Wednesday's Day article outlines the situation--the fountain is equipped with a chlorination and filtration system, "City Manager Denise Rose told councilors Tuesday that the city is taking steps to address the problem, including adding surveillance cameras to the Water Street Parking Garage to monitor the Parade and posting signs that advise the public not to drink the water or bathe in it." Wednesday's Day Editorial (reproduced below) puts the incident into proper perspective:Article published Jun 8, 2011:
above: reporters from ABC News on the Parade
Some perspective, please
It was disheartening to read Tuesday's story in this newspaper, "Whale tail turns into outdoor toilet." It is giving this city national and even international attention from news organizations for all the wrong reasons.
We caution the public to keep this matter in perspective.
City officials turned off the whale tail fountain on New London's just-refurbished Parade plaza Monday after a disturbing incident there last Friday. A drunken man who had defecated on himself partially disrobed and stood beneath the stream of water to clean himself.
It was a disgusting and disturbing act, but the city responded swiftly and appropriately. The police department's deputy chief, Marshall Segar, was driving past just after 8 a.m. and witnessed the incident. He ordered the man, later identified as 47-year-old Andrew W. Cook, out of the fountain, and called for backup and an ambulance.
Mr. Cook, charged with disorderly conduct and second-degree threatening from a prior warrant, was taken by ambulance to the hospital for evaluation and is currently in jail.
Public works employees hosed down the plaza and added additional chlorine to the fountain's recycling pool. A short time later, the plaza hosted a successful kick-off to this summer's first weekly farmers market and "Previews on Parade," a noontime entertainment event held Fridays.
So how did the actions of an intoxicated vagrant escalate out of perspective? The old-fashioned way, word of mouth and embellishment. Over the weekend talk of the incident and another a day earlier, in which an intoxicated man fell down steps on the Parade plaza, spread.
At Monday's City Council meeting, councilor and mayoral candidate Michael Buscetto III, responding to two public comments about the reports, raised concerns about the "sanitary aspect" of the water in the fountain. On Tuesday, in a follow-up conversation, Mr. Buscetto told us, "People are showering in it with soap. People are peeing in it. They're soiling in it. People are rinsing blood off in it."
Really? Neither police nor fire officials could document that bad behavior. If the city is going to discuss problems related to homelessness, let's base it on known facts, not hearsay and hysteria.
Catherine Zall, executive director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, said her group has begun meeting with representatives of the fire department, New London's new social services employee, emergency room staff, and others, to identify the so-called "frequent fliers" who repeatedly cause disturbances downtown and look for ways to deal with them. She estimates that problem population at five or six.
That's a reasonable approach. Overhyping an incident that reflects negatively on a project that can play an important role in the downtown's continued progress is not reasonable, nor helpful.
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Here is what he wrote:
Fountain Called ‘Jewel’ of a Connecticut Waterfront Becomes a Health Concern
C.M. Glover For The New York Times NYTCREDIT: C.M. Glover for The New York Times
The fountain of a whale’s tail in New London, Conn., was shut down because of contamination, and officials are deciding if it can even be called a fountain.
By JOSEPH BERGER
Published: June 8, 2011
NEW LONDON, Conn. — It was envisioned as a striking centerpiece of this city’s revitalized waterfront, an eight-foot-high blackened sculpture of an upright whale’s tail from which water gushes in a gentle waterfall that allows children to frolic underneath.
But it did not take long for the fountain, which opened about two weeks ago, to become mired in the fear of contaminated water and the political tumult of an approaching mayor’s race.
Last Friday, a 47-year-old homeless man who hung around the waterfront’s downtown plaza washed his soiled clothes in the fountain. Witnesses called the police and an ambulance, and soon officials from public works, health and fire departments arrived.
By Monday, the fountain was shut because of contamination in the recycled water. By that evening, the fountain was a focus of the regular New London City Council meeting, with one resident complaining that people were urinating in the fountain and that it had become an “$11 million bathroom.”
