Volume 12, Issue 3 ~ January 15-21, 2004

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Dock of the Bay

One for the Money, Two for the Show
You’d better get ready, because it’s time to go to the 34th Annual Historic Annapolis Antiques Show

Courtney Kennedy and Theresa Puckett from Ohio came early.

While the booths around them sat empty and the breakfast for dealers got cold, they went to work.

They came early because setting up is, they say, the worst part of the 34th Annual Historic Annapolis Antiques Show.

“There’s nothing nice about setting up,” said Puckett.

“It’s going to be a busy few days,” echoed Kennedy laying out business cards on the table that their antiquities will adorn later in the day.

photo by Louis Llovio
Antiques from around the country are unoacked for the Historic Annapolis Antiques Show.
This was the Ohioans first trip back to the show after a 15-year absence. That’s fitting, for this is the first time the show has been hosted by the Historic Annapolis Foundation in more than 20 years.

“London Town had run out of steam,” said Greg Stiverson, who moved from director of the London Town Foundation to the same position with the Historic Annapolis Foundation. “So when the opportunity came around, we took it.”

Stiverson is quick to diffuse any idea that his move to Annapolis precipitated the show’s move.

“We were already going to give it up when I accepted my position in Annapolis,” he explained.

Putting on the show takes a tremendous effort, and Stiverson says the London Town volunteers just got tired. “After a little while, it became work,” he said.

A sentiment echoed by the dealers from Ohio.

“It’s amazing it even comes together,” said Kennedy, looking around the empty stalls 32 other dealers had barely begun to decorate just a day before the show began.

The busiest person at the National Guard Armory the morning before the show officially kicked off was the Antique Show’s producer Robert Armacost.

“I’ve got dealers signed up to do the show about a year in advance,” said Armacost. “I do floor plans and advertising, make arrangements for physical setup — walls for the booths, porters to bring merchandise, insurance liability.”

That’s all before the first visitor steps through the front door.

Then, said Stiverson, “It’s great fun. We bring dealers from the U.S. and England with medium- to high-end antiquities that aren’t found just anywhere.”

Specialty dealers bring Oriental rugs, rare prints, furniture, medieval illuminated manuscripts and much more. From pottery to jewelry, the wares cover the spectrum.

This year, the show highlights the silver of Annapolis, with symposiums on the history of silversmiths in the area and their effect not just here but in the antiques world.

“We see this primarily as an educational opportunity,” said Stiverson. “Visitors can go in, ask questions and learn. And, hopefully, find something to treasure in their homes.”

But first, the hardest work must be done. Like a traveling circus, dealers have to put up their booths before showing their work for four days. They take it all back down before heading out to another city.

Puckett and Kennedy go back home for a couple of weeks before heading out to Nashville.

“In a couple of days, we’ll look a little nicer than we do now,” laughed Puckett of her jeans and sweatshirt.

As Stiverson and Armacost know, so will the Armory.

— Louis Llovio

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Big, Bad Chemicals
Our drains are flushing a toxic brew into Chesapeake Bay

When you do your laundry, steam clean your rug, fertilize your lawn, change your motor oil and heat your home, you are inadvertently releasing toxic chemicals into Chesapeake Bay. The fragrance in your deodorant, the flame retardant in your sofa cushions, the Scotch Guard on your carpet, any pharmaceuticals you swallow: All of these eventually go down the drain, and at the end of the drain is the Chesapeake.

“Anything we make that is persistent eventually ends up in the Bay,” says Joel Baker, research scientist at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons. Among the toxins are those big bad boys of the aquatic pollution family that scientists call PBTs.

Photo by J. Baker, CBL
Andrew Chang and Chrisine Falco from the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory collect water samples from Baltimore Harbor aboard the University of Maryland’s R/V Aquarius.
PBT stands for persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals. They’re persistent because they resist degradation and remain in the environment for long periods. Bioaccumulative means they are stored in the fatty tissues of organisms and travel up the food chain, increasing in quantity at every feeding level. Thus when one big fish eats lots of little fish, the big fish accumulates greater and greater levels of these poisons.

What do PBTs mean for animals and humans who take their meals from the Chesapeake? Exact answers haven’t yet been pulled from the tangle of threats we pose ourselves, but examples from the past remind us that consequences can be serious.

