Grand Lake group lobbies county for reduced pesticide use
Sky-Hi Daily News
A group of Grand Lake citizens is campaigning for a safer environment.
The small assembly, armed with two petitions of 50 names each and with a heap of documents admonishing the use of pesticides, such as Sevin and Astro, appealed to Grand County Commissioners yesterday.
They asked the county to jump on the environmental bandwagon when it comes to beetle-kill sprays, fertilizers used near bodies of water and chemicals used on roads.
Grand Lake resident Lenny Brooks lobbied for commissioners to create an environmental code enforcement position to oversee the greener side of the law when it comes to protecting Grand County’s water and the health of its citizens, wildlife and aquatic life.
He also suggested ways to encourage citizens to reduce their carbon footprints, such as providing tax credits for people who find ways to use alternative energy and who xeriscape.
But most of the discussion centered on beetle-kill tree spray, a concern for those living in the beetle-epidemic epicenter here in Grand County.
For roughly six years, Grand Lake area residents and beyond have been exposed to bug pesticides sprayed on trees, as landowners attempt to ward off the minuscule agents of the blue-stain fungus weakening and killing trees at a rapid rate.
Permethrin, a chemical under trade names Pounce, Torpedo, Dragnet and Astro, “ranks as a Class C possible human carcinogen,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Like the carbamate carbaryl, the chemical in the product Sevin, permethrin is extremely toxic to aquatic life and insects, including bees.
Information from the Pesticide Action Network Pesticide Database says permethrin may suppress populations of soil microorganisms and injure some sensitive plants. It is practically non-toxic to birds, and slightly-to-nontoxic to mammals.
Carbaryl, which is EPA-approved and another popular chemical in Grand County, has similar effects. The chemical already has been banned, according to the PAN database, in four countries: Germany, Sweden, Austria and Angola. It has been partially banned in three U.S. states.
In March 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit against the EPA for failing to protect the public from exposure to two pesticides, one of them carbaryl, according to the news blog http://www.beyondpesticides.org.
The pesticide can be detrimental to aquatic life, including fish that depend on insects for food. Likewise, birds can be affected by the inevitable spray drift that wipes out insects beyond those targeted.
There are no specific studies that reveal the long-term chronic effects of these chemicals, something that concerns citizens like Brooks.
From his and others’ research, he’s concluded “it’s bad for children, bad for the immune system and bad for water,” he told commissioners Tuesday.
Brooks endorsed another product, Arborjet, an insecticide injected into the trunk of a tree rather than sprayed.
Last summer, there were at least two recorded cases of persons accidentally caught in spray drift, landing them in the emergency room at Granby Medical Center from symptoms of dizziness, nausea and fatigue.
At least a few residents, such as Lynnea and Brad Prageant of Grand Lake, have witnessed spray drift land directly in lake water.
Last summer, Lynnea, motivated to compile a packet of research on the topic with 42 footnotes, said she saw “spray going up in the air and falling directly into the channel” that connects Shadow Mountain reservoir to Grand Lake.
Since their bedroom window was open that day, she and her husband were exposed to the spray and experienced “rashes and headaches” afterward. Upon consulting Lynnea’s doctor, the Prageants were advised to evacuate their home for two weeks, which they did.
The Prageants tried to get information and report the incident to a state agency, Lynnea said, but were confused about who to call.
Lynnea has since called seven different agencies, directed from department to department in most. She still has not been able to contact the right person with the right information, she said.
Jennifer Murray of the Grand County Natural Resources Division told the Prageants and company yesterday that her department will attempt to do a better job of informing citizens about who to contact in regards to pesticide applicators not following the rules. People who have a complaint about chemical tree spray, especially to report an incident of an applicator not following the label laws, are encouraged to contact the division, she said (970-887-0745).
In turn, the division passes information on to the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
On the County’s Web site link, http://co.grand.co.us/DNR/mtnpinebeetle.html, the division has provided a list of local sprayers who are licensed by the state.
Landowners hiring sprayers are encouraged to check the list to make sure an applicator is licensed. A similar list is provided by the Colorado Department of Agriculture at http://www.ag.state.co.us/DPI/PesticideApplicator/Home.html under “pesticides program.”
To report an applicator violation, such as someone spraying in wind or close to lakes and rivers, people are encouraged to get the name of the company as well as a license plate number. The Department of Agriculture’s direct “pesticide misapplication complaint” number is 303-239-4146.
County commissioners responded to Brooks’s request for an environmental code officer by noting that such people already exist within the framework of the county, continually monitoring water issues and other concerns for the environment.
As far as banning the use of the pesticides within the county, after consulting state law books, County Attorney Jack DiCola confirmed that the county “does not have the power to take action and restrict the use of carbaryl. …That area of the law is pre-empted by the feds,” he said. Commissioners advised the concerned citizens at the meeting to contact state Sen. Dan Gibbs or Rep. Al White if they aim to pursue the goal of having certain pesticide chemicals banned by the state.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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