solar panels.

February 17, 2011

MA Delegation Great on Environment - Except for Brown

by at 2:45 pm.

I just got a press release from the Massachusetts League of Conservation Voters, which in conjunction with the national organization, has released the “grades” of the MA delegation on the environment. Seven of our elected officials in MA scored a perfect 100, so let’s be proud to be from the state which cares about the health and well-being of our environment and our citizens. Can you guess what Senator Brown scored?

No really, guess.

He got a zero. A big fat goose egg.

Here’s the details:

The 2010 Scorecard was released amidst the greatest attack on the EPA’s budget in 30 years and current assaults on the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and wildlife protections in Congress.

“We applaud those members of the MA delegation who fought in 2010 to protect public health and the environment and reduce our nation’s dangerous dependence on oil, especially Senator John Kerry and Congressman Ed Markey,” said MLEV’s Executive Director Lora Wondolowski. “The 2010 Scorecard clearly exposes Senator Scott Brown for his willingness to put corporate polluters and other special interests ahead of the health and well-being of Massachusetts residents.”

The 2010 Scorecard includes 6 Senate and 9 House votes on issues ranging from clean energy to public health protections to wildlife conservation. Given the disastrous impact of the resolution offered by Senator Murkowski (R-AK), LCV double scored the vote on her bill, which would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from moving forward with commonsense steps to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. Additionally, LCV took the unusual step of scoring co-sponsorship of Dirty Air Act legislation in the House. These steps bring the Senate total to 7 and the House total to 10. In MA, 7 House members earned a perfect 100 percent score in 2010, while Senator Brown earned an abysmal 0 percent. The average House score in 2010 for MA was 93 percent, one of the highest averages in the nation, and the average Senate score was 43 percent.

“Unfortunately, the most important votes of 2010 are the ones that didn’t happen: the Senate failed to even begin debate on a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill and also failed to respond to the greatest environmental disaster in our nation’s history — the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico,” said LCV President Gene Karpinski. “The 2010 National Environmental Scorecard clearly illustrates that there is much work to be done, and LCV will be there at every step of the way in 2011 and beyond, working to protect the environment and public health while transitioning our nation to a clean energy economy.”

Every MA Representative, with the exception of Delahunt who did not vote, voted for the CLEAR Act to respond to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Senator Brown voted for Senator Murkowski’s Dirty Air Act resolution, while Senator Kerry was a leading voice in the effort to kill the amendment. Disappointingly, the Senate failed to act on oil spill relief legislation, including a bill sponsored by Senator Brown.

And here’s the scores:

Senator John Kerry: 86
Senator Scott Brown: 0

Representative John Olver: 100
Representative Richard Neal: 100
Representative Jim McGovern: 100
Representative Barney Frank: 80
Representative Niki Tsongas: 100
Representative John Tierney: 90
Representative Ed Markey: 100
Representative Mike Capuano: 100
Representative Steve Lynch: 100
Representative Bill Delahunt: 60

Even Lynch, the most conservative Democrat in the delegation, had a 100. And Scott Brown a zero. Let’s remember that going into 2012.

February 7, 2011

Converting the Fleet

by at 10:30 am.

A constant priority of Lt. Governor Tim Murray, today I got a little announcement from the administration that the first of several replacement commuter rail trains that are efficient diesel-electric have been put into service in the commuter rail system:

Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray today joined commuter rail riders and state officials aboard a new diesel-electric locomotive on its inaugural ride from Worcester to Boston. The state-of-the-art diesel-electric locomotive is one of two new trains purchased from the Utah Transit Authority, and marks the first time in more than two decades that new locomotives will join the MBTA’s commuter rail fleet.


By employing new technology that makes the engines more fuel efficient and prevents unnecessary idling, the new locomotives will reduce nitrogen oxide levels by 20 tons per engine annually. Each locomotive in the existing fleet burns 228,000 gallons of fuel per year, resulting in the release of 241 tons of nitrogen oxide. These new locomotives will burn about 36,500 fewer gallons while generating more horsepower. The energy savings will be about $78,000 a year per locomotive.

