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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Moosalamoo Woods & Waters was in the local paper last week. Lou Varricchio from the Addison Eagle and True North Reports asked two of our members some questions about mosquitoes, larvicides, and pesticides. Chris Fastie and Wally Bailey are both quoted in the article. Will Mathis of the BLSG Insect Control District is also quoted, although those quotes were from an essay in the Rutland Herald authored by Mathis. Reporters have not had much luck this spring arranging interviews with BLSG members.
A new approach to mosquito control is being widely deployed for the first time this year. A commercial product called the In2Care Mosquito Trap is being tested around the world to control Aedes mosquitoes which carry several tropical diseases.
The trap attracts certain mosquitoes, infects them with larvicide and fungus, and allows them to escape and contaminate natural breeding sites with larvicide. The fungus eventually kills the contaminated mosquito.
Yesterday’s Rutland Herald article by Will Mathis, Director of Operations of the BLSG Insect Control District included new information about requesting that no pesticides be sprayed along private property in the district. Last week, BLSG published notices in the local newspapers that insect control operations will happen this year, and that landowners could request that their property be a “no spray zone.” Similar details about the opt-out program are posted at the BLSG website.
In yesterday’s article, very different rules were described. Instead of a deadline of “early April” for making your request, the article states that “We will accept and process requests anytime during the season.”
A new article posted by the Rutland Herald today reports that the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation has asked for more information about the BLSG Insect Control District’s application to apply pesticides to control mosquitoes. “I just asked them to clarify some pieces of their pesticide discharge management plan,” said Misha Cetner of Vermont DEC.
The Rutland Herald posted an article today about Moosalamoo Woods & Waters. Staff Writer Susan Smallheer talked to a few of us and then described our new group and our current project of providing property maps to landowners in the BLSG Insect Control District who want to opt out of roadside pesticide spraying along their property.
A few reader comments were generated by the VTDigger article about the imminent DEC decision on the BLSG Insect Control District’s permit to operate. The full verbatim text of a comment by Dr. Benjamin Lawton, the chair of the BLSG, follows with some comments.
According to a new article by Vermont Digger, The BLSG Insect Control District does its work under the auspices of two different Vermont agencies. The Agency of Agriculture and Food Markets grants permits to both of Vermont’s insect control districts to apply larvicides on standing water to kill mosquito larvae. Although the Agency of Agriculture and Food Markets grants permits to apply many types of agricultural chemicals, it does not regulate the spraying of pesticides like malathion and permethrin to kill adult mosquitoes. It does train and license operators who spray these pesticides, but no permit is required. Instead, a Vermont insect control district must be approved by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to spray pesticides to control adult mosquitoes. In order to spray pesticides, an insect control district must obtain a Pesticide General Permit (PGP), a type of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and comply with the provisions outlined in the PGP.
The town of Pittsford, Vermont voted at town meeting on March 6, 2018 to become a full member of the BLSG Insect Control District. For the first time, spraying will be done along town roads in Pittsford to kill adult mosquitoes. The measure passed by a vote of 35 to 24.