Sarasota area hospitals were inundated over the weekend with hundreds of residents and visitors who had attended the Baltimore Orioles Fanfest on Saturday at Ed Smith Stadium. Their various complaints ranged from respiratory distress, headaches, sore throats, blurred vision and, more curiously, a burning sensation in their lower extremities, although those patients were limited to actual players in an exhibition game and children who had been allowed on to the field to run the bases.
While emergency room physicians were battling the onslaught of those affected, assessing their needs, treating their symptoms, prescribing expensive, non-generic pharmaceuticals from the hottest drug reps, other medical personnel struggled to find and isolate the cause.
It quickly became apparent that virtually 100% of the cases had attended the Baltimore Orioles Fanfest at Ed Smith Stadium to celebrate the O's initial spring training here in Sarasota. Just as quickly, it also became apparent that all those affected were suffering adversely from being exposed to some sort of toxin.
During the negotiations to continue the tradition of spring baseball in Sarasota, the presence of a plume of polluted groundwater was noted, monitored since 1987, that has tainted the soil of the stadium area. This pollution has been traced to a long-since demolished asphalt plant from the 1940s, an era when unenlightened ruthless business concerns pooh-poohed the idea that the Suncoast would suffer any ill effects from their wanton rape of the environment. (Proponents of oil drilling off the coast of Sarasota immediately interjected that comparing this issue with drilling would be like "comparing apples to oranges," neither of which, they admit, would grow in the area if drilling for oil was to commence on the Suncoast.)
By Sunday evening, area hospitals had stabilized most patients and many already had their bills in hand as they were ushered out the door.
Reaction by the Sarasota City Commission was swift and decisive. In an emergency session, they decided to hold a public hearing on the issue sometime in the future, recommended the hiring of an out-of-state consultant and vowed to appoint a citizen's committee to insulate them from any voter backlash by assigning blame to the departed Cincinnati Reds, former occupants of the stadium.
SNN News, while covering the Fanfest, today released video of the exhibition baseball game when the first inkling of trouble was discovered.....