In June 2010, the MassDOT Board of Directors approved the purchase of an additional 20 new diesel-electric locomotives from Motive Power, Inc. of Boise, Idaho at a cost of $114 million. The 20 new locomotives will be brought into service in 2013 to replace the 20 oldest units in the fleet.

Since the Mr. takes the commuter rail daily, which is not only great for avoiding traffic snarls, but keeps our personal gas consumption fairly low, commuter rail news like this is music to my ears…we can realize great savings and lower our dependence on foreign oil, as well as reduce the impact of global warming, AND create jobs in our nation, by continuing to do this. Win all around.

November 2, 2010

Go Vote - And NO On All Three

by at 8:04 am.

You know what to do today. Go exercise your democratic rights. (Update - find out where you vote and see a ballot preview here!)

Having been so busy lately (teaching, business, etc) I haven’t had much time to post about this election. But suffice to say, I am an enthusiastic NO on all three ballot questions. If any of these pass, we will see a regression in our state, and you will not like the results.

Regarding question one (return of the alcohol exemption) and question three (rollback of the sales tax to 3%), the last thing we need to do in the middle of a time of reduced revenues due to economic woes nationwide is to reduce revenues further by gutting taxes. Yes, math still works the way you were taught in school.

Look, no one loves paying taxes. Everyone would love to have that that $1.25 back on your $20 purchase. However, is that worth seeing more teachers laid off, fewer police, and longer lines at the RMV? We’ve cut the fat, folks, long ago. In fact, Patrick has done a lot to reform the state government - including state transportation department consolidation, which Republican governors have been talking about for years and never accomplished. We’ve started cutting the bone during this recession. Further reducing revenues is suicidal. Forget all the progress we’ve made on jobs, green initiatives, and our kids’ education if we have to cut more essential programs.

With regards to the alcohol tax rollback: don’t listen to the alcohol lobby that you are being “double taxed” on alcohol. What a lot of freaking whining! The excise tax is on volume and is so minuscule, it’s hardly even noticeable - if the excise tax were repealed, prices would hardly change at all. Most other states have a sales tax that applies to alcohol, alongside an excise tax. What the longstanding tax exemption on alcohol was, was a gift and a giveaway. Alcohol is not an essential purchase, so why the hell was it exempt? It should be subject to the same tax that is on all other nonessential goods.

On the sales tax reduction - really, you’re going to save about $3 on a $100 purchase. And remember, sales tax is not applied to most essentials in MA - clothing (unless you buy expensive Gucci) or groceries, for a start. A huge chunk of our discretionary spending budget comes from the sales tax. Is that worth seeing hundreds of teachers laid off? Or unsafe streets? The sales tax cut would be worth a loss of $20 million dollars to Lowell alone, if the cut were applied in full to local aid and Chapter 70 monies from the state. How many city services and school programs do you think $20 million would cut? And since it looks impossible, politically, for Congress to pass another stimulus bill next year, we will be losing the ARRA funding, which has been floating much of our state deficit from reduced tax receipts - our state would be further devastated by the loss of over half the sales tax.

On question 2, the elimination of comprehensive permitting to build affordable housing, also has a regressive result. Of course, many people are frustrated with this law and how it is applied in our communities. However, the repeal of it will have a devastating effect on families who need affordable housing. I don’t have to tell you we have some damned expensive housing costs here in MA. It’s a side effect of our leading-the-nation prosperity. The more people in the middle class and up can afford, the more expensive housing is. The more dense the jobs and opportunity, the more the demand for housing. For those who are in jobs that do not have the same level of opportunity, or for those who are underemployed, disabled, or retired with no savings, the availability of affordable housing is paramount to their survival.

Affecting how difficult is it to build affordable housing in Massachusetts means keeping some families out of the prosperity. That’s not what our state is all about. Maybe the law needs reform (and maybe it doesn’t), but eliminating it is no way to do it. It will only hurt some of our most vulnerable citizens. We’re better than that.

