Salisbury Town Meeting Surprise

I think a lot of people were surprised at yesterday’s Town Meeting in Salisbury. Our Moderator, Wayne Smith (one of five people present who have lived in Salisbury for more than 50 years), moderated a 20 minute discussion on Article 11 about whether to approve funding for BLSG. Moderator Smith warned us first that a lot of people might have something to say. Select Board Chair, Paul Vaczy, implored us to be civil and respect our neighbors’ ideas during the discussion. At least 11 people stood, held the microphone, and presented their opinion or question on the issue.

Salisbury Town Meeting in the Salisbury Community School on February 29, 2020.
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BLSG wants 51% more from Salisbury

At last week’s meeting of the BLSG Board of Trustees, Treasurer and long-time representative from Brandon, Wayne Rausenberger, made a couple of revealing statements.

“I think of the adulticide business as a Band-Aid, and it’s an emergency Band-Aid because we can’t do it the best possible way which is more larvicide work because we don’t have the funds. That to me is what it boils down to.”

This is a sentiment with a long history among BLSG board members and there was no opposition to Rausenberger’s comment at this meeting. It is no secret that roadside spraying of adulticides kills only a portion of the mosquitoes in a narrow swath along roads, for only a couple of hours, has no long-term impact, and happens only once every week or two (details here). Most residents of Salisbury who live on rural roads see little benefit from BLSG’s intermittent roadside spraying.

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Salisbury Select Board makes informed decisions

Last night the Salisbury Select Board confirmed that Mike Blaisdell (Chair of the BLSG Board of Trustees) had acknowledged that there were problems with the annual report BLSG had submitted for inclusion in the Town Reports of the five BLSG District Towns. Blaisdell approved a plan to allow Salisbury to delete a misleading paragraph about arboviruses before including the report in their Town Report.

Although Blaisdell acknowledged the improper nature of the report, he was apparently not planning to send a revised report to all the District towns without first getting approval from the BLSG board. Therefore misleading information could appear in the Town Reports of all other District towns. Select Board members from these towns might still have time to contact Blaisdell and get approval to delete the misleading information.

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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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Kodak Carousel

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 recent 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 (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.

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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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Toxics Action Center appeals the BLSG’s permit approval

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.”

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Pretty good press

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.

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Aedes vs. Aedes

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.

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Updated BLSG policy on opting out of roadside spraying

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.”

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Vermont DEC wants clarification about BLSG’s pesticide plans

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.

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Who grants permits to spray mosquito pesticides?

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.

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