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Letters to the Editor
Opinions from Around Dorchester

This page is devoted to contributions from voters around Dorchester County, MD. Please e-mail your thoughts on relevant issues to dorchesterdems@gmail.com.

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Richard Bearman

Cambridge, MD

January 11, 2022

 

Open Letter to Senate Republicans, Joe Manchin, and Kyrsten Sinema

 

You just heard President Biden challenge you regarding your stance on voting rights –whether you wanted to be remembered as a person who stood up for democracy, who stood up for equal rights, who stood up for all Dr. Martin Luther King represented; or whether you wanted to go down in history as a nay-sayer, one who wanted to see voting rights restricted, fewer people voting, democracy only for the chosen few.  

 

Well, I just want to make sure you know you don’t have to worry about the possibility that you’ll look bad if you side with the rich white part of America against the poorer, brown and black parts.  When we win and put in an authoritarian government, we’ll rewrite history the way the Soviets did, and we’ll make sure you look good. Real good.

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Valley Protein Hearing Report - A Call to Action and Public Comments

Richard Bearman

Cambridge, MD

November 30, 2021

On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) held a public hearing in the Linkwood Fire Hall.  Close to a hundred people, attended the meeting to hear MDE’s proposed new discharge permit for Valley Proteins, Inc, a rendering plant at 5420 Linkwood Road that cooks chicken offal down to biofuel and feed for chickens, swine, ruminants, aquaculture, and pets.  Forty-five residents spoke at the hearing, all but one opposed to MDE’s plan.

Valley Proteins’ discharge permit expired in 2006 and MDE has allowed Valley Proteins to continue discharging into the Transquaking River, a small and fragile ecosystem that flows into Fishing Bay, and ultimately into the Chesapeake.  MDE allows for continued discharge, even though Valley Proteins has violated the terms of the discharge permit repeatedly, discharging more nitrogen, phosphorus, and fecal coliform than permitted and depleting the river of dissolved oxygen.  The result has been algae blooms, fish kills, the deaths of two dogs which drank from the river, and posted signs warning the public not to swim or consume fish from the Transquaking.  On one occasion, Valley Protein’s cooker malfunctioned and truckloads of unprocessed chicken offal were dumped in the parking lot, and ultimately in the river after having been treated with chlorine.  It’s safe to say Valley Proteins has a long history of poor environmental stewardship.

In addition to polluting the water, Valley Proteins releases a stench into the air that makes its neighbors gag and stay indoors; and there’s a by product, an industrial sludge so toxic that Cambridge’s Waste Water Treatment plant declined to take it –this sludge is transferred to a company named Denali Water Solutions which spreads it on fields from which it can run into the groundwater or back into a river.

Many speakers were outraged that MDE would consider a new permit.  They noted that Valley Proteins was allowed to monitor its own discharges; that Valley Proteins was allowed to choose its current level of 150,000 gallons a day –which it often exceeds—or increase its discharge level to almost four times as much, or 575,000 gallons a day; and that Valley Proteins would have three years to come into compliance, three years during which the plant could pollute with impunity.

Here are some of the many voices from the hearing:

Alan Girard is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Eastern Shore voice and he makes three crisp points:

“… Number One, the permit as drafted does not guarantee that the Tier One feasible swimmable water quality standards will be met… Number two the permanent conditions that manage downstream pollution impacts may be ineffective… Finally, number three, the permit should better account for removed substances.  The nutrient management plans required for farms that received sludge should be made accessible to the public since they are reference documents in the permit. Public access to the plant is necessary to evaluate whether the state’s obligation to control pollution from removed substances is being met. Given the chronic monitoring and reporting violations in the current permit, removed substances other monitoring should be required to be submitted monthly rather than annually…”

Diane Miller, a member of Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth (DCPG) addressed Valley Proteins’ history:

“…The proposed permit allows Valley Proteins to continue business as usual, which is not good enough. Valley Proteins has responsibilities and has not met them historically.  We need guarantees that it will fulfill its responsibilities now, for a company with a track record of violations and not reporting over these many years.  The compliance history of Valley Proteins is of greatest importance when developing the permit.  Valley Proteins has not acted as a good citizen or environmental steward and does not deserve to be treated as such… On their website, they say they continually adhere to environmental practices that meet and surpass governmental requirements and their production facilities are equipped with the latest technologies for maintaining clean air and water.  The Transquaking River knows this is a lie...”