So, I will vote no to all three of the ballot questions. I wish we didn’t have to keep having the same damn debate over revenues and taxes - it’s exhausting to constantly have to defend what is undesirable by any human being. Where’s our ballot question enacting positive initiatives?? But as Governor Patrick has always said, we have to decide what we want government to do, and then decide how to pay for it. Ignoring the reality (and basic math) of the situation to vote for something that feels good now but will hurt us in the long run is just stupid.

July 30, 2010

Oh, By All Means, Drill Baby Drill

by at 3:46 pm.

A pretty predictable but still disturbing outcome of the mishandling of the Gulf spill crisis by BP (via dkos):

Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.

Marine biologists started finding orange blobs under the translucent shells of crab larvae in May, and have continued to find them “in almost all” of the larvae they collect, all the way from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Fla. — more than 300 miles of coastline — said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

Good god. What have we done to our planet?? We need renewable replacements for oil and coal right now. Of course, our do-nothing Senate (thanks to Senator Brown and the Nelson/Landreu wing of the Dems) will produce no useful energy policy bill in the foreseeable future.

This, on top of the news that over a million acres of the high-altitude pine trees in the region of Yellowstone are dying from an infestation of beetle, likely due to climate change.

Sometimes, I am so glad I do not have any kids whose future I have to worry about.

May 25, 2010

Lowell Designated in First Round of “Green Communities”

by at 2:00 pm.

Hey, wicked. Excerpts of the official press release:

35 cities and towns across the state are ranked as clean energy leaders, eligible for municipal renewable power and energy efficiency grants

HOPKINTON – Tuesday, May 25, 2010 – Governor Deval Patrick today designated 35 cities and towns from the Berkshires to Cape Cod as the Commonwealth’s first official “Green Communities” - a status that makes them eligible for $8.1 million in grants for local renewable power and energy efficiency projects. The projects promise to create green jobs and advance both municipal and state clean energy goals.
The signature program of the landmark Green Communities Act of 2008, the Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) Green Communities Grant Program uses funding from auctions of carbon emissions permits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reward communities that win Green Communities designation by meeting five clean energy benchmarks:

  • Adopting local zoning bylaw or ordinance that allows “as-of-right-siting” of renewable energy projects;
  • Adopting an expedited permitting process related to the as-of-right facilities;
  • Establishing a municipal energy use baseline and a program designed to reduce use by 20 percent within five years;
  • Purchasing only fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use, whenever such vehicles are commercially available and practicable; and
  • Requiring all new residential construction over 3,000 square feet and all new commercial and industrial real estate construction to reduce lifecycle energy costs (i.e., adoption of an energy-saving building “stretch code”).

May 14 was the deadline for municipalities to apply for Green Community designation in order to qualify for the first round of $8.1 million in Green Communities grants. Today’s Green Communities designees - Acton, Arlington, Athol, Andover, Becket, Belchertown, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Easthampton, Greenfield, Hamilton, Hanover, Holyoke, Hopkinton, Kingston, Lancaster, Lenox, Lexington, Lincoln, Lowell, Mashpee, Medford, Melrose, Montague, Natick, Newton, Northampton, Palmer, Pittsfield, Salem, Springfield, Sudbury, Tyngsboro, Wenham, and Worcester - have until June 4 to submit applications for grants that will be awarded in late June.

Also pretty knifty:

In addition to grant eligibility, each Green Community designated today will receive a Big Belly solar waste compactor, to be delivered by June 30 in time for the summer parks and beaches season. Purchased with DOER energy efficiency funding, Big Belly compactors can hold several times more trash and litter than similarly sized regular trash receptacles - thereby reducing the number of garbage truck trips required to empty them. Each municipality will also receive a certificate from the Commonwealth congratulating it on becoming an official Green Community.

Congrats Lowell and other upper Merrimack Valley communities for getting the win!

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