News - August 3, 2011

County stops broadcast herbicide spraying

by Barbara Wood

San Mateo County will stop the broadcast roadside spraying of herbicides while it waits to hear from consultants about other ways to control the weeds that grow along the county's roadsides and in its parks.

On July 26, county supervisors Don Horsley and Dave Pine, the two members of the Board of Supervisors' Environmental Quality Committee, authorized spending up to $25,000 to hire consultants, including a biologist and an expert in integrated pest management. The consultants will look at how the county can control weeds using as few chemicals as possible.

Until that report comes back, the two supervisors asked that all broadcast spraying be stopped.

Last June the Board of Supervisors voted to try to reduce the use of pesticides (herbicides are considered a pesticide as the plants they kill are unwanted) by using integrated pest management techniques in all county operations. They cited concerns about water quality and the effects on wildlife, including some endangered species.

A plan to phase out the use of herbicides and move toward mowing only over a period of 10 years was suggested. But residents of unincorporated county areas where broadcast spraying takes place protested that 10 years was too long too wait. The July 26 action came in response to those complaints.

Patty Mayall, a resident of La Honda who has been fighting herbicide spraying for years, said supervisors Pine and Horsley have been very supportive. "I was so grateful for their comments at the meeting," she said. "They are listening to the community and responding to our concerns about our own health and the health of our water sources."

Ms. Mayall said the news may be even better than it appears. The California Department of Transportation, which manages the vegetation along state roads, including Highway 84 (Woodside/La Honda Road) and Highway 35 (Skyline Boulevard), has promised that if the county stops spraying herbicides, CalTrans will also stop its spraying program as it has in other places such as Marin County where herbicide spraying has been phased out, she said.


Posted by Patty Mayall, a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Aug 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Thank you, Barbara and The Almanac for this article. I would like to add that the county has always MOWED once a year on unincorporated county roads after the annual broadcast spraying of herbicides. MOWING must be done for visibility, as spraying kills the weeds which remain standing and dead until the mowing is done months later. Along the roadsides, the spraying covers open drainage ditches that drain into local creeks. In the unincorp. area where I live, residents' drinking water sources are the creeks, springs, or shallow wells. Spraying occurs anytime between the months of Jan.-June, anytime between 2 am- 7 am with no notifications (this last year, because of community protests and requests, on-road notifications were posted, but the dates were not consistent with when spraying was done!). Mowing does not risk the health of the public and our watershed areas, is done ANYWAY, and is all that we are asking the county to do instead of spraying. Supervisor Carole Groom and former Supervisor Rich Gordon were the ones to first address this in the EQC last year, and many of us will always be grateful for their work and support on this issue also !

Posted by Amy Shimmick, a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Aug 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Thank you for printing this article, I am so glad to learn that the broadcast spraying of our roadsides may be ended for good. We moved up to Skyline for the health of our family--to drink pure well water and to eat meat and vegetables from our land. When I learned of the spraying I was incredibly discouraged. To have the toxic run-off accumulate in our well and in our animals quite defeats the purpose.

Although Monsanto claims Roundup is biodegradable, only a small percentage (less than 5 percent) has broken down after 28 days, for which the French government sued them for false advertising. The active ingredient (glyphosate) is associated lymphoma (report available from the Lymphoma Foundation) and Monsanto's own studies show that it causes reproductive harm and birth defects in animals. And that is just one of the chemicals that might have been sprayed.

I hope our communities opt for mowing only.

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