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The epidemic by the numbers

CONCORD — The New Hampshire Drug Monitoring Initiative, a project of Information and Analysis Center of the Department of Safety, yesterday issued its report on opiate use, treatment and overdoses for January and February 2015, offering a statistical profile of what many are calling an epidemic.

During the first two months of 2015 heroin use accounted for 73 visits to emergency departments, nearly one quarter of the number of visits the year before and significantly more than in the same months in the three prior years. The authors of the report note that the numbers mirror the trend of the two earlier years, which began with fewer visits then posted a spike in the summer months followed by a steeper rise in the fourth quarter.

The two most populous counties — Hillsborough and Rockingham — recorded the most heroin use visits to emergency departments in the past three months, 41 and 35 respectively, followed by Belknap County with 11. During the same period admissions to treatment programs for heroin and prescription opiate use were 201 in Hillsborough County, 64 in Strafford County, 55 in Rockingham County, 44 in Grafton County and 32 in Belknap County.

Narcan was administered to 276 persons in December, 207 persons in January an 209 persons in February, tracking the decline in emergency department visits and treatment admissions from their peak in the last months of 2014. In Belknap County 34 persons were treated with Narcan in the three-month period. Laconia ranked among the top ten municipalities for the number of Narcan administrations in 2011 and 2012 and ranks in sixth place so far in 2015. During the same period, Laconia placed second in 2011 and 2012 and third in 2013 among municipalities ranked by the number of Narcan administrations per 1,000 residents.

The number of deaths from drug overdoses has risen from 177 in 2010 to 300 in 2014 and jumped 55 percent, from 193 to 300 from 2013 to 2014. Deaths related to heroin have risen from 19 in 2010 to 96 in 2014 and rose 152 percent — from 38 to 96 — between 2012 and 2014. Deaths from fentanyl, a synthetic opiate 15 to 20 times more potent than heroin, rose from the teens between 2010 and 2013 to 128 in 2014, an increase of 611 percent.

There were 14 deaths from overdoses in Belknap County in 2014, ten of them in Laconia, where two people died from overdoses in the first two months of 2015.

Little more than half those visiting emergency departments for heroin use in the first three months of this year were aged 20 to 29 while those aged 30 to 39 represented a quarter of the total and nearly three-quarters were men. Of the 300 who died from overdoses in 2014, 68 were aged 20 to 29, 60 aged 30 to 39, 48 aged 40 to 49 and 62 aged 50 to 59 while 58 percent were men.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 April 2015 12:12

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Small fire at N.H. Ball Bearing

LACONIA — An employee quickly extinguished a small fire that broke out in the New Hampshire Ball Bearing plant on Lexington Drive early yesterday morning.

Hans Baker, a spokesman for the company, said two employees spotted the fire in the washing system on the shop floor at 5:45 a.m. One initiated the emergency procedures, including the evacuation of the building while the other doused the flames with a fire extinguisher.

A crew from the Laconia Fire Department responded, found the fire extinguished and cleared the scene at 6:15 a.m. No one was injured in the incident and property damage was minor.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 March 2015 12:52

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LRPA close to hiring part-time station manager

LACONIA — Lakes Region Public Access television is close to hiring a part-time station manager, according to board of directors Chairman Chan Eddy, who says that the job has been offered to a candidate who has a strong sales and marketing background.
The station has been managed in recent months by interim Program Director Shane Selling, who is also a consultant to LRPA-TV. Selling was named to that position in early January after the directors, citing financial challenges, fired long-time station manager Denise Beauchaine.
Eddy said that the board of directors approved a new fee schedule when they met Friday which will see member communities billed $5.25 per MetroCast Cablevision subscriber, a rate which will see Laconia pay $26,772.50 compared to the $40,000 it has been billed in recent years. Laconia has 5,090 MetroCast subscribers.
He said that the Scott Dunn, Gilford town administrator and chairman of the Lakes Region Cable TV Consortium, was able to obtain updated and accurate numbers from MetroCast on the number of subscribers in each member community.
''We had the number of total subscribers, but that included Internet service subscribers as well. He was able to get that broken down into just video subscribers so we could make accurate calculations,'' said Eddy.
He said that Gilford, where Eddy was recently elected as selectman, recently approved $21,939.75 in funds for LRPA-TV, a vote he abstained on because of his affiliation with the organization. Gilford has 2,727 subscribers and based on the new fee will be billed $14,316 in the future.
Meredith, which has 2,216 subscribers and will be billed $11,634 and Belmont, which has 1,652 subscribers, will be billed $8,673. Franklin, should it choose to again be affiliated with LRPA-TV, has 1,979 subscribers and would pay $10,389.75.
''We're making less than previously and there will be a shortfall in our revenue but we're looking to correct that,'' said Eddy, who noted that Belknap County Commissioners have included $5,000 in their recently approved budget, which will allow the station to continue to cover important meetings of the commissioners as well as the county convention.
Last year was a trying year for LRPA-TV, which at one point was looking at going out of business at midnight on Wednesday, October 22.
The board of directors held an emergency meeting in mid-October at which they voted unanimously to send out bills to member communities requesting the original amounts that would have been paid rather than those adopted as part of a new business plan the board had hoped to implement earlier in then year.
Laconia, Meredith and Belmont agreed to pay those bills, and were later joined by Gilford, providing sufficient funds to keep the station in operation into 2015.
The board recently voted to withhold its signal from 13 towns in the Lakes Region that declined its offer to dues and contribute to the LRPA-TV operating budget.
Alexandria, Alton, Barnstead, Bridgewater, Bristol, Deerfield, Gilmanton, Hebron, New Hampton, Northfield, Pittsfield, Sanbornton and Tilton were scheduled to go dark on March 20. Only Alton had been a paying member of LRPA. The other towns did not provide programming to the public access channels, but received the signal via MetroCast channels 24, 25 and 26.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 March 2015 12:49

