Beef Recall: Food Lion

This will be on tonight…but lucky you if you are reading this now…before dinner.

The Food Lion’s in our area have issued a recall of their 93/7 low fat ground beef. They were notified Monday afternoon (11/2) by Fairbank Farms, their supplier. The recall applies to stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. 

Check your freezer/fridge…look for the Food Lion label (it came from Fairbanks but was packaged as “Food Lion” brand). If the “Sell By” date is between Sept. 21 through Oct. 8…RETURN IT and you’ll get your money back.

The media rep at Food Lion told me that the beef on the shelves now is O.K.. She also told me that there would be no interviews and I could not go inside the store to get video (shocking). When I asked her WHY the beef was being recalled…she told me to call Fairbanks. Fairbanks just returned my call…but they did not answer my questions and said they would call me later…

According to Fairbank’s website…they’re asking customer’s to “check their freezer.”

They say they recalled about 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef on October 31. THAT recall has the product “Sell By” date of Sept. 14 through Sept. 16, 2009 (so…were there two recalls?). They say that beef is possibly linked to E.coli O157:H7 .

In an effort to gross you out more….Escherichia coli O157:H7 is an enterohemorrhagic strain of the bacterium Escherichia coli. It causes bloody diarrhea and possibly kidney failure. 

We first heard about this outbreak in New England where lawsuits are reportedly being filed against this Fairbank Farms.

I’ll let you know what Fairbanks says….


Superfund Site….Continued.

I now have the documentation from the School Board that outlines the testing they did on the Holly Shelter Middle School land. My oh my…its a real page turner! About 115 pages.  I will try to read through this as soon as I can and then I’m going to send it off to a soil expert I know for review.

More to come…

In the meantime, for the parents…its impossible for me to be at every meeting and there are a bunch of other projects on my desk…so get in touch with me with any updates or any information that you think is valuable.

Superfund Site

A “superfund site” is a hazardous waste site that has been placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (E.P.A.) National Priority List (NPL). This is done based on a scoring process  that rates a site’s current or potential health impact. The “Superfund” was created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabilities Act of 1980 to clean up abandoned hazardous waste site.

In so many words…its an area of property that contains hazardous materials…and needs to be cleaned.

Here’s some background on Reasor Chemical Company. The site is located at 5100 North College Road in Castle Hayne. There is no sign for the plant and from the road, you can’t see any buildings (or remnants of…). The property is approximately 25 acres….700ft south of Holly Shelter.

Reasor operated from 1959 to 1972 as a stump rendering facility that produced pine products. Plant products and bi-products included turpentine, resin, pine oil and other compounds. By 1969 most operations had ceased and the buildings were demolished. The land was later owned by Cameron Company. It’s completely vacant now and receives no routine maintenance.

From 1997 to 1999 the EPA conducted a Remedial Investiation (RI) where 130 samples were taken from the soil, ponds and drainage ditches. The list of hazardous substances found included volatile organic solvents, metals (arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, iron and zinc), semivolatile organic compounds and dioxins. Iron levels in the surface water samples (13,000 ug/L) exceeded the Ambient Water Quality Criteria/Ambient Aquatic Life Advisory Concentration level (wow…that’s a mouthful!).

The site became a “superfund site” in 2002. Excavation, off-site disposal of contaminated soil, on-site treatment and disposal of contaminated surface water and annual groundwater monitoring began.

Those activities finished in July of 2007. On June 24th, 2008 the EPA and then-property owners inspected the site and noted that wildlife and vegetation was returning to the area. More samples were taken and the site was given the “OK” for human exposure levels.

New Hanover County School Board says that the land was re-zoned from industrial to residential. In 2008 they purchased the land in a public session. The parents I spoke with expressed concern that they were not aware of the purchase or if any other alternative sites had been on the table. Valita Quattlebalm (NHCS) says that there WAS a public meeting back in 2008 when the issue was discussed and decided.

Holly Shelter Middle School did not just *appear*…the building is nearly finished. So why are people just finding out NOW about its proximity to the superfund site? Parents I spoke with say they were completely unaware until a Parent Teacher Association meeting last week. Apparently someone brought the issue to light after a discussion about redistricting. It sent shock waves through the meeting and has ignited concern over the site’s proximity to the school…and over what they say, is a lack of communication (some call it ‘secrecy’) by the school board.

I shared that with the school board who says that there is a lot of fictitious information being spread by people who are opposed to the redistricting. The board says that some people may be using the superfund issue (which the board says is NOT new information…) as fodder against redistricting plans.

The school board says they have done their OWN tests on the area and everything has checked out. Of note…the EPA has NOT done tests at Holly Shelter Middle School. Their tests were specific to the Reasor site. Valita wanted to make clear, “New Hanover County Schools would NOT put the children in danger.” I asked today to see those tests…she said that they are available upon request at the school board office (note that you need to pay $0.15 per copy). I was not able to get down there in time to make deadline today.

