New study links organophosphate pesticides to IQ loss

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.

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New long-term study links pyrethroids and health risk

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.

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Vermont avoids New England’s big year for EEE

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 risk from Eastern Equine Encephalitis in Massachusetts in September at the height of the season. The risk is derived from the number of mosquito pools testing positive for EEEv and other factors. Two towns on the Vermont border (upper left) had positive pools, but no EEEv-positive mosquitoes were found in Vermont.
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Summary of the Arrowwood Environmental report on bats

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.

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Nationwide support for the conclusions that BLSG pesticide spraying harms endangered bats

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.

These organizations signed on to the conclusions of the Arrowwood Environmental report.
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Vermont Endangered Species Committee to consider BLSG’s impact on bats

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.

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Do BLSG house calls violate their permit?

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:

  1. How many of these home visits are made?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.

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Why was there no aerial larvicide treatment this spring?

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 6000 treatable acres in the District in the spring of 2018, and that was well before the lawsuit began.

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End run around the PGP fails

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).

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New study of pesticides and autism

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.

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Protect your pollinators from BLSG

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?”

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Kodak Carousel

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 recent Addison Independent article, the only news article the newspaper has published recently about BLSG.

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I choose Relentless Opponent

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 (Insect Control District’s mistake, or a nuisance suit by a relentless opponent?). 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.

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How bad was it back then?

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.

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Which towns does BLSG treat properly?

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.

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Trending pests

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:

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BLSG annual report says it all

It’s nice to see a kite aerial photograph on the cover of the new town report.

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.

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Does BLSG threaten endangered species?

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.

Scott Darling of Vermont Fish & Wildlife examines a federally endangered Indiana bat captured during a workshop at the Salisbury Community School. August 8, 2008

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.

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Salisbury balks at BLSG funding increase

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.

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