Fred Pomeroy, President of Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth, commented on DCPG’s pollution monitoring efforts:

“…In 2014 we learned that Valley Proteins had applied to MDE to supersize its wastewater discharge dumping into the upper tributary of the Transquaking.  And to us, this requested increase was staggering.  We knew the pollution numbers we were reporting for this site were already extremely high, way above what was considered a decent baseline for nitrogen and phosphorus.  And the fecal coliform sampling was dangerously high and often there was virtually no dissolved oxygen present in the water.  These numbers were undoubtedly contributing to problems with toxic algae blooms, dead pet dogs, and fish kills…At present, we’re a very long way from saving the Transquaking.”

Matt Pluta, Director of Riverkeepers with Shore Rivers, addressed Valley Protein’s practices:

“…Valley Proteins has made millions of dollars in the process of violating their permit and degrading our waterways… Yet the state has failed in holding corporate polluters like Valley Proteins accountable for their pollution… Considering the egregious violator Valley Proteins has been, the state should be monitoring their discharge every single day that they are in operation right now.  The draft permit only requires Valley Proteins to take samples of their discharge three or four times a week, when in fact, they’re discharging six and a half days a week…”

Susan Staehlin, a County resident, had questions for MDE:

“…How can you possibly not see that the pollution is unacceptable?... Who is getting money to turn their head and not see what is happening already?... Is there no one with the moral backbone to stand up and say, This is not right, you should be on probation… You are fined some substantial fine every day.  And if there’s no action taken to reduce the pollution in thirty days, you are shut down.  So my question to MDE is What is the reason that you would even consider a permit of more pollution when you can’t control the existing pollution?”

And Doug Stephens, a realtor and environmentalist, made an argument based on citizens’ rights:

“…this company is allowed to…exceed their limits over and over again and we’re just…ignoring what I see as them impeding on my rights to clean water and clean air.  So I think it’s time for the public and us people here tonight to have more rights and to be able to breathe clean air and not smell it and not have to have fish that are contaminated and that you should hold the company accountable.”

I mentioned that one person was not opposed.  That was Robert Vogler, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Valley Proteins.  He spoke to Valley Protein being a good corporate citizen and to the improvements the plant was planning to make in waste water management:

“…A few highlights. Valley Proteins purchased the Lincoln facility in 2013.  It was originally built in 1957. There are 150,000 employees, an annual payroll of $11 Million, and these are good jobs…We have been… spending $7 Million on wastewater improvements to date… So we’re very happy to be where we are tonight because we see this as the end of a long process that will lead to a permit with strict water quality standards for protection of the Bay and give us the established standards that we can then go ahead and design and build and upgrade a permanent upgrade to the wastewater plant and move on with a state of the art better facility that will be protective of the Bay and the community.”

The Maryland Department of the Environment will be accepting written comments from the community through December 15.  Send an email to: michael.Richardson@Maryland.gov.

Richard Bearman

Cambridge, MD

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Valley Protein Meeting and Actions — Save the Transquaking,

           Mayor Indicted, Shooting in Cambridge

Stephen Rideout 

CAMBRIDGE MATTERS

November 20, 2021

 

For a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, this past week was busy with good things, bad things, and very bad things happening. It was like we were being drawn into the maelstrom of the larger world before we knew it and before we could do anything about it.

 

One good thing that happened occurred early in the week at a meeting held by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) at the Linkwood Firehouse. The purpose of the meeting was to obtain public comment about a plan by Valley Proteins to expand the amount of its rendering plant discharge into the Transquaking River. Before any changes to their discharge permit, Maryland law requires a public hearing. The current permit has been administratively continued for close to 15 years despite non-compliance by Valley Proteins with the requirements of the current permit.

 

The good news is that close to one hundred citizens attended the meeting and almost half of them spoke. They came from all walks of life, political persuasions, and locations in and outside of Dorchester County. They also spoke eloquently with one voice about the proposed discharge permit and the past failure of Valley Proteins to meet the prior requirements of the current permit and the failure of MDE to hold them accountable for their violations.

