The leadership of BLSG regularly mentions mosquito borne
diseases when describing the services they provide. Their message is that BLSG’s
operation reduces the chances that residents of the BLSG District will contract
a disease from a mosquito. The BLSG leadership’s message is wrong, and it is
inappropriate for them to even include this topic in public discussions.
Arboviruses in Vermont
Despite BLSG’s continued reference to a long list of
tropical diseases, there are only two arboviruses carried by mosquitoes in
Vermont: West Nile virus (WNV) and eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEv).
The human illnesses caused by these viruses are extremely rare in Vermont.
BLSG has failed to do aerial application of bacterial larvicides
Aerial application of bacterial larvicide
granules is the most effective and safe method of mosquito control. BLSG has
failed in recent years to apply larvicides from the air throughout the
District. BLSG has failed to do any aerial larvicide application in Salisbury
for the last two years.
Again this year, there is not enough money in
the budget to apply aerial larvicides in the spring. The state is not supplying
enough money to support aerial larvicide treatment so BLSG’s operation must
depend primarily on roadside spraying of chemical pesticides and the towns pay
the bill. Without first treating the primary breeding grounds with larvicide,
the subsequent chemical treatments cannot be considered part of an integrated
pest management program which is a requirement of BLSG’s permit.
Malathion, one of the two chemicals sprayed along roads in the BLSG District to kill mosquitoes, is an organophosphate pesticide. A new peer-reviewed study, published yesterday, concludes that organophosphate pesticide exposure in pregnant women can be responsible for a significant drop in IQ of their children. According to the study, in recent years, organophosphate pesticides and flame retardants have overtaken lead and mercury as the chemicals responsible for the biggest loss of IQ among children. The abstract of the study in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology is here and a news article about the study is here.
Last month an article about the health effects of pyrethroid insecticides was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine). You can read a summary here and a news article here. The peer reviewed article describes the results of a study of 2116 nationally representative American adults who were followed for 17 years. At the beginning of the study each participant had a urine test for pyrethroids. During the study 246 of the participants died, and those with higher levels of pyrethroids at the start of the study were more likely to die. The group was divided into thirds (low, medium, and high levels of pyrethroids), and those in the high group were three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those in the low group. Those in the high group were 1.5 times more likely to die of any cause compared to the low group.
Southern New England had a big year for Eastern Equine Encephalitis in 2019. There were 20 reported human cases of the EEE virus (EEEv) in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island with nine deaths. This is the most cases in a decade including the last outbreak year of 2012. To the east and west of Vermont, New Hampshire and New York had no human cases of EEEv, but dozens of mosquito samples were positive for EEEv. Vermont did not have any human cases of EEEv in 2019, and no EEEv was found in 3217 samples of mosquitoes tested.
The Vermont Endangered Species Committee is currently evaluating a report about the potential harm to bats from the roadside spraying done in the BLSG Insect Control District. The report from Arrowwood Environmental is 19 pages long and details the science that suggests BLSG’s pesticides could harm or kill several species of bats on Vermont’s endangered species list. The report lists 70 scientific and agency references supporting its arguments and conclusions. Below is a summary of some of the main arguments in the report.
In August, a report from Arrowwood Environmental was submitted to the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. The report concludes that the roadside spraying of pesticides by the BLSG Insect Control District is likely to harm endangered or threatened species of bat. Six weeks later the Commissioner of VT F&W responded that he and his staff had read the report but decided that no action on their part was needed to protect listed species of bat. We learned that the Vermont Endangered Species Committee, which is charged with advising the VT F&W Commissioner on all matters concerning Vermont’s endangered and threatened species, had not seen the report. So we sent it directly to that committee and last week the report’s author presented a summary of his conclusions at a meeting of the committee.
Last week the members of Vermont’s Endangered Species Committee had one of their four yearly meetings in Montpelier. Members of this committee include four Vermont biologists, three state bureaucrats, and two agronomists. Two items of local interest were on the agenda. There was an acknowledgement that Jim Andrews of Salisbury was the 2019 recipient of the Sally Laughlin Award. The award is given by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to recognize individuals who have advanced the knowledge, understanding, and conservation of endangered and threatened species and their habitats in Vermont. Jim has been involved in over 25 years of creative work in Vermont on reptile and amphibian conservation. Congratulations to Jim for this well deserved honor.
At BLSG board meetings the public is given an
opportunity to comment or ask questions at the beginning of the meeting. At the
July 18, 2019 meeting, Barb Karle from Salisbury asked a few questions about
the visits BLSG makes to private homes in response to calls from residents
about mosquitoes. Barb asked:
How many of these home visits are made?
Do you use the approach of Craig Zondag at the Lemon Fair District and find the mosquito breeding areas on the private property and treat them with larvicides?
Before adulticides are sprayed, is a test done to see if the adult mosquito population meets the action threshold for spraying adulticides?
These are good questions. By the time Ben
Lawton (Board Chair) and Will Mathis (Operations Manager) finished avoiding
Barb’s questions, they had contradicted each other, changed their answers,
squirmed a bit, and tried to change the subject more than once.
A post on Front Porch Forum yesterday suggested that maybe BLSG “ran out of money because of the lawsuit this year and weren’t able to larvicide as usual.”
