Guest opinion: Why spray pesticides when mowing does the job?
Why are the city of Menlo Park, the San Mateo County Department of Public Works, and Caltrans wasting money spraying our roadsides with pesticides when they mow anyway? Why are there no on-road notifications posted before, during and after this potentially toxic spraying to warn the public? Why is this issue not being addressed by public health agencies, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program?
Thank you for the recent article, "No-spray zone sprayed with pesticide," which showed that no-spray policies are needed instead of no-spray zones. Many people have had similar experience within the La Honda Watershed Area no-spray agreement/zone that concerned residents achieved in 2007 with the county's department of public works.
They annually spray the unincorporated county roads anytime between January and June between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. with no on-road notifications. They spray Roundup Pro, Aquamaster (both Glyphosate formulations), Garlon Ultra 4 (Triclopyr), and Milestone VM (Aminopyralid). The active ingredients are in parentheses, and the chemical manufacturers are not required to list the inert ingredients which have been proven to be more toxic than some of the active ones.
This was the basis for a federal lawsuit, along with other federal lawsuits challenging the EPA's approval of many pesticides, including some of these. The roadside spraying covers open drainage ditches that transport water to creeks, potentially contaminating watersheds and some residents' drinking water sources. Photos of water in these ditches when spraying has occurred were given to the public works department and the Board of Supervisors, along with a petition signed by 582 residents requesting that the roadside spraying stop and supporting a once-a-year mowing schedule. Mowing once a year at the correct time of year has proven to be the most effective practice for weed/road maintenance, while saving the cost of spraying and the greater costs and risks to people and the environment. It has been the practice in many other counties and states for decades.
Last year, with direction from the county's Environmental Quality Committee, the public works department wrote the herbicide phase-out proposal which was supposed to be voted on by the Supervisors last December, but has been delayed by the public works department until possibly June. This proposal divides unincorporated areas where spraying occurs into 10 areas (eventual no-spray zones), with the phase-out taking 10 years. I've requested consolidating areas, or better yet, ending roadside spraying in 2012. Caltrans sprays local state roads twice a year and a spokesperson said they would stop if the board votes for the proposal, as they did in District 1 (Marin, Del Norte, Sonoma, Humboldt and Mendocino counties). I hope that the Almanac will continue reporting on this important issue and that concerned readers will contact their city, county, and state representatives to help end roadside spraying.
Patty Mayall lives in La Honda.