Needles found in the Hub septic tank
BRISTOL — Last week’s cleaning of the septic system on the Bristol Recreation Field raised eyebrows when workers found many condoms and what town officials were told were at least five hypodermic needles in waste pumped from a separate tank belonging to the Hub Teen Center.
Workers informed Recreation Club officials, who in turn brought the findings to town administrator Bill Bryant, the recreation department, the police department and the staff of the Hub.
The Recreation Club also wrote a letter asking Hub officials to address the situation.
All parties involved expressed concern about the drug paraphernalia and have been discussing how to best address the situation. But Bryant cautioned against pinning the town’s growing heroin and opiate problem on the Hub.
“We are certainly not sticking our head in the sand, but I don’t think that we can assume that there is any rampant drug activity at the Hub,” said Bryant.
Bryant said the number of needles found — five — were about half of what a heavy drug user would use in a single day.
“Our position is that the Hub is a drug-free place for teens,” he said. “The Hub staff follows a clear zero-tolerance policy to substance abuse. If we ever think that something’s going on there, we work to address it.”
Hub director Jim Lockridge also pointed out the restroom at the Hub is open to the public, and the septic tank had not been cleaned for five years. He echoed Bryant’s analysis that a hard drug user will use twice as many needles a day as had been found in the tank, a statistic that both men said they had heard from law enforcement officials.
“Any evidence of drug use is sad news for any community,” Lockridge said of the needles found in the septic tank. “But Bristol has a wider drug problem, and we do not find needles at the skate park or in the Hub yard.”
Bryant echoed that sentiment.
“There is a serious drug problem going on in our community,” he said. “That includes the Bristol community, the Addison County community and the statewide community. But it is also important that we don’t overreact or spread rumors.”
Still, in a June 6 letter, the Recreation Club expressed concern about the safety of the town’s children and asked that the Hub provide a written plan to address, within 30 days’ time, the following four areas:
• Keeping the septic system free of condoms and hypodermic needles.
• Supervising young people at the Hub’s indoor and outdoor areas during daylight hours.
• Educating the young people about being a “good neighbor.”
• Planning for supervision at “higher risk” events like bonfires.
Lockridge said the Hub essentially already strives to meet these conditions. He stressed that the Hub works in compliance with town police to issue no-trespass orders to those engaged in drug activity on the premises, and that its staff are on red-alert for drug activity on a daily basis at the teen center and skate park. They also cooperate with the police in many incidents concerning marijuana and prescription pills.
Lockridge added that while he understood some people’s concern about the volume of used condoms in the tank, he noted that the Hub leaves buckets full of condoms around the premises for young people to take free of charge, and that they are paid for by the Vermont Department of Health, not local taxpayers.
The condoms are made available to aid the Hub’s mission to provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy.
However, the Hub plans to address the issue of potential future damage to the septic system by asking the young people using the facility not to dispose of condoms and other foreign objects in toilets.
Lockridge said the Hub has asked a young artist who works with them to create signs in each stall outlining the need to keep the toilets clean of condoms and other objects to protect the septic system as well as comply with the first of the Recreation Club’s requests.
Lockridge added that he believed the other three Recreation Club requests were already addressed in the Hub’s existing policies: The Hub has extended hours this summer, for example, and staff will be on hand from 10 a.m. until dusk. Supervision is always a component at what the Recreation Club characterized as “higher risk” events organized through the Hub.
As for teaching kids to be a “good neighbor,” Lockridge said it was part of the staff’s daily routine. “We aren’t just barking orders at these kids,” he said.
All of that is in writing in some form or another, and Lockridge said that he expected Bryant and the town office would find a proper way to convey them to the Recreation Club by the stated deadline.
Phone calls to Recreation Club officials were not returned by press time.
Lockridge said that the Hub was a “straightforward positive place for young people” that was “thoroughly vetted” for safety practices by the town and the Recreation Department.
“We’ve built and maintained a positive, supportable program and a potential source of pride for the Bristol community,” he said.
Xian Chiang-Waren is at [email protected].
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