The public health issue there resurrected lingering bitterness over the $11 million — most of it federal and state money — that was spent to help revitalize the waterfront of a deep-port city famous for more oceanic water pursuits. The project included a tiled plaza, an amphitheater and the disputed whale’s tail fountain, which does not have an enclosing bowl typical of, say Fontana di Trevi in Rome, but looks more like the kind of sloping park sprinklers familiar to New Yorkers.
Those who initially opposed the project, like Michael Buscetto III, a Democratic councilman who is running for mayor and faces a Sept. 13 primary, have been among the most vocal in calling attention to the health scare. Critics say the councilman and other opponents of the project have done so to advance their argument that the money could have been better used for schools and roads.
Michael Passero, another Democratic councilman running for mayor, said the controversy was “much ado about nothing.” He described the man who soiled himself as “an indigent” who had an accident. Any contamination there had been cleaned up, he said, adding that he had heard of no further incidents.
“That should have been the end of it, but the rumor kept spreading,” Mr. Passero said. “The problem is that the city should not be getting a black eye over this fountain. It’s a beautiful addition.”
Now, there is even debate over whether the fountain is a fountain.
State officials have been called to decide if the fountain may be more properly characterized as a water park-like pool. If so, that could mean more chlorination, filtration, on-site supervision and perhaps even a fence. The fountain will remain closed until a decision is reached.
Susan Tamulevich, director of the Custom House Maritime Museum, which recalls New London’s seafaring past, called the fountain “the crown jewel” of the plaza and a draw for visitors emerging from the nearby train station or the ferry docks. She contended it took time for people to learn how to use a fountain appropriately.
“Every city on earth has beautiful fountains,” she said. “It’s a problem you have to deal with.”
The plaza, known as the Parade, was part of a design conceived by Bruce Hyde, the city’s chief of planning. But Mr. Hyde lost his job to budget cuts four years ago. His supporters say that Mr. Buscetto and his allies were unhappy with Mr. Hyde’s vision for the city, a charge Mr. Buscetto denies.
To drum up enthusiasm for the fountain, a reminder of New London’s whaling history, the maritime museum held a lottery to select who would get to turn on the water. So many people entered Mr. Hyde’s name that he won, though he passed the honor onto three children who pressed ceremonial buttons for the opening two weeks ago.
Since then, dozens of children have frolicked in ankle-deep water; a disabled man in an electric scooter even cooled himself off under the fountain.
The plaza has also been used for concerts and a farmers’ market. Many see the plaza as a lift for a downtown that has a half-dozen art galleries, excellent restaurants, several historic maritime buildings and a concert hall.
Mr. Passero said he believed the city was “in the middle of a renaissance,” a view that an independent candidate for mayor, Martin T. Olsen Jr., supported.
Mr. Olsen is the city’s ceremonial mayor in a government where the City Council and the city manager have wielded all the power since about 1920. But New London is converting to a form of government in which the mayor will be elected and have broad powers, including a line-item veto over the budget.
Mr. Buscetto, 40, a restaurant owner and home developer, denied any political motives in highlighting the fountain’s problems. He said he had reconciled himself to the fountain — and the plaza — and wanted to ensure it was operated in a sanitary fashion.
“I’m a city councilman,” he said. “If water is dirty, I have to look out for the people. It’s not political when you have people running through dirty water.”
At the fountain on Wednesday, Reid Burdick, 60, a funeral home operator, said he loved the fountain but wanted to be sure it was clean enough for his 3-year-old granddaughter, Natalie.
“Those people who say it’s about politics are out to lunch,” he said.
Those running for mayor may not agree.
A version of this article appeared in print on June 9, 2011, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Fountain Called ‘Jewel’ of a Connecticut Waterfront Becomes a Health Concern.
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6.10.11: And the latest from The Day.
This evening, The CIty of New London issued the following:
CITY OF NEW LONDON
As a result of a recent incident involving the City’s Parade Plaza Whale Tail Fountain, changes have been adopted and will be implemented over the next several days.
The City, working with Ledge Light Health District and following an inspection by the State of Connecticut’s Department of Health, Environmental Health Section, have determined that, due to its unique design, the protocol for the operation of this fountain will require enhanced services and infrastructure.