So why did the school board choose THAT site versus others? Valita says they DID consider other land but based on the roads, water supply and population growth…that specific area was deemed the best. Not every parent I spoke with seems to believe that…they say that it was purchased because once a nearby site is labeled a “superfund”…the surrounding property probably becomes less expensive. I spoke with a hazardous waste expert who confirmed that that was likely true…but I have not been able to track property values for the plots of land in that area (yet).

Valita says that the property cost $45,000 per acre…the market rate for the land. I asked how it compared to other school property they’ve purchased but to be fair…that might be comparing two different things….land in Castle Hayne won’t cost what it does in Carolina Beach, for example.

One parent expressed concern over where the school would be getting their water. On-site, you can see a new water tower that’s been installed behind the school. The school is hooked up to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and will not be receiving water drafted from any underground aquifers.

This issue is sure to come up tonight at the school board meeting (6:30pm, Spencer Building 15th street). Reporter Claire Simms will be there.

Of note, it’s not unheard of for land to be redeveloped on a superfund site (we have another one near the air port). Its also not unheard of for people to suffer heath consequences after hazardous compounds are discovered near a place where people live, work and play. The E.P.A. has labeled the nearby Reasor site “safe”…the NHCSB says the school site is ALSO safe…be that as it may, for a parent, there is still that concern and unease about their  child playing in an area of such close proximity.

Sharon Keane’s response to the school board’s testing was simply, ” I think if they had to go there everyday…they might feel differently.”

Hurricane: Where do the sexual predators go?

Hurricane shelters are provided to the public for emergency shelter. “The public”…that means the good, the bad…all of us.

Well…not everywhere in America.

In Florida, the state banned sexual predators and offenders from shelters four years ago (with the exception of those on supervised parole). Instead, they can bunk up at one of the local prisons. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd isn’t throwing a pitty party…”It’s their own fault,” Judd said. “They are the ones that misbehaved. They’re the ones that were ultimately designated as a sexual offender or sexual predator. They need to go somewhere else.”

I posed this question to the Sheriff’s Office of New Hanover County. Still waiting to hear back. Then I called Warren Lee, New Hanover County Emergency Management Director….

Warren said that currently, there is no policy on sexual predators at New Hanover county’s hurricane shelters. Emergency service’s goal is to get everyone in safe and sound…and quickly. Basically, there isn’t enough time or resources (officers) to do background checks on everyone at the door.

He also said that here in New Hanover county there has not been a reported problem with predators at our shelters. Still, it may be something to be aware of if you’re heading in with your family. Not to make anyone paranoid…just aware.

Repeat offenders now wear ankle bracelets and monitors that are supposed to track them via satellite. If they go within 300 ft of a location used for minors (i.e. a school) the device is supposed to alert authorities. As you may have seen in my report on the bracelets…the device has some major limitations. Technical limitations aside…”rules” may fall by the way-side in an emergency.

Warren told me that many of the shelters are divided for women/men/families. I’ve never stayed in a shelter so I’m not sure how it works but he says the organization is done with safety in mind.

Again, I bring this up not to cause anxiety, but to reinforce caution. Often the strongest guard against any potential threat…are your own two eyes.

What do YOU think? Should sexual predators be allowed in public hurricane shelters?

“Pets” vs. Animals…Python Kills 2-Year Old Girl

This discussion comes from Al Tompkin’s  inspiration …and a little bit from my live shot yesterday.

If you were watching at 5:20 and 6:10 you saw me, with a corn snake wrapped around my neck. That snake was one of over 100 that snake guru Keith Farmer owns. Last night he was showing off about 25 out of his collection at the Halyburton Events Center as part of their nature series. His effort is to educate people about snakes…in a safe environment.

But even a snake guru…takes a bite once in a while. In fact, the first snake he put on me hissed angrily…apparently NOT a fan of Casey Roman. If even an expert can get it wrong…managing exotic animals that is…then how does the general public figure they will do any better at domesticating these animals in their homes? (As if…they were meant to be domesticated…at all…)

Yesterday, a two year old girl was killed when a pet python slithered out of its cage…into her bed…strangling her with its body and biting her head.

This was not a little serpent…this was a **12-FOOT-LONG** Burmese python.  It was owned by the little girl’s mother’s boyfriend….who ALSO owned (and kept in the house) a **6 –FOOT-LONG** boa constrictor. Aw…nothing like a cute pet for the kids….

Check out the video of these snakes…they are *enormous.* I’d imagine you’d only find a 12 foot long snake in the jungle…NOT in a small Florida home with kids running around.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a python strike…but they coil back…lunge at their prey…breaking its neck…suffocating it. Imaging that happening to a 2 year old is very disturbing…but that’s what pythons DO. They are wild animals and if you own a wild animal…expect it to act like one. Just because you pet it and named it “Slinky” doesn’t mean that when it gets hungry it wont act on its instincts.

