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. 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 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.
There has been a good recent discussion on Front Porch Forum about mosquito control in the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen area. The discussion reveals a common sentiment in the community that mosquitoes in the BLSG District were much worse before BLSG mosquito control began. This idea is then associated with another idea, that BLSG’s activities are responsible for the improvement. Here are a few things to keep in mind when evaluating these claims.
In BLSG’s new annual report, they indicate that there are 7,000 acres of mosquito breeding ground in the BLSG District which can be treated by helicopter. Most of this is in the floodplain of Otter Creek or Leicester River or in nearby lowland areas. The goal is to use a helicopter to spread granules of bacterial larvicide over this area.
BLSG reports that in 2018 only 3,000 acres received aerial treatment of larvicide. BLSG explains that the reason more than half of the mosquito breeding ground got no aerial treatment in 2018 is that the state did not allocate enough money. This seems like a very serious failure of the system.
When you search for a topic with Google, you get a list of websites related to your topic. When you search for a topic at Google Trends, you get a page of metadata about who else has searched for that topic. Organic Lesson just posted a story about their searches at Google Trends for the searches people do for ways to deal with pests.
According to this story, in the US in 2018, the pests that most bothered people into searching for remedies were flies, ants, and bedbugs. Mosquitoes were number four:
Vermont’s town clerks will soon be mailing us our town reports, and Salisbury has already posted a pdf of the new 2018 Salisbury Town Report at its website. It includes an annual report from the Brandon Leicester Salisbury Goshen Pittsford Insect Control District (BLSG) which will appear in town reports throughout the District. The BLSG report includes some good information and some that is misleading.
Nine species of bat live in Vermont, and five of them are so uncommon that Vermont has listed them as threatened or endangered species. The Vermont populations of these bats have decreased because of white-nose syndrome, a disease that started killing bats around 2006. All the listed bat species spend the winter clustered in caves or mines where white-nose syndrome can infect new bats.
Two of the state-listed bat species are also rare nationwide and are listed as federally threatened or endangered species. The northern long-eared bat was first listed as federally threatened in 2015 because its populations had declined due to white-nose syndrome. The Indiana bat was listed as a federally endangered species in 1967 long before white-nose syndrome was identified.
In early January, members of the board of directors of the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen Insect Control District (BLSG) visited the select boards of each town in the District. They announced that they were asking for a large increase in the funds to operate in 2019-2020 compared to the previous year. The average increase requested was $7,443 per town for a total of $37,215 or 31% more than last year. They explained that the increase was primarily to pay their attorneys who are representing BLSG in a lawsuit.
On February 4, the lawsuit involving the BLSG Insect Control District (BLSG) entered a new phase. Almost seven months after the case began, Judge Thomas Walsh of the Vermont Environmental Court was notified that the parties had been unable to reach a settlement agreement. The judge set a deadline of April 1 for the submission of preliminary motions as the case moves to trial.
There has been a lively recent discussion about mosquito control on the Front Porch Forum for Salisbury, Leicester, Ripton, and Goshen. A common observation made by local residents is that mosquitoes were once a terrible problem in the BLSG district, but since the BLSG-administered roadside spraying began years ago, the mosquitoes are not nearly as bad. The implication is that roadside spraying of chemical pesticides has been responsible for a long-term easing of the mosquito problem.
Evidence from this spring does not support that argument. The last time BLSG did roadside spraying anywhere in the district was June 8 which was 11 days ago when five routes were sprayed. Nineteen days ago, another five routes were sprayed, and 21 days ago seven different routes were sprayed. So as of today, all of the routes in the district have gone for at least 11 to 21 days without being sprayed.
Continue reading “Cause and effect”
The BLSG Insect Control District operates two different mosquito control programs. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture funds a program to apply bacterial larvicide granules from the air to kill mosquito larvae in standing water. The five towns in the BLSG district fund a program to apply chemical pesticides along roads to kill adult mosquitoes.
The differences between the two methods of controlling mosquitoes are dramatic. Discussions about the effectiveness or safety of BLSG operations should specify which program is being discussed. The table below highlights some of the differences (click for better view).
There has been a lot of scary information about mosquito-borne diseases repeated by employees and board members of BLSG. There are two serious diseases carried by mosquitoes in Vermont, and one killed two people in 2012. That fact alone deserves our attention, but how much should we be concerned about these diseases?
One month ago, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) approved an application by the BLSG Insect Control District to continue controlling mosquitoes for another five years. Yesterday, that decision was appealed by Toxics Action Center, an environmental advocacy group working throughout New England. The lawsuit alleges that the Vermont DEC allows BLSG to spray pesticides without following state requirements designed to protect public health and the environment. Toxics Action Center initiated this legal action on behalf of its members in the region. “It’s irresponsible to allow toxic pesticides to be sprayed near homes, rivers, and farms while safer options are available,” said Woody Little, Vermont Community Organizer at Toxics Action Center. “Before we endanger the health of the community, we should be trying every non-harmful alternative possible. It’s the law, and it’s just common sense.”
This week the BLSG started roadside spraying of pesticides to kill adult mosquitoes. Pesticide application is now being done under Vermont’s 2017 Pesticide General Permit after the Department of Environmental Conservation approved, on May 15, the BLSG request to continue operation.
The two insect control districts in Vermont have submitted requests to continue their operations for the next five years. This request is referred to as a Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply pesticides according to Vermont’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP). The two districts are the Brandon-Leicester-Salisbury-Goshen-Pittsford Insect Control District (BLSG) and the Lemon Fair Insect Control District (LFICD) which includes Bridport, Cornwall, and Weybridge. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will make a decision about both NOIs very soon.