 

From the many speakers, a number of things were constant:

  1. MDE is a silo and is little able to address the complex interplay of water, soil, and air data that establishes a clear picture of the pollution that is taking place in our environment. Some of those areas are dealt with by other Maryland regulatory agencies that have inadequate interaction and collaboration with MDE. The agency is challenged to make a science-informed assessment of whether the permit should be issued as drafted or modified to address how Valley Proteins has been allowed to pollute the Transquaking and would increase that pollution if granted a permit that allowed for increased discharge.

  2. Before a new permit is issued, the state regulatory framework that is supposed to address the water, soil, and air pollution issues must create a collaborative workgroup that will ensure adequate collection of water, soil and air samples on a timely basis, contemporaneous testing of those samples and sharing of outcomes, and timely collaborative responses to the findings that are made.

  3. In the lifetime of many who spoke, the Transquaking has changed from a pristine and vibrant river with many varieties of fish into a polluted river in which only a few varieties of the least desirable fish can survive.

 

MDE will be making its decision on the permit application in the coming months and public comment in writing will be allowed through 5 p.m. December 15, 2021, at Maryland Dept. of the Environment, Water and Science Administration, 1800 Washington Blvd., Suite 455, Baltimore, MD 21230-1708 or Email to

Michael.Richardson@Maryland.gov 

Expressing you’re your opinion could help save the Transquaking from further damage and might help to bring it back to life. Areas of concern that you might address include the following:

  1. Not allowing any higher discharge at least until Valley Proteins maintains a clean track record of compliance with the current or new permit at the current discharge level.

  2. MDE and the other state agencies working collaboratively on all of the pollution issues.

  3. The current watershed study called the TMDL needing to be redone in a comprehensive fashion to help protect and save the river.

  4. Valley Protein’s contribution to the declining environmental health in the watershed being widespread in addition to the plant discharge into the Transquaking – Air pollution from the plant itself, drawdown of public groundwater aquafers as it uses additional fresh water, further contamination of the air and groundwater in the Nanticoke watershed through the use of the largely unregulated industrial sludge created by the plant and distributed as farm fertilizer.   READ MORE NEWS ON THIS ISSUE HERE....

 

Mayor of Cambridge Indicted

 

The bad news came the next day when the Mayor of Cambridge was arrested on an indictment charging fifty counts of what is called “Revenge Porn” for allegedly posting photographs with inappropriate comments on social media without the permission of the person photographed. City Council met quickly and appropriately sought his resignation, which to date he has declined to do. It appears that failing a resignation, the City Council is prepared to move forward under the City Charter to seek his removal. The relevant language from the Charter reads as follows:

 

Sec. 3-35. - Removals from office; cause, procedure. 

The commissioners may remove from office, or discharge from employment, the city manager, the chief bailiff and any other officer or employee that may be elected or appointed under the authority of the charter, or any ordinance or order of the commissioner (whether be the term of service under which he holds his office or employment), for neglect of duty, for incompetence, or for any other misconduct, which, in the judgment of the commissioners, constitute reasonable and sufficient ground for removing him from office, or depriving him of employment. In all cases, where the official or employee has any fixed or definite term of service, a charge or complaint, in writing, shall be presented to him, and evidence as to the facts alleged in such charge or complaint, shall be taken before the commissioners if he denies the correctness or truth of same. But, where the delinquent holds his employment, at the will of the commissioners, they may discharge him, with or without formal charge or hearing, if they consider it just, right or expedient thus to do. 

It is hoped that the mayor will do what is in the best interest of the City of Cambridge and its residents and resign. If not done quickly, City Council will, hopefully, undertake action as they have stated that they intend to do.

 

Shooting in Cambridge—-Teen Tragically Killed

 

While the situation with the mayor was bringing much attention and public comment and speculation, Friday brought even more disheartening and tragic news – the death of another African American young man, a teenager.

 

This is not the first time this year that someone has been killed here in Cambridge or wounded as a result of shootings. In a town that has had very few killings in past years, 2021 has become very disturbing and difficult year due to the dramatic increase in these events and the tragic loss of too many young lives.

 

Cambridge police and Maryland State police are doing what it appears they can to find and prosecute the perpetrators, but the killings continue without the kind of community response that resulted from the mayor’s arrest. For months, efforts have been and continue to be underway to provide resources for the youth of Cambridge through programming at the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, the Empowerment Center, New Beginnings Youth and Family Center, and other programs, but our city council, county council, community, and our school system need to step forward with money, mentors, programs, and ideas to help the children of Cambridge and Dorchester County have a better chance of becoming strong, educated, and productive adults. We owe them nothing less.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Steve Rideout

Cambridge Maryland

Cambridge Matters

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To the Editor 

November 12, 2021                                                                       

 

Offshore Wind Farms on the Eastern Shore

It is gratifying to see Eastern Shore residents working together to pave the way for wind farms far off the coast of Ocean City. To establish a means to provide wind energy instead of utilizing fossil fuels will do much to combat climate change.