The Whale Tail will operate from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm daily. The area will be monitored while the fountain is in operation. This summer a low wall will be installed to insure the fountain is enjoyed as a water feature and not as a splash park in the short and long term.
As a water fountain, the public is not permitted to enter the Whale Tail water, nor drink or bathe in it. The Whale Tail is a visual and passive recreation venue. It is not designed or intended, to be operated as an interactive attraction.
Mr. Baker Salsbury, the City’s Director of Health and his staff have worked closely with City Manager Denise Rose, along with Public Works Director Keith Chapman and his staff to quickly assess the situation and develop an immediate and short range plan to re-open the attraction within the next several days.
June 10, 2011, 11:03 am
Fountain Is Reopening, but Not to Splash In
By JOSEPH BERGER
The whale tale fountain of New London.C. M. Glover for The New York TimesThe Whale Tail Fountain of New London, Conn.
The new Whale Tail Fountain in the heart of New London, Conn., will reopen in the next few days, but it will now be used as a true fountain, and children will no longer be allowed to splash around in its gently gushing waterfall.
The decision was announced late Thursday in a news release issued by the city manager’s office after city and state officials shut the recycled water off because it had been contaminated by a homeless man washing his soiled clothing.
The statement said the fountain’s hours of operation would be limited to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and “the area will be monitored while the fountain is in operation,” though it did not elaborate on what kind of supervision there would be.
During the summer, a low wall will be installed around the fountain “to ensure the fountain is enjoyed as a water feature and not as a splash park.”
“As a water fountain, the public is not permitted to enter the Whale Tail water, nor drink or bathe in it,” the statement said. “The Whale Tail is a visual and passive recreation venue. It is not designed or intended to be operated as an interactive attraction.”
The statement seemed to contradict the original vision of its use, which was an interactive sprinklerlike feature. The fountain, an eight-foot tall bronze sculpture in the shape of a whale’s tail that was considered a centerpiece of the revitalization of a waterfront famed for its whaling days, is set on a sloping tiled surface and currently has no wall, rendering it more like a New York City park sprinkler. When it opened two weeks ago, scores of children capered in the water gushing from the tip of the tail. Passers-by, including a disabled man in an electric scooter, cooled themselves in the waterfall.
But after the homeless man was arrested Monday for washing his clothes in the water, City Councilor Michael Buscetto III, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor in the Sept. 13 primary and originally opposed the fountain’s construction, called it a health hazard and residents at a City Council meeting denounced it as it “an $11 million bathroom.”
Michael E. Passero, another councilman running for the Democratic nomination for mayor, said the contretemps was “much ado about nothing” and added that “the city should not be getting a black eye over this fountain,” because “it’s a beautiful addition.”
# # #
When a Fountain was a toilet, or was it?
By Paul Choiniere
Published 06/10/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 06/10/2011 11:26 AM
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As a week of controversy draws to a close about the Whale tail sculpture fountain in New London -- contoversy that began with a man inappropriately using the fountain to clean himself, but which was really about how the incident was handled by the city, political leaders, the press and the public -- it is interesting to recall a long ago controversy when an artist utilized a toilet (actually a urinal) and called it a fountain.
I stumbled across this tidbit of art history when searching on the Internet for stories about other communities that may have had problems with the improper use of fountains. But one "Fountain" I came across was not a fountain at all, but the name of an artwork by artist Marcel Duchamp that critics felt was not art at all.
Duchamp was a member of the Society of Independent Artists in early 20th century New York City. In 1917 this group of avant-garde artists sponsored an art show, vowing to display all works submitted. This, of course, has a New London connection since the city's biggest annual art invent, the Hygienic Art Show, follows the same open-to-all standard.
Duchamp, however, stirred the pot, so to speak, when he submitted a urinal, laid flat in an unconventional manifestation, with the only addition his pseudonym signature, R. Mutt, and the year, 1917. He called it readymade art, later called found art -- in which an artist takes something from everyday life and, by presenting it out of its normal context, gives the viewer reason to comtemplate it in a different way.