There is no evidence that BLSG’s decision not to do aerial larvicide treatment this year is a result of the lawsuit. BLSG could not afford to do aerial larvicide treatment in all the District towns last year either. They could afford to treat only 3000 of the 7000 treatable acres in the District in the spring of 2018, and that was well before the lawsuit began.
This post by Rebecca Holmes of Salisbury appeared at Front Porch Forum today.
As someone who pays taxes to both my town and the state, I have two priorities when it comes to local mosquito control: (1) I want the most effective, safest mosquito control method to be applied as widely as possible. (2) I also want ALL my money spent on the control method that best reduces mosquito populations. The organization currently making the choices as to what’s used, where, and thus how our money is spent is the Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen, Pittsford Insect Control District (BLSGP), and they appear to be driven more by the past than the present.
Last month, a settlement was reached between the
state of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont’s Toxics Action Center
office, and the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford Insect Control
District, where I live. While it technically ends a legal dispute over
pesticide spraying in Vermont, which originated due to concerns filed by
Vermont Law School that the insect district failed to adequately “evaluate the
impact on water quality and non-target aquatic organisms” from its spraying of
chemicals, the concerns for many landowners in Brandon remain unresolved.
There are two agriculture bills bouncing around the Vermont Legislature right now. One started in the House (H.525) and one in the Senate (S.160). Last week the Republican Legislators representing Brandon and Pittsford (Collamore and Shaw) moved to insert new language into these bills to weaken state oversight of insect control districts which spray pesticides. There is only one insect control district in Vermont which sprays pesticides, so the impetus for the new language is assumed to be the leadership of the BLSG District (which includes Brandon and Pittsford).
This last weekend was good for amphibians in the Champlain Valley. Rain after dark with warm temperatures brought the early breeding frogs and salamanders above ground and coaxed them downhill toward breeding areas.
This post by Brian Carter of Salisbury appeared today on Front Porch Forum.
This post is to bring more information to the discussion about the mosquito spray program, particularly the use of malathion, in Salisbury.
I live on Morgan Road and part of my property has been placed in a conservation easement to protect a unique concentration of salamanders. Four species, as well as frogs, spend the winter on this easement and migrate across the road in spring. This has become an event that attracts many people on a few designated nights each year to count and help move the amphibians across the road and out of any traffic.
Last week a new scientific article was published about the relationship between pesticides and autism spectrum disorder in California. The study confirmed that prenatal or infant exposure to pesticides, including malathion and permethrin, increased the likelihood of developing autism spectrum disorder in childhood. Malathion and permethrin are the two pesticides sprayed along roads to kill adult mosquitoes in the BLSG Insect Control District. The article was published in the BMJ, a peer-reviewed journal of the British Medical Association.
BLSG drives their spray trucks along the entire length of private driveways and sprays pesticides. They have defended their authority to do this uninvited, unannounced, and without permission. Not all driveways are sprayed, and choosing which ones get sprayed appears to be left to the whim of the driver.
Last summer, a BLSG truck sprayed the driveway of Dennis Reisenweaver of Brandon. The next day he noticed that all of the honey bees in his beehive were dead. At a Select Board meeting in Brandon last month, Mr. Reisenweaver told this story to Ben Lawton, the chairman of the BLSG Board of Directors: “I lost a hive of honey bees. I had the State come out and they took samples and they told me that it was because of the spraying. So, I’m wondering why they come up private driveways. Why not just stay on the town roads?”
Last week the Addison Independent ran an article about the BLSG lawsuit (no longer available at the newspaper’s website). This was the only news article the paper published in a period of multiple editorials and letters to the editor about the subject. Both editorials and one letter claimed that there was much misinformation at the Moosalamoo Woods & Waters website without ever citing an example of even a typo.
Here are some of the factual errors in the only news article
the paper has published recently about BLSG.
The following is a letter by Kip Andres of Salisbury. It was submitted to the Addison Independent as a letter to the editor on Sunday March 3.
I am writing this letter in response to Angelo Lynn’s editorial addressing the lawsuit pending against the Brandon Salisbury Leicester Goshen (BLSG) Insect Control District. Insect control efforts as carried out by the BLSG are complicated, and I can’t adequately comment on the BLSG’s history, State permitting and oversight, and action thresholds in the detail they deserve here. For anyone interested in learning more about these topics, I urge them to consult http://mwwvt.org/, which contrary to Lynn’s assertion, is a useful source of information. They should also attend the BLSG’s meetings. While the BLSG seeks to avoid public scrutiny, the group is funded by taxpayer dollars and is, at least in theory, operating at the behest of its member towns. With this in mind, it is the public’s right to attend monthly board meetings and to have knowledge of its activities. The fact that Salisbury has just appointed two extremely competent and qualified representatives to the board means that interested citizens will be more welcome at meetings than they have been in the past.
It was good to see my post on bats published as a letter to the editor in the Addison Independent yesterday. It’s important for local residents to be aware that routine practices of the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen Insect Control District (BLSG) could have serious environmental impacts which the residents are ultimately responsible for. I was also pleased that the owner/publisher/editor of the Independent, Angelo Lynn, recognized the importance of the topic and wrote a related editorial (removed from the newspaper’s website) for the same issue. My pride swelled with every mention of my name until after a dozen of them when I recognized that the editorial was not about bats or BLSG but about me.