Reporting Herbicide Abuse

| 6/4/2014 9:55:00 AM

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Several years ago when challenging our association about careless spraying of a toxic herbicide, I learned several lessons.

Perhaps the most important lesson was that neither state nor federal authorities are there to stop dangerous practices unless they are sizable. Our community has about 4,000 acres of common mountain meadows which we members have access to for recreational purposes. Because everything ultimately washes down mountains to lower elevations, I believe those living on mountains should have a higher standard or responsibility to protect those lands below them. The leaders from our land owners association decided to kill invasive weeds by liberal application of 2,4,D Amine.

Another lesson learned was that state regulations apply to professional applicators, wherein they have to follow strict criteria. For an organization like ours, there are basically no rules or laws that directly apply. There were two enforcement agents for the entire state and primary enforcement was primarily focused on ranchers and farmers. A professional applicator is required to post where the herbicide has been applied, mix herbicides properly and follow specific safety rules. Our association not only refused to tell us where the spray was being applied but stated the law did not require them to do so. In checking the law I found they were right and no legal requirement was in place for private applications.

Which Government Agency?

My first effort was to enlist the help of the EPA. I incorrectly assumed the Environmental "Protection" Agency was there to ensure that we citizens were protected from toxic materials. I was politely passed off to the state Department of Agriculture (DOA). They in turn listened to my concern and informed me that they did not have the ability or inclination to look into the problem. Because regulation fell under the DOA, this simply did not sound right, so I then wrote the governor explaining their lack of concern.

The same person in the DOA who blew me off initially suddenly had renewed interest and said he would dispatch an investigator to check matters out. The investigator showed up and advised they lacked enforcement ability other than utilization of proper safety equipment while handling the herbicide. I had called, written and pleaded and was right back where I started on getting regulatory agencies involved, with the exception that the investigator did stop the spraying until the applicators could equip themselves with proper safety gear.

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