It wasn’t until Bridgeport lead inspector Charles Tate stepped outside the house on Wood Avenue that he saw, immediately, where 2-year-old Rocio Valladares was being poisoned. The paint around a window at the back of the house was deteriorating. Beneath the window was Rocio’s favorite play area, a sloping basement door that was the perfect ramp for an energetic toddler. Next to the basement door was a patch of dirt where she loved to scratch with sticks. White chips of paint were visible in the dirt.
Joann Rubino brought her cell phone outside to the balcony and swept the camera around for a neighborhood panorama. The sky blazed a brilliant blue, the apartment buildings an unmistakable burnt sienna. But there wasn’t a soul in sight. “It’s a beautiful spring day, but I’m not leaving the house,” Rubino, 63, said via Facebook from her Italian home. On a typical day in Castel Morrone, a town of about 3,500 people an hour’s drive from Naples, Rubino might be strolling the streets, dropping in on friends and family, stopping at a bar for a coffee or at a pizzeria—living la dolce vita.
Residents took advantage of the sunny weather over the weekend to get out of their houses and enjoy the outdoors. In Edgewood Park in New Haven, there were people on bicycles and skateboards, people practicing yoga and playing cards in the sunshine, enjoying a reprieve from their coronavirus concerns and Gov. Ned Lamont’s increased restrictions, which begin today. Lamont on Sunday ordered that all “non-essential” workers stay home beginning at 8 tonight. Some “essential” operations, including health care providers, food stores, gas stations and pet stores, will remain open. For a complete list, go here.
A total of 1,665 Connecticut children under age 6 had lead poisoning in 2017, a drop of almost 17% from the year before and the largest one-year decrease in five years, according to a just-released report from the state Department of Public Health (DPH). But more children showed higher levels of the toxin in their blood than in 2016, the report says. In 2016, there were 105 children whose blood lead level was 20 micrograms per deciliter of blood or higher, at least four times the measure at which they’re considered poisoned. In 2017, the number had risen to 120 children. DPH epidemiologist Tsui-Min Hung said the improved overall numbers were at least partially due to the department’s more aggressive prevention activities, which 42 local health departments took advantage of, as well a social media campaign.
Jose DeJesus pulls his silver minivan out of a parking lot in back of a row of historic houses on New Haven’s Congress Avenue. He points with pride to the flowers he planted around the lot. Then he grimly spins a commentary as he gives a tour of the surrounding Hill neighborhood. • There’s the John C. Daniels School, where parents are dropping off kids and where a man overdosed and died near a rear stairwell over the summer. • Across the street, there’s the APT Foundation clinic, where clients in recovery from opioid use come every morning for methadone.
On the west and east sides of narrow Black Rock Harbor in western Bridgeport, industry, school, recreation and sewage treatment converge. At the most inland tip are Santa Energy’s oil tanks. On the east side stretch asphalt runways at Pratt & Whitney’s test airport and a city landfill. On the west side stand O & G Industries sand and stone yard, an empty industrial building, a city landfill, a trash-to-energy plant, the regional aquaculture high school, a seaport, shops, a restaurant and sailing teams’ docks. Last on this list is the Bridgeport West Side Water Pollution Control Facility, the city’s largest sewage treatment plant, which began work this year on a 20-year plan to correct chronic overflows.
With Connecticut children testing positive for lead at consistently high numbers, and millions of dollars thrown at the problem with tepid results, lawmakers may finally be stepping up to seek an effective solution. The Banking Committee is considering a bill that would create a task force to study better ways to finance the removal of the toxin from thousands of homes around the state. The task force would also investigate how to enforce abatement measures, including rental property inspections, and look into increasing workforce training in the specialized process needed to remove lead. State Department of Public Health (DPH) numbers from 2015, the latest available, show more than 72,000 children under the age of 6 testing positive for some level of lead in their blood. More than 900 children were at levels two to four times the baseline at which a child is considered poisoned.
Nearly 1,400 new cases of lead-poisoned children under age 6 were reported in Connecticut in 2015, a slight drop from the year before, but more children showed higher levels of poisoning. A child whose blood test shows 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter or higher is considered poisoned. The 2015 numbers show 98 new cases of children with lead levels of 20 micrograms or higher, four times the threshold number and a 32 percent jump from 2014. “We cannot, with any certainty, explain why this is the case,” said Krista M. Veneziano, coordinator of the Connecticut Department of Public Health’s (DPH’s) Lead, Radon, and Healthy Homes Program, about the disproportionately larger numbers of higher toxicity. Exposure to lead can damage cognitive ability, including a measurable and irreversible loss in IQ points.
A New Haven substance abuse treatment center that was fined $2,500 by the state last year has agreed to hire a temporary manager to oversee its operations as more violations have been found at the facility. Crossroads Inc., at 54 East Ramsdell St., must hire the temporary manager to act as executive director for six months to correct a number of violations that the state Department of Public Health (DPH) found during three days of inspections in May. The manager will review all staffing levels, have full access to bank accounts, review the center’s behavioral health services, and report to the state regularly on improvements, under a consent order signed Aug. 21 by Genoveva Palmieri, chairperson of Crossroads’ board of directors. In 2014, the center was fined and placed on probation for two years for multiple violations of state regulations.
The number of students suspended or expelled from schools has declined, as have in-school arrests, but minority students face disciplinary action more often than their white peers, according to a report released today by Connecticut Voices for Children. Between 2008 and 2013, in-school arrests dropped 34.8 percent statewide while expulsions declined 31 percent and out-of-school suspensions fell 46.5 percent, the report noted. The report, “Keeping Kids in Class: School Discipline in Connecticut, 2008-2013,” analyzed data provided by school districts statewide. While the drop in disciplinary actions is encouraging, Connecticut schools still have work to do, according to the advocacy group. “Extensive research shows that excluding children from school for disciplinary problems is often ineffective and even counterproductive.