Remember the effects of DDT on populations of eagles and osprey in the 1960s and 1970s, before that chemical was banned from our fields? DDT itself is not a persistent chemical, but it breaks down into a persistent chemical called DDE, which stops birds from forming proper eggshells. The bioaccumulation of DDE caused years of reproductive failure in eagles and ospreys. In human populations, developmental problems such as hyperactivity and lower intelligence, as well as certain cancers, have been linked to exposure to DDT.

Baker’s lab of 12 researchers tracks persistent chemicals in the Bay. This is trickier than tracking a specific chemical to a specific pipe outflow. Chemicals are all around us. Running off from asphalt parking lots and agricultural fields, they are combined in complex mixtures. In the Bay, they may recombine to form a really nasty chemical soup.

Like a cop on a criminal investigation, Baker uses fingerprinting to identify the bad guys.

“Any natural water, including the Chesapeake Bay, contains literally thousands of chemicals. Many are natural — sugars, proteins, pigments produced by algae, for example. Some are man-made — pesticides, components of burning, consumer products. Our approach is to measure the levels of many different chemicals in the water and relate these ‘fingerprints’ to known pollutants,” Baker explained.

“For example,” he said, “if we measure the chemical composition of treated effluent from a sewage treatment plant and we find this same composition in a water sample downstream, we can estimate how much influence the sewage treatment plant is having on the Bay’s water quality.”

photo by K. Falco, CBL
Joel Baker deploys a water quality sensor package from the University of Maryland’s R/V Aquarius in the Baltimore Harbor.
The challenge is enormous, particularly as new chemicals, called ‘emerging environmental contaminants,’ continually enter the picture — and the watershed. Among the bad boys pouring into the Bay are the polybrominated diphenyl ethers or BDEs, a class of flame-retardants used in textiles, furniture, building products and electronic equipment. Virtually nonexistent 20 years ago, they are rapidly increasing in concentration in the environment.

Imagine steam cleaning your carpet. The water, laced with BDEs, goes down the drain, into the Bay where it settles in sediments, is taken up by plankton and bottom dwellers, who are in turn eaten by fish, mammals, birds and humans in ever increasing amounts. BDEs have already turned up in human breast milk and in birds.

In spite of what we know about DDT and other classic chemicals like PCBs, says Baker, regulation of new chemicals is not easy. “For some of the ‘classic’ chemicals, the toxicology is fairly well understood, and we can set rational guidelines, although people still argue, just as they do about cigarette smoke,” he says.

In the U.S., new chemicals — like criminal suspects — are innocent until proven guilty. Which means they’ll have a legacy of crime behind them before we go after them.

“For ‘new’ chemicals such as BDEs, it will likely be years before enough studies are done to document the health effects of these chemicals. The problem is that once these things are in the environment, it may be difficult and expensive to clean up the system,” says Baker.

In contrast, Europeans use the ‘precautionary principle’ to assess risk, requiring that industry and government prove that new products are safe before use. BDEs are already banned in the European Union and in California, where aggressive antipollution laws make the difference.

In Maryland, BDEs have made it as far as the Maryland Department of the Environment’s chemical watch list. Baker’s lab works as an advisory body to that agency, whose Fish Tissue Monitoring Program samples recreational and commercial fisheries on a five-year cycle so that every year about one-fifth of the state’s waters are sampled. Fish are analyzed for a variety of chemicals, including metals, mercury, PCBs and the new BDEs. The state uses this data to advise us on what’s safe to eat.

But that’s a very imperfect science. Chemists have no trouble measuring very small quantities of chemicals in fish; what’s not easy is determining the consequences for us fish-eaters.

— Martha Blume

Non-toxic Alternatives Keep the Bay Healthy
Want to do be kind to the Bay? Here are some non-toxic alternatives to products you use in your home. A number of commercial green products are also available from companies such as Seventh Generation, ECOS and Ecover, among others.

  • Glass cleaner: 1 part vinegar; 2 parts water.

  • Abrasive cleaner: Rub area with one-half lemon dipped in Borax (rinse and dry).

  • Drain cleaner: Pour one-half cup baking soda down the drain; Mix one-half cup of vinegar with 1 cup of boiling water and pour it down the drain on top of the baking soda.

  • All purpose cleaner: 1 quart warm water; 4 Tbsp baking soda; 1 tsp vinegar
    Carpet stains: Baking soda plus water or club soda

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Doña Quixote Takes on Big Business
Local environmentalist urges residents to shop close to home

Don Quixote took on windmills in La Mancha. In Annapolis, Anne Pearson is taking on Wal-Mart.

She’s hoping for better results than Don Quixote.

