NoteWorthy – 2/21/21
AROUND THE VALLEY
Massachusetts Sewage Notification Bill Signed into Law
Under legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker, a statewide sewage discharge notification system will be established to alert residents when such discharges make public rivers and beaches unsafe.
An act promoting awareness of sewage pollution in public waters, sponsored by Sen. Pat Jehlen and co-sponsored by Sen. Diana DiZoglio alongside House sponsors Reps. Denise Provost and Linda Dean Campbell, was introduced in response to pollution issues that for decades have plagued the Commonwealth’s public waters, namely discharge from combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
A recent report released by the nonprofit Environment America found that “each year in the U.S., swimmers in oceans, lakes, rivers and ponds suffer from an estimated 57 million cases of recreational waterborne illness.” It also found that “an analysis of fecal indicator bacteria sampling data from beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states and Puerto Rico reveals that 386 beaches — nearly one of every eight surveyed — were potentially unsafe on at least 25 percent of the days that sampling took place last year.”
“As many know, we’ve done a tremendous amount of work as a region to highlight this issue – to the point of kayaking the entire 117-mile-long length of the Merrimack River to help raise awareness,” said DiZoglio, following her remarks at the legislation’s bill signing ceremony. “This legislation is long overdue to keep the public informed about sewage overflows into our beloved Merrimack River and all waterways across the Commonwealth. It is just one step and we have much more work to do but we must celebrate this significant step in the right direction that was able to be accomplished through teamwork. Thank you to all residents and advocates who have been pushing for years for this. Your persistence and determination made this happen. Thanks to Governor Baker for signing this important bill into law.”
Researchers Pioneer 3D Imaging to Detect Breast Cancer, COVID-19 and Other Diseases
A UMass Lowell (UML) research team is pioneering a new 3D imaging technique to better detect breast cancer and other diseases, including COVID-19.
The noninvasive medical technology uses specialized contrasting dye that recognizes breast cancer cells, allowing practitioners to better visualize human tissue inside the body. The dye amplifies the X-ray signal in tumors when used together with a state-of-the-art computed tomography (CT) scanner, called a “photon-counting spectral CT,” which produces multi-colored, 3D images.
Leading the project is UML Chemistry Assistant Prof. Manos Gkikas with team members Hengyong Yu, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Mary Rusckowski, associate professor of radiology at UMass Medical School in Worcester. UML doctoral students Shayesteh Tafazoli, Dayang Wang and Yongshun Xu, all of Lowell, are contributing to the work under the direction of Gkikas and Yu.
The research team believes the combined use of the specialized dye and the colored 3D X-ray images generated by spectral CT will revolutionize medical imaging. Moreover, unlike conventional contrasting agents, the specialized dye being developed by the research team can specifically target cancer cells and remain in the body for an extended time, which would improve the accuracy of diagnoses, according to Gkikas.
The imaging would also allow practitioners to track a tumor’s progression in primary breast cancer. In addition, the researchers hope to expand the technology to one day detect secondary, metastatic cancers that have spread beyond their primary site to other tissues or organs in the body. Such metastatic cancers can sometimes emerge anywhere from four to 10 years after treatment of the original cancer, according to Gkikas.
In a separate project funded by UMass Lowell, Gkikas is applying the imaging technique to detect COVID-19 and track the progress of lung inflammation in patients coping with the disease.
Essex County Greenbelt Announces Next Farmers for former Green Meadows Farm
After a yearlong process of proposals and vetting applicants, Essex County Greenbelt announced that Iron Ox Farm of Topsfield will be the new farm operator at the former Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton and Topsfield starting in 2021.
Iron Ox Farm’s principals, Alex Cecchinelli and Stacy Apple, have had success in the past years growing their business. Using organic and regenerative methods, Iron Ox produces high quality vegetables for customers, farmers markets and wholesale to restaurants. Like many farmers, Cechinelli and Apple found ways to ramp up their production to feed the increased demand that they saw in 2020 as a result of COVID.
Iron Ox plans to continue to utilize their existing fields at Nutter Farm while starting the process of reopening the former Green Meadows. Future plans include expanding the CSA and reestablishing the farm stand, formerly a vibrant community space.
Iron Ox plans to have their farm fully transitioned to the former Green Meadows site by spring 2022 with continued sales to local restaurants and the opening of a farm stand. Their long-term plans will be to grow the farm into a community hub where people can come to learn more about agriculture, get involved with their food and enjoy nature together.
MRT Receives National New Play Network Grant for Vichet Chum Play
The National New Play Network (NNPN) announced last week that Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) will receive one of its first “Bridge Program” grants for “Kween” by Vichet Chum, a quick-witted, inspirational story of a 16-year-old, Cambodian American Lowell High School student who aspires to be a poet under the alias Khmer Kerouac. The $10,000 grant is one of only 18 nationwide.
The Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association will partner on the production, which will premiere in a later season.
The NNPN created the Bridge Program this year to support new work “centering Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC) artists and anti-racist practices within its member theatres.” The D.C.-based Network is an alliance of professional theaters that collaborate in innovative ways to develop new works.
A frequent MRT collaborator, Cambodian-American playwright and actor Chum appeared here in 2018 in his autobiographical play “KNYUM.” He also appeared the next year in “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” and “Jack Kerouac’s The Haunted Life.” His plays focus on Cambodian American stories.
NNPN said, “’Kween’ follows 16-year-old Soma, a Cambodian American student at Lowell High School, who discovers her secret powers as a poet. Under the alias of the Khmer Kerouac, Soma’s new-found passion arises against the back drop of her father’s recent deportation, her mother’s journey to Cambodia to rectify the situation, and her sister Dahvy’s upcoming wedding.”
