Wire reports

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2005

Rancher a no show for cattle trial

KODIAK - Rancher Tim Jacobson was a no-show for his trial in Kodiak this week, prompting Superior Court Judge Joel H. Bolger to dismiss Jacobson's counterclaims against plaintiffs suing him.

Plaintiffs say Jacobson owes them more than $100,000 for help transporting cattle from the remote Chirikof Island in the Gulf of Alaska.

Plaintiffs' attorney Matthew St. John asked for a summary judgment Wednesday, noting Jacobson also missed a January deposition in Anchorage.

Bolger said he would hand down a decision soon.

Calling by telephone from Palmer, Jacobson participated in a Nov. 22 Kodiak hearing in which Bolger set the Feb. 23 trial date. The judge advised Jacobson, who has represented himself throughout the lawsuit, to hire an attorney.

The eight plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in February 2004, alleging Jacobson owes them nearly $107,000 and 116 head of cattle for equipment and services they provided. The judgment order submitted by St. John also asks for attorney's fees.

XTO Energy agrees to pay for pollution

ANCHORAGE - XTO Energy Inc. has agreed to pay $139,000 in fines to settle a federal pollution case involving the company's two Cook Inlet oil production platforms and its onshore processing plant near Nikiski.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said XTO violated the federal Clean Water Act on 24 occasions between January 2000 and June 2004.

The violations did not involve oil spills. Rather, the XTO platforms repeatedly exceeded pollutant limits in treated sanitary and domestic wastewater discharged into Cook Inlet.

Also, XTO's treatment facility at Nikiski, where water is separated from crude oil piped from the platforms, had one instance in which silver content exceeded the monthly average limit specified in XTO's discharge permit. The permit allows XTO to pipe the separated water back into the Inlet.

"Protecting Alaska's water quality is a job we take very seriously," said Kim Ogle, EPA's water permits compliance manager in Seattle. "Repeat violations of discharge limits means there's a problem that needs to be addressed."

Scott Griffith, XTO's production superintendent in Kenai, said the company reported all the violations to EPA and decided to pay the fines because "we just needed to clear the air. It was something XTO realized, and we needed to put it to bed."

Cases of whooping cough in Delta

FAIRBANKS - Five cases of whooping cough have been identified in the Richardson Highway community of Delta Junction, according to state health officials.

Four of the cases were within a single family, according to Dr. Beth Funk, a medical epidemiologist with the state Division of Public Health.

Funk said the state discovered the situation after an infant with pertussis-like symptoms was brought to a medical facility and the local public health nurse did some tests.

The infant's preliminary test was positive for pertussis, she said, and a DNA test later showed that several other family members were positive for the infection.

After reports that several children at the local school had respiratory illnesses, Funk said the state sent a team from the epidemiology section to Delta for DNA-based testing.

"Of those, one was ... positive," she said.

Funk said the state documents about 10 cases of whooping cough a year.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection that begins with cold-like symptoms and includes a distinctive cough that can interfere with breathing and eating and can cause vomiting. "Whooping" refers to the sound patients may make when they attempt to take a breath. It is treated with antibiotics.

Children are generally immunized against the disease. The first vaccination is recommended at 2 months of age. But the vaccine is only available to people under the age of 7, Funk said. By the time people reach adolescence, the immunity wears off, she said. However, the disease is less dangerous in older people and often looks similar to a cold.

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