The Society of Independent Artists, not knowing it was submitted by Duchamp, a member of their own board, did not put it in the show, a mistake the organizers of New London's own Hygienic would never make today.
The debate about Duchamp's "Fountain" (you can read more about it here) continues in art circles nearly a century later. I'm afraid that the inauspicious start for the Whale tail fountain will remain part of its folklore for a very long time, as well. And I may never look at a fountain, or a urinal, quite the same way again.
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Mayor calls contamination scare 'a bunch of hooey'
By Kathleen Edgecomb
Publication: The Day
Published 06/11/2011 12:00 AM
Tim Cook/The Day
Ledge Light Heath District Deputy Director Stephen Mansfield tests the water Friday in New London's Whale Tail fountain on the Parade. The fountain was turned on for a short time to perform the test. Story, F1.
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Debate over contamination is 'hooey,' mayor says
New London - Mayor Martin Olsen isn't afraid of the possibility of a little contaminated water.
When the whale tail fountain at the foot of State Street begins flowing again sometime in the next few days, Olsen said Friday, he's going to be the first to run through the water cascading off the whale's flukes.
"I think it's a bunch of hooey,'' he said, referring to a week's worth of discussion and debate over the safety of the water in the fountain after a homeless man was discovered last Friday washing himself off in it after soiling his pants.
"One guy acts badly and the whole thing gets blown out of proportion," Olsen said, as he joined a couple of dozen people Friday at the Parade for a farmers market and lunchtime entertainment.
During the two weeks the fountain was running, barefoot children, and even an adult in a wheelchair, cooled themselves by passing through the spray. But the water was shut off Monday after the filter became clogged with debris.
At a City Council meeting Monday night, a resident called the fountain an $11 million bathroom, referring to the amount of money that was spent renovating the Parade plaza, which included the 7,000-pound whale tail fountain sculpture. It was followed by news stories that spread across the state, the region and even went international.
On Thursday, the city announced that after testing by the health department the fountain would be turned back on sometime in the next several days but that no one would be encouraged to run through it.
"As a water fountain, the public is not permitted to enter the Whale Tail water, nor drink or bathe in it,'' according to a news release issued by City Manager Denise Rose. "It is not designed or intended to be operated as an interactive attraction.''
But Olsen, who is running for mayor in November, said future use of the fountain has "yet to be determined."
Councilor Michael Buscetto III, who was the first to question the quality of the water and alleged that there have been incidents of homeless people urinating and washing off cuts in the whale tail water, was also at the Parade on Friday.
"I think this is a great event,'' said Buscetto, who is also running for mayor. "The more people we have down here, the better."
Buscetto has said he would bring two requests from the City Center District to the council: that there be a full-time police presence at the Parade and that an ordinance be passed that would help police keep people from sleeping on benches and spreading their belongings around the plaza.
On Friday, police said the incident one week earlier was the only call they have received about inappropriate use of the fountain. A week ago, the fire department responded to a man who had fallen on the Parade and was bleeding from a head wound. But that fall did not take place near the fountain.
The controversy did not deter vendors who returned for the second week of the "Field of Greens" farmers market. Previews on Parade, which features entertainment, also returned for a second week with a performance by the a capella group Kapriol'!
Don Hess of Valchris Farm Organics of Oakdale, who was selling his home-grown asparagus and flowering stems of garlic, said he enjoyed seeing kids running through the water last week and did not think the fountain posed a public health threat.
"At least it made people aware of what's going on,'' he said. "If it happens again, the people of New London will take care of it."
Sam Fritzsche, market manager, said as more produce ripens the market will offer more variety and activity will pick up. He said the man-in-the-fountain incident appeared to be a "big to-do.''
"It's not about the Parade or the fountain,'' he said. "The bigger issue is how we take care of our homeless people."
He is organizing high school and college students to help him at the Friday market to educate the public about fresh produce and eating locally grown products. He said he welcomes anyone who is homeless to attend the market, learn about eating more nutritious foods and partake in free samples.
"I want the homeless here at the Parade,'' he said.