NECC Faculty Receive National Honors for Excellence
Five Northern Essex Community College faculty were recently named recipients of the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Awards for Excellence, a national honor that recognizes outstanding faculty and staff working at the country’s community colleges. NISOD’s Excellence Awards recognize men and women each year who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment and contribution to their students and colleagues
This year’s recipients include Tom Greene of Salem, Mass., professor, English; Scott Joubert of Oxford, professor, criminal justice; Sharon McDermot of Amesbury, adjunct professor, business; Kristen Sparrow of Haverhill, assistant professor, computer information sciences; and Sue Tashjian of Haverhill, coordinator of instructional technology and online learning.
Greater Lowell Community Foundation Tackles Barriers to Food in Latest COVID-19 Response
The Greater Lowell Community Foundation (GLCF) announced a new round of COVID-19 related grants, providing an additional $72,000 to seven area nonprofits in Greater Lowell addressing mobile pantry and food delivery needs. These grants were part of the latest round of distributions from the GLCF COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.
The organizations selected have continued to meet an unprecedented spike in demand for access to food amid the coronavirus crisis.
According to a recent report released by Feeding America in October 2020, Massachusetts has the highest projected rate percent change in food insecurity between 2018 and 2020 at 59%. Greater Lowell nonprofits addressing food insecurity report a record increase in the number of people needing assistance, with an average increase of 55% more demand than before the pandemic. Feeding America has found that roughly 4 in 10 people visiting food banks had not received food assistance before the pandemic.
The the seven nonprofits receiving grants from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to address food insecurity are: Carlisle Council on Aging, Catie’s Closet, Inc., Gaining Ground, Inc., Merrimack Valley Food Bank, Inc., People Helping People, Inc., The Cameron Senior Center in Westford and Open Table.
International Institute of New England to be Housed at Lowell Community Health Center
The two organizations have a long-standing collaboration to provide social services, education, and physical and behavioral healthcare to Lowell’s refugee and immigrant communities.
IINE was founded in Lowell in 1918 and has operated continuously for 103 years. Co-locating with Lowell CHC will provide a “one stop shop,” where refugee and immigrant community members can meet with their primary care provider, case manager, and immigration attorney; enroll in MassHealth; attend English classes; and prepare for careers in healthcare, all in one welcoming, accessible environment. IINE offices will be located on the second floor of Lowell CHC’s 101 Jackson Street location.
Eversource and National Grid Announce 2021 Municipal Partnership Participants
The Sponsors of Mass Save announced that Andover, Cambridge, Chelsea, Framingham, Haverhill, Lawrence, Marshfield, Methuen and Westborough have been selected to participate in the 2021 Municipal Partnership and will benefit from funding and support to implement energy efficiency outreach in their communities. The Mass Save Sponsors serving the cities and towns selected for the Municipal Partnership effort include Eversource and National Grid.
The Municipal Partnership provides grants of up to $25,000 to Massachusetts municipalities that meet the partnership’s goals for implementing energy efficiency outreach in their residential and small business communities and achieve exceptional energy savings by completing energy assessments and the installation of energy upgrades. These incentives are in addition to energy efficiency incentives already available to residents.
In addition to providing a financial incentive, these communities will have support throughout the duration of the year including collaboration calls with municipalities to learn best practices for outreach and local event support.
Joel Hellmann and John Chemaly Announce Retirement from Home Health Foundation Board of Trustees
Since joining the board in 2004, Joel Hellmann’s fellow members have relied on his clinical expertise regarding services, insights into healthcare trends. A resident of Methuen, he served on numerous committees including finance, compensation and strategic planning.
In his 12 years on the Board of Trustees, John Chemaly of Chelmsford supported Home Health Foundation with his keen business knowledge, health care industry passion and community advocacy. His committee involvement included governance and nominating, compensation and strategic planning.
Karen Gomes, president and CEO of Home Health Foundation, said it has been a “privilege and honor” to work alongside Hellmann and Chemaly. “We thank Joel and John for strengthening our organization through their time, talent and friendship,” she said. “We wish them all the best in the next chapters of their careers and lives.”
Pentucket Bank Purchases 4th Floor of Pentucket Bank Plaza at Harbor Place
Pentucket Bank announce the purchase of the fourth floor of the Pentucket Bank Plaza building at Harbor Place in Haverhill.
Pentucket Bank currently occupies the entire fourth floor of the building with several of their administrative offices, which began as a ten-year lease agreement in 2016. Following Pentucket Bank’s commitment, others, such as UMass Lowell, MTM Insurance Company and HC Media Inc. signed their respective occupancy agreements and the Harbor Place development project proceeded to completion and the Pentucket Bank Plaza building is now fully occupied.
As part of their initial, early phase lease commitment, Pentucket Bank negotiated naming rights to the commercial building, now known as Pentucket Bank Plaza at Harbor Place. Pentucket Bank Plaza at Harbor Place is located directly across the street from the bank’s Main Office Branch and office building at One Merrimack Street, anchoring Pentucket Bank on both corners of a gateway into Haverhill’s downtown district.
Check out the latest episode of The 495 Podcast!
Hungry? Join us this week on The 495 as we sit down with restaurateur Caroline Jolliffe, whose just-opened Newburyport restaurant The Joy Nest promises live jazz, boozy cocktails and a classic speakeasy environment. Click here to listen.