Here are some recent news stories you may have missed from around Connecticut:
Saving ‘Little Liberia’
Two Bridgeport houses dating back to 1848 that were a center of African American life in 19th-century Connecticut might see new life come the summer. There has been a movement to restore the Mary and Eliza Freeman houses on Bridgeport’s Main Street for some time, as we wrote about in 2018, and it seems those plans have now been put into place.
The structures are in poor shape. In 2018, the two buildings were added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of “America’s Most Endangered Historic Places.”
“We have architects. We have the plans,” says Adrienne Farrar Houel, who co-founded the Freeman Center. “And the funding is there.” Houel’s great-grandparents moved to Little Liberia from Virginia hundreds of years ago. The Mary and Eliza Freeman houses were both stops on the Underground Railroad.
Plans call for $2.6 million to pay for a museum at the Mary Freeman house, and an affordably priced apartment and “resilient center” at the Eliza Freeman building, according to the nonprofit’s website. “It’s not just the renovation of the houses — which is horribly important, of course,” Houel says. “But we’re also looking at the impact for the community and especially the South End and how it’s really a center for history and community.”
Shellfish doing the dirty work
It’s not just plastic bags and bottles. Microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters, are surprisingly common in the oceans. Wastewater treatment plants use century-old technology for filtration, according to UConn civil and environmental engineering professor Baikun Li: “When these facilities were designed and built, plastics simply did not exist in the variety or quantity that they do today.” Now Li and a group of colleagues from UConn are engaging in a four-year project to explore how mussels and plastic-hungry bacteria can clean the seas of the microplastics. “Suspension-feeding bivalves, such as oysters, clams, and zebra mussels are very efficient at filtering water and capturing on their gills (the ‘filter’) particles as small as four micrometers in size. Their ‘filter’ is self-cleaning and they often filter water for 12 or more hours per day,” marine sciences professor J. Evan Ward told UConn Today. “They are nature’s perfect filtering ‘machine.’ ”
Brent Wofsey raises chickens behind his home in Darien. Usually, there are no surprises. Chickens lay eggs; there’s no real mystery. But, one day, Wofsey went out to the coop and found an egg like few others. It was, to say the least, exceptionally large. It was an egg that weighed 195 grams, just under a half-pound. He had seen some larger eggs before, he says, but “nothing close to this monstrosity of an egg.” Inside the egg was the normal egg-type stuff, and ... another, regular-size egg.
The egg within an egg is the result of a process called a counter-peristalsis contraction. The contraction results in the egg reversing course and then being included in the formation of the new egg around it, resulting in a very large double egg. By the way, the Guinness Book of World Records says the heaviest-ever egg weighed 454 grams, and was laid by a White Leghorn chicken in Vineland, New Jersey, on Feb. 25, 1956.
What do you do with an exceptionally large egg? Why, same thing you do with every other egg. “We scrambled them up and ate them,” Wofsey says. “I was full. It was a lot of egg.”
COVID dreams, and COVID nightmares
If you’ve been having pandemic-related dreams, you’re not alone. Sleep and dream researchers at Yale say there has been an uptick in the number of dreams related to COVID themes. “People say they feel alone in having so many strange dreams, but it is a significant phenomenon, and it’s happening with some frequency during the pandemic,” Yale’s Susan Rubman says. For example, maybe you’re maskless in a public place. Maybe you dream about bugs or the plague. But though nightmares can be frightening, they’re actually not a bad thing. “Nightmares and bad dreams, in general, have not been shown to be unhealthy,” Yale Medicine’s Christine Won says. “Some think it’s a way for us to work out our daily stresses or preoccupations during the day.”
Record sea level rise
The level of the sea on the East Coast rose twice as much on average between 1900 and 2000 than it did in the previous century, according to a study published by Rutgers University researchers in the journal Nature Communications. That rise in sea level was the fastest in 2,000 years. The study was the first to use a so-called “sea level budget” to gauge the pace of sea level rise at sites in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and North Carolina. The rate of sea-level rise for the six sites studied ranged from 2.6 to 3.6 millimeters per year, about 1 to 1.4 inches a decade. The sites studied included East River Marsh in Guilford.
The cost of electricity in Connecticut is more than 8 cents higher than the national average, according to a report from Porch.com. The 18.66 cents per kilowatt hour the average Connecticut consumer pays is the third highest in the country. The only states with a higher cost of power are Hawaii, where the average is 28.72 cents per kilowatt hour, and Alaska, where the average is 20.22 cents per kilowatt hour. Other New England states are also pretty expensive, with Rhode Island and Massachusetts coming in fourth and fifth, respectively.
Why do we pay so much? It's complicated, but experts say that factors include high taxes and cost of doing business, past deregulation of the power industry, using electric rates to fund social programs and renewable energy, carbon reduction goals and the distance from natural gas supplies.