Urban Politics #87: Gypsy Moth Spraying


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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Gypsy Moth Spraying

Councilmember Heidi Wills and I sent the following letter this Tuesday (4/18/00) to Jim Jesernig, Director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture concerning the proposed spraying of pesticides over Ballard and Magnolia in order to stop a possible infestation of the gypsy moth. His Department proposed aerial spraying of Foray 48B, a biological product, to eradicate any Asian gypsy moth presence in a mile-square area of Ballard and the north part of Magnolia. Our letter requests that alternatives to spraying Ballard and Magnolia be used and that the Department of Agriculture work with the community on these alternatives.

Dear Mr. Jesernig:

We are writing to express our concern about your plans to spray the pesticide Foray 48B into the Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard and Magnolia, due to the presence of an Asian gypsy moth found in Ballard, and an Asian gypsy moth egg nest found aboard a Russian ship in Salmon Bay. It is our understanding this spraying could begin as early as late April.

Although we recognize the gypsy moth poses some danger to Seattle and surrounding communities, we have serious concerns about plans to spray Foray 48B into these neighborhoods, and believe alternatives to spraying should be used.

Many residents of Ballard and Magnolia are alarmed about plans to spray Foray 48B into their communities. They have communicated their concerns to us, and we share them. These concerns involve three main issues: impacts on health, the environment, and alternatives to spraying. Many of these concerns involve the inert ingredients in Foray 48B.

While we understand that Foray 48B may be less harmful than purely chemical spays, we are deeply concerned about the impact of Foray 48B on the health of local residents. The area in Ballard targeted for spraying is home to a large population of vulnerable people. For example, there is a large elderly population; a number of care facilities and group homes for the elderly are located in this area.

Our concern is reinforced by the lack of public knowledge about the inert ingredients of Foray 48B, which constitute 97.9% of Foray 48B. We understand that under state law, you cannot disclose the composition of the inert ingredients if you determine they are a trade secret. While we recognize your position that Foray 48B is safe, without public knowledge of the ingredients, there is no way for individuals with allergies, asthma or other health conditions to know that they may be exposed to substances that affect them, and take specific precautions.

While the Department of Agriculture’s advice that residents remain indoors for 30 minutes after the spraying is well intended, the residue of Foray 48B will remain on the ground, leaves and grass (and this is why spraying will not be carried out if it is raining). Thus, continued exposure to the ingredients of Foray 48B is not only possible but likely. We are concerned about the safety of Foray 48B, considering the lack of long-term studies done on its impacts on human health

We are also troubled about the environmental impacts of Foray 48B. The Salmon Bay area between Magnolia and Ballard is the only passageway for endangered species of salmon. We are especially concerned about the impact of repeated sprayings.

We have reviewed the materials mailed to residents of the targeted spray zone, and the March 17, 2000 Draft Environmental Assessment. The Draft Environmental Assessment notes the spraying will be followed by the trapping of male Gypsy Moths in the summer of 2000, and followed by egg mass inspections in the fall of 2000 to help determine if the Department of Agriculture will spray again next year. If you do spray, what is the criteria for success, and thus, we assume, no further spraying? Is it clearly delineated? Please let us know.

Another frustration we have heard from constituents is the classification of one moth and one egg mass as an “infestation.” As you may know, the United States Department of Agriculture’s “Gypsy Moth Handbook,” states:

Under normal circumstances, when few insects are observed, annual protective spraying of pesticides on trees and shrubs around the home to control the gypsy moth is probably not justified and may have an adverse effect on the insect’s natural enemy complex. Your decision to use or not use pesticides should be influenced by environment, economics, and practical concerns*.

This document seems to express caution about the use of spraying pesticides when few moths are observed. By what criteria do one egg mass and one moth constitute an “infestation?” What are lower levels than “infestation?” Please inform us.

The Draft Environmental Assessment “Treatment Alternatives Not Selected” reads:

“The other alternatives included in the FEIS were not selected because they are not readily available, are of unproven efficacy, or are inappropriate for the nature of the infestations and/or the nature of the project.”

This section has been a key source of the complaints from constituents, particularly regarding the lack of clarity. If you decide to spray these communities, we believe it is important that you specify which methods you believe are not readily available, of unproven efficacy or appropriate, and why.

Residents of these neighborhoods are aware of alternative methods being used in numerous areas in North America, such as pheromone trapping, mating disruption, sterile release, habitat enhancement, public education, and prevention at points of entry.

We encourage you to use these alternatives. If, however, you choose to spray, please provide us with additional information on why alternatives used elsewhere are not currently planned for use in this targeted spray zone.

Many people in the communities of Ballard and Magnolia are not only willing, but eager to help prevent the establishment of the Asian Gypsy Moth.

In closing, we urge you to utilize alternatives to spraying Ballard and Magnolia with Foray 48B, and work with the community on these alternatives.

Sincerely, Council Members Nick Licata and Heidi Wills

Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles Efforts

If we are unable to stop the spraying I received an email from State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles of the 36th Legislative District that she has secured an agreement with WSDA that if the spraying takes place they will notify all public and private schools, day care and child care centers, Ballard Boys & Girls Club, community centers, seniors centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, senior residences, doctors, clinics, Swedish Hospital/Ballard and more. The spraying would take place between 5 -6:30 a.m.

Keep in touch…

 

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