Pearson, a veteran of many battles in the environmental movement, is leading the charge to get citizens shopping at local stores.

Shopping local helps us all by enriching business owners, employees and the local economy.

“Local businesses pay more, hire more per square foot of space, are more stable and are more loyal to locals,” she explains. “Why should the money go back to a billionaire corporation’s headquarters when it can stay right here, in our economy?”

Anne Pearson wants locals to shop locally, saving on driving, emissions and strengthening the local economy.
Getting people to think with her is the first step in this Doña Quixote’s quest. To convince citizens and local politicians, Pearson has begun a drive to raise money to study the impact of ‘big box’ or chain stores and their effects on local communities. She hopes that author and economist Michael Shuman will lead the study.

Shuman has led similar studies in St. Lawrence County, New York, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

His clout is part of Pearson’s plan to get results.

“We’ll use the study to institute legislation that limits big boxes that suck money out of the local economy and damage quality of place,” she says.

Pearson wasn’t always taking on windmills.

After half a century in Annapolis, she moved her family to the woods near Easton. “I owed it to my children to pass on basic values,” she says.

One midnight she was skiing back to the log cabin she shared with her children when, seeing the snow draped over the evergreens, she thanked God for letting her own such a beautiful spot.

Then she caught herself.

“I suddenly realized,” said Pearson, “that I don’t own this.”

Correcting herself, she thanked God for letting her live there.

Soon, she returned to Annapolis to create the Alliance for a Sustainable Community.

“We work with representatives from all levels of government, citizens and innovators to reduce our impact on the earth,” says Pearson of the organization she began in 1994.

Now, though, her focus is on Annapolis and its local merchants.

“Locally owned business’ cater to their customer better,” she argues. “They are willing to go the extra mile to make you happy.”

What’s more, shopping locally will, in the long run, lead to a cleaner Bay and less pollution.

“Annapolis is a walking town,” says Pearson. “If people shopped downtown, they could walk or ride bikes. Most pollution comes from cars. Less cars, less pollution.”

Like Quixote, Pearson believes she can take on more than one windmill at a time.

Annapolis’ local merchants hope she can.

To donate or help with the study: Alliance For Community Education. 410/956-1002 • [email protected].

— Louis Llovio

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AA County’s 20-Acre Remedy
New rule minimizes sediment loss from construction sites

Do you avert your eyes at sprawling construction sites with every tree gone and the earth eroding into ditches and streams?

Anne Arundel County opened the year with a new policy to limit those troubling vistas — sort of.

The county Soil Conservation District says large developments can clear land only in 20-acre parcels, meaning that more land can’t be cleared until the initial 20 acres is stabilized.

The new initiative, County Executive Janet Owens said in a statement, “will help decrease the damaging effects that large-scale construction can have on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. It’s a policy that balances development activity and the needs of our environment.”

The Department of Inspections and Permits will enforce the policy. In other words, a county inspector can presumably slow down a project if a developer leaves the land open to runoff.

— Bay Weekly

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Way Downstream …

In Southern Anne Arundel County, locals fighting to keep the public land at Franklin Point pristine and free of ballfields have a suggestion for a name to honor a local hero who died unexpectedly this month: Gus Jackson Nature Preserve, after the geologist and activist from Shady Side who worked for environmental and humanitarian causes until dying of malaria New Year’s Day …

In Cecil County, the Susquehanna National Wildlife Refuge will be expanding. Neither the feds nor the state are investing much in land preservation, but a resolution just passed by Congress will let the Fish and Wildlife Service buy Garrett Island from private owners …

In the Florida Keys, John Cunningham is convinced he’s invented just what people need in this era of anthrax and killer germs: a germicidal mailbox. Cunningham received a patent recently for a device that sterilizes incoming letters by irradiation from a moving ultraviolet light triggered when the mailbox is closed. No word on what it does to grandma’s chocolate chip cookies …

Our Creature Feature comes from the High Plains of America where, thanks to Mad Cow Disease, there may be a comeback by what was once western America’s greatest source of food: bison. Analysts see the bison, or buffalo, becoming more popular if fear of beef persists.

Besides being much leaner than beef, bison are raised in a more healthful fashion. They are fed grass or perhaps corn and potatoes for several months before they are slaughtered and not fed antibiotics, hormones or the sort of animal byproducts believed to be at the root of Mad Cow Disease. Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association, told Reuters “We would much prefer people call up and ask about bison because they hear that it tastes great.”

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Last updated January 15, 2004 @ 12:13am.