Injury from nontraditional pets happens more than it should. In fact, last year the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued warnings about exotic pets and children. Kids love pets…pet nontraditional pets can spread disease and infection like salmonella, campylobacter and cryptosporidium. They can injure children and they can cause allergies.

The AAP also reported that the number of exotic animals available in the United States has increased by 75 percent since 1992.

The American Veterinary Medical Association found in 2007 that 386,000 households own 586,000 snakes.

The AAP says that out of 1415 human pathogens…61% are zoonotic. From 1980 to 2003…more than 32 new infectious diseases have emerged in humans…many of which are zoonoses.

Not convinced that exotic pets can harm humans???….here’s a list from the Human Society of other python attacks….

  • Indiana, 2006: A 23-year-old man was killed by his 14-foot pet reticulated python.
  • Colorado, 2002: A man died after his pet Burmese python, who was wrapped loosely around his neck, suddenly constricted.
  • Pennsylvania, 2001: An 8-year-old girl was home alone when she was apparently strangled by her father’s pet Burmese python.
  • Illinois, 1999: A couple’s 7.5-foot African rock python escaped from an enclosure and killed their 3-year-old son.
  • Colorado, 1993: A 15-year-old was killed by his brother’s 11-foot pet python.
  • Missouri, 1983: A man was crushed to death by his 16-foot pet Burmese python.
  • Nevada, 1982: An 8-foot python escaped from his cage and killed a 21-month-old boy in his crib. The snake belonged to an unrelated man who lived in the house.
  • Texas, 1980: A 7-month-old girl was killed by her father’s 8-foot pet reticulated python. The snake had forced his way out of a covered aquarium.

Crime Stoppers Need Your Help

The City of Wilmington has seen a number of arson fires in the past couple months…here’s one of the latests:

On May 23rd, a fire of ‘unknown origin’ broke out at 743 Eastwood Rd at around 4:10. Fire Investigators have no leads and are asking for the public’s help in solving this case.  There was about 150,000 worth of damage to the residence.  Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest of these individuals.  

You may contact Crime Stoppers, Text A Tip if they wish to remain anonymous or the North Carolina Arson Awareness Council at 1-800-334-3000 which also offers a reward leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this fire.  

Case Number:  2009-020586

Need Your Input: Medical Insurance Headaches

I never check my mail unless I know that Netflix has sent me something…but yesterday I was less than thrilled to find a letter from Blue Cross Blue Shield in my mailbox along with “The Gladiator.” 

I spent a good amount of time in the Emergency Room last week. The second my body felt better…a new nagging pain set in…thinking about how much it would all COST.

That’s a shame because the priority should be on getting well…not getting worried. I hate paying high premiums for my health insurance but I was happy to have it when I knew that my stay would be racking up an astronomical bill that I would not be able to pay myself.

I was SHOCKED to open the letter and find a note saying they did not think that my situation warranted “acute care”…and they will not be covering a DIME of my medical care. I’ll spare you the details…but there was no other way to describe my situation last week other than, “emergency.” If Blue Cross thought there was a wiser option for me…during an emergency…OTHER than the EMERGENCY ROOM…I would have loved to hear it.

I’ve spoken with some local care givers who told me that they are seeing more and more of this same situation…rejected claims. We talked at length about the impact that’s having on patients AND on doctors.

Personally…I’m now scared to go back to the E.R., even in an emergency, because I can hardly fathom getting stuck with ANOTHER huge bill.

I’m wondering if any of YOU have had a similar situation? Rejected claims with no explanation…



Laura Sinacori is headed out to the schools to learn more about the H1N1 outbreak. We can’t call it swine flue anymore…I guess that was hurting the swine industry. That will be her story tonight…so far they are telling us that about 100 kids have called out today.

We just had a newsroom debate over whether or not we would keep our own kids out if it was our school. My vote doesn’t really count…along with hospital bills, I *also* can’t fathom having kids…but considering how contagious the flu is, I voted ‘yes.’

I also just called to request the personnel records of Jessica Wishnask from New Hanover Schools. We have questions about any previous suspensions or incidences that may highlight some holes in the employment screening process. The second I get that…I’ll be passing it on to all of you.

If you remember the “Getting In” story from the fall where I began following a group of Seniors from Laney High as they go through the college admissions process…the big ‘reveal’ is coming up soon. I’m meeting with them this afternoon to get the final shots.

They’ve changed so much in just these months! Its been fun to watch their interviews from September and compare them to now. A lot has changed…their goals…their plans…their financial situations. They’ve jumped through so many hurdles…its been exhausting for them…and for ME! They pack more into one day them most people pack into a week…capturing all those moments has been quite a ride.

The results are in…look for that story next week.

And be safe this weekend. The “Click It Or Ticket” program is on in full force in the area…put ‘cher belts on!

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