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.
The lawsuit was filed in June 2018 by Toxics Action Center who is represented by the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at the Vermont Law School. A month earlier, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation had authorized BLSG to spray pesticides under the State’s Pesticide General Permit (this permit allows the state to comply with the Federal Clean Water Act).
Toxics Action Center argues that the State should not have authorized BLSG to spray toxic pesticides because the documentation submitted by BLSG as part of the application process was incomplete. Vermont statutes are very clear about what an applicant must submit in order to be included under the state’s Pesticide General Permit. The lawsuit lists three required things that BLSG failed to include:
- BLSG failed to document how they evaluated the ways in which each of their mosquito management activities impacts water quality.
- BLSG failed to document how they evaluated the ways in which each of their mosquito management activities impacts animals and plants other than mosquitoes.
- BLSG failed to document how they minimize harmful discharge into waters by eventually resorting to chemical pesticides only if all other measures have been exhausted or are unreasonable.
These are not minor omissions from BLSG’s documentation. Vermont law requires anyone spraying toxic pesticides to be aware of the dangers their activities pose to the environment and human health and then to publicly document those dangers. By omitting these evaluations, residents of the BLSG District have no way of knowing whether no dangers exist, whether dangers exist and BLSG staff are not aware of them, or whether BLSG staff are aware of potential dangers but decided to downplay them.
We also don’t know why the state decided to authorize BLSG despite these gaps. Both the state and BLSG are part of this lawsuit. If the case eventually makes it to trial, we will get answers to some of these questions.