The two proposals by U.S. Wind and Orsted will produce enough clean energy to supply hundreds of thousands of homes.  Well paying jobs will be created for people to manufacture the wind turbines as well as to install and maintain them.

By reducing the need for fossil fuels, we will be doing our part to fight climate change which is already ravaging the Eastern Shore.  We will also be abiding by the guidelines of the Clean Energy Jobs Act which passed in the Maryland General Assembly in 2019.  This law requires our state to be utilizing at least 50% renewable energy by 2030.

There are no downsides to establishing offshore wind on the Eastern Shore. The Public Service Commission should approve these permits.  Although the public hearings on this issue have been completed, it is possible to submit comments until November 19th. You can do this by contacting the Public Service Commission at www.psc.state.md.us/make-a-pubic-comment/  All comments must include a reference to Case No. 9666.

Susan Olsen,  Cambridge, MD 

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To the Editor

Open Letter to Andy Harris, 

US Representative, Maryland First District

November 8, 2021 

 

Dear Mr Harris: 

 

Last night, the House passed an infrastructure bill that makes the most significant investment in roads and bridges in 70 years, the most significant investment in passenger rail in 50 years, and the most significant investment in public transit in history. It will generate millions of new jobs. It will either pay for itself or, if you accept the most negative assessment, increase the deficit by $256B, less than 5% of what the Tax Cut bill you supported will cost us. 

 

The bill includes a significant amount set aside for restoring our Chesapeake Bay, which Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker welcomed: “An infusion of $238 million for the Bay Program and additional funds for improving wastewater treatment are critical to save the Bay."

 

And Andy Harris? You voted No, your customary vote for almost all measures designed to bolster our economy, generate jobs, and safeguard the environment. Why, Andy? Very disappointing. 

 

One might well ask why we sent you to Congress.

 

In sadness, 

Richard Bearman 

Cambridge

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Letter to the Editor

Published in The Dorchester Banner

November 9, 2021

 

Right wing threats and violence will never silence me

     

Beginning in 2015 when Donald Trump commenced his campaign for president, his hateful followers have attacked me with threats and violence because of the things I say opposing them and their vile disgraced failed twice-impeached leader through the yard signs I post, my involvement in rallies, and the letters and commentary I have published in local media.  The one characteristic that these cultists all have in common in addition to opposing others' 1st Amendment rights is that they are all cowards, too afraid to reveal their identities so they go to great lengths to hide them. 

 

The first incident occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign when several of them drove onto our property and ran down my yard signs for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.  After I put them back up with a very heavy concrete block under the Clinton sign (hoping they would tear up the undercarriage of their pickup), they decided they didn't like that so went back home and brought back diesel fuel to pour all over the signs and our property, then lit it on fire on a windy very dry night.  Our home could have caught fire and injured or killed me and my wife.   A neighbor saw them, but the Sheriff's office was unable to apprehend them.

 

During the 2020 campaign season, Trump cultists tore up our lawn by driving all around and spinning up turf and mud.  Then, while I and my fellow Democrats were holding a rally along Rt. 50 in Cambridge, they vandalized our cars by defacing the finish and breaking windows. They also violently attacked MY U.S. Capitol, The People's House, on Jan. 6 in an insurrection act of domestic terrorism to overthrow MY government.  It felt as if they had attacked our home. 

     

Recently, they have decided to try to intimidate me into silence by sending threatening letters to me by name to my home address.  They are postmarked from Baltimore, and I know several neighbors who live there and come here on the weekends.  These letters typically arrive soon after I've published another letter/column in local papers.  

 

Here's the one thing I want these hate-filled cretins to know about me - they will NEVER stop me from exercising my 1st Amendment rights, and if anything their hateful attacks only incentivize me to go after them and their cult leader even harder.  I will do anything to prevent them from taking over our great country and turning it into a North Korea or Russia with an authoritarian dictator such as Trump.    

 

Mike Brown

Neck District, Dorchester County