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Northfield & Tilton residents join Belmont protesters of waste station expansion

BELMONT — Residents of Tilton and Northfield joined their Belmont neighbors last week to voice their displeasure about adding solid waste transfers to services already provided at the Bestway/Casella Waste Systems facility on Rte. 140.

Of the nearly 60 people who jammed into the Corner Meeting House for a hearing hosted by the N.H. Department of Environmental Science, almost all of them were concerned about the potential for contaminating the large fresh-water aquifer that lies beneath the site.

As it stands right now, the Casella facility accepts only construction debris and recyclables at the site. That material is packed together and brought to Massachusetts for sorting and final disposal.

The new proposal, which has tacit approval from the Belmont Planning Board should all of the conditions of the DES be met, would allow household waste to be brought there by haulers, loaded into trucks and taken to one of Casella's facilities in Berlin or Allenstown.

The Rte. 140 facility would still process recyclables and construction debris, however its overall capacity would increase from a daily maximum of 153 tons to a daily maximum of 500 tons. Casella estimates they will initially handle between 300 and 350 tons of material daily.

A long-time opponent of a solid waste facility on Rte. 140, George Condodemetraky, said he would like to see Casella take out a performance bond that could, should there be a problem, provide some compensation to residents of the three communities that depend almost exclusively on the aquifer for their water.

"If the aquifer gets polluted, who will build us a new one?" he asked, to which hearing officer Michael Guilroy replied that the DES was not there to answer hypothetical questions.

Casella said that there is a performance bond already in place but it is only for closing the facility — not for any potential damage to groundwater around.

Condodemetraky also noted that despite the regulations regarding disposal of hazardous household waste like lithium batteries and fluorescent lighting, homeowners still put them in the trash and contaminated leachate can get into the aquifer.

Condodemetraky said that he wanted people to know that there is nothing wrong with Casella as a company and that they do as good of a job as any similar company. His concerns are with the location of the facility.

He also noted that nearly 800,000 gallons of a day is pumped from the aquifer for use by the three communities it supports.

Roger Mattie of Belmont questioned the DES's role and wanted the agency to ask Casella for test wells. He also told DES representatives that the discussion was about local drinking water and he felt the Planning Board should have better regulated it.

Guilroy didn't want to hear it. He said a DES hearing can't be turned into a forum about what the town of Belmont should or shouldn't do.

Mattie then asked what was the purpose of the DES hearing other that to be a "rubber stamp" for the Belmont Planning Board.

Some of the more impassioned statements came from residents of Tilton and Northfield. At least two Tilton selectmen were in attendance as were members of the Tilton-Northfield Water District — including it's chair, Scott Davis.

Davis told Guilroy that the Rte. 140 aquifer was the sole source of water for all of Tilton and Northfield and the only source of water for four schools and the New Hampshire Veteran's Home.

"If we were to lose our water, what will the state do?" he asked.

Davis said the water district "owns and operates" a public water supply that includes two high-volume gravel-pack wells that are operating within 3,000-feet of the Casella site.

In a printout he distributed to the DES representatives and the media, he said those two wells supply water for Tilton and Northfield and that a wellhead protection area was established for the area in question in the mid-1990s.

Davis pointed out that under state law the protection area is classified as a GA2 — or a "potentially valuable, stratified drift aquifer".

He said the water district believes the area should be reclassified as a GAA — or a "delineated wellhead protection area."

Davis requested an immediate reclassification by the DES so that Casella's proposed use as a solid waste transfer facility can be evaluated under more stringent guidelines.

Others had questions about traffic, to which Casella said there should be no noticeable difference because the same number of trucks will be entering and exiting Rte. 140.

Many spoke about storm water runoff and how Casella would handle "hot loads", or loads of refuse that come to them that are smoking or on fire.

A Casella representative said the vast majority of the "hot loads" come from improperly disposed pool chemicals. He said the chemicals are isolated and a contractor who deals in those chemicals is called.

Casella representatives said there has been two fires that required fire department intervention in the past few years and one didn't involve a load of trash — a truck caught fire. In the one fire where a load was on fire, the contents were removed from the truck and the blaze was extinguished by the Fire Department.

Residents said this is exactly the scenario they fear the most — a fire that leads to water runoff.

The next step is for the DES to evaluate the public input as it relates to its own regulations and either issue the permit or deny it.

At press time, the turnaround period for the DES decision is unknown.

(Disclosure: The author of this article has a financial interest in Casella Waste Systems.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 March 2015 12:45

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