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This city can't accept fabulous
By Ann Baldelli
Publication: The Day
Published 06/12/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 06/10/2011 06:16 PM
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It was just after 8 on a Friday morning, a spectacular June day, when Deputy Chief Marshall Segar drove past New London's just refurbished Parade plaza to make sure everything was in order for festivities there later that day.
"It was such a beautiful day and I saw the flowers and the whale tail and it all looked like a million bucks," says Segar. "It just looked fabulous."
But as the deputy police chief looked closer he spotted a shoeless, shirtless man showering himself beneath the stream of water flowing over the whale tail sculpture there.
That incident, on June 3, has sparked much conversation about the city's Parade plaza and whether undesirables are spending too much time there.
Deputy Chief Segar ordered the man, who was cited for disorderly conduct and taken to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital for evaluation, out of the water. Because the man had soiled himself, public works crews were called to hose off the plaza and put additional chlorine in the pool of recycling water that runs off the whale tail.
Yes, it was a sordid affair, but the story has grown to mythical proportions since that time, resulting in last week's closure of the fountain.
When two citizens raised questions about the incident at last week's City Council meeting, mayoral candidate and Councilor Michael Buscetto III matter-of-factly stated that people have been using the fountain to urinate, defecate, bathe, and wash blood from themselves.
So much for fabulous. Apparently fabulous is an impossibility in New London.
By the Monday after the disgusting Friday incident, stories were swirling about how the fountain's water could be a source of hepatitis. Seriously? And otherwise reasonable people were passing tales of men lathering beneath the whale tail stream with bars of soap and other fables of riffraff regularly vomiting there.
So much for accentuating the positive. The plaza project is now known around-the-world as the "$11 million bathroom."
Nonsense like this is why New London can never get ahead of its unfair reputation. Some of the people who proclaim to care about the city knock it every chance they get. Whatever is good in New London is never good enough.
I'm with Deputy Chief Segar, I think the Parade plaza looks spectacular. And I am profoundly disappointed that New London has once again made itself the butt of a joke.
There is a legitimate issue with a handful of homeless people misbehaving downtown and near the Parade plaza, and that shouldn't be tolerated.
Officials are working to address the problem, and perhaps they need to work faster and harder. The redesign and rebuild of the plaza was intended to make the area the city's town green - its public meeting place - and as such it should be treated respectfully by everyone who uses it.
Whether people have a permanent roof over their heads or not, they have a right to visit the Parade as long as they obey the laws and act responsibly. Homeless people have been a part of New London's fabric - every city's fabric - for as long as people have populated cities.
But making a spectacle out of a problem involving a clearly disturbed homeless person who did something despicable is counter-productive to all the other good that's happened in New London. And that is just pitiful.
Ann Baldelli is associate editorial page editor.
# # #
Whale water samples test safe
By Chuck Potter
Publication: The Day
Published 06/12/2011 12:00 AM
Updated 06/12/2011 01:05 AM
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New London - The water from the whale is as safe as it needs to be, Stephen Mansfield, deputy director of health for the Ledge Light Health District, said Saturday after receiving test results from samples taken Friday at the Parade plaza fountain.
"The water is not of drinking quality, but it's not intended to be drinking water," Mansfield said Saturday aftenoon. "If it were bathing water, it would be of high quality."
Mansfield said the tests revealed seven colonies of coloform, which is an indicator organism, but does not cause illness.
"Generally, for bathing quality, we look for a number less than 10. So this is a very good quality," he said. "In tests for E. coli, we found zero. There was no E. coli bacteria found in the samples."
The tests followed the Public Works Department's flushing and sanitizing of the fountain after reports of unsanitary behavior in the fountain in recent weeks.
The matter has spurred multi-media mocking of the city, officials' being quoted in big-city newspapers and calls for surveillance cameras and 24-hour police presence at the plaza.
Mansfield said the fountain was shocked with chlorine, as is customary after a fecal or vomit incident.
He said the shock was successful, and that chlorine is at an acceptable level.
No additional tests are planned, he said.
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We love the Whale Tail Fountain and eagerly look forward to the summer's events on Parade Plaza & the fountain being back ON!