Story Aired on KPFA Tuesday, 8 February, 2005,
Wendall Harper, reporting,
transcribed from tape with notes by Maxina Ventura, of East Bay Pesticide Alert.
.KPFA Interview Stream - warning long download
**Stop Toxic Trespass and East Bay Pesticide Alert representatives interviewed.
Missed taping first few words by narrator "...Oakland City Council ... in favor of lifting a ban on the use of herbicides, particularly in the Oakland hills area, where the 1991 firestorm occurred. The issue appears to be the threat of eucalyptus trees and other fire-causing plants but environmental groups are organizing a petition drive against the use of herbicides.
(note: the city council has created two exemptions already, for median strips and the creation of new ballfields, heading down a slippery slope of exemptions rather than alternatives. The ban is on its way to becoming meaningless. Alternatives exist. They always have existed.)
Wendall Harper reports: The Wildfire Prevention District Advisory Commission has asked the Oakland City Council to reverse its 10-year old policy banning the use of all herbicides as a way of controlling the eucalyptus tree and other fire-causing plants.
The Oakland Fire Marshall, one of the leading proponents of the amendment. "We believe the selective use of herbicides in the hill areas works as part of an overall comprehensive vegetative management plan, meaning that following a set of guidelines, standards, and reporting requirements, we believe that the herbicides will help us reduce costs and not having to constantly go back over the things that we've cut, immediately after we've cut them, based on the regrowth that, as well as the use of selective herbicides. And additionally, you know, we will take all the precautions necessary to insure that we use limited amounts of the herbicides. This is ratified by our council, to help reduce the fuel load in the hill areas so that we don't, once again, experience a devastating fire like we had in 1991, and to reduce our overall fuel load to create a higher level of fire safety for our hill area residents.
(note: 'selective' and 'limited amounts' are examples of words/ phrases coming down the pike from the pesticide industry and users and repeated ad nauseaum between agencies pushing the city to use herbicides, as well as Ms. Quan and her aides. The money issue is always one of the motivators for heading toward pesticides, though the chemicals and application costs can be both expensive and extremely time-consuming in many cases. In fact, East Bay Regional Parks District pays 15% more hourly to people applying pesticides in the regional parks, which by the way, is pushed by Nancy Brownfield, who is called an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) specialist, but said in the 1/26 meeting that she just 'goes by the labels.' Not a lot of research appears to be going into her decisionmaking.Ý She also has a fetotoxin, Surflan, used at Ardenwood. Right where pregnant moms with toddlers go in droves. There is NO overarching certification program for IPM in the U.S. So people just hang up a shingle and call themselves IPM specialists. One thing is clear: many rangers who love, and are devoted to, the regional parks, are hopping mad about pesticide use in the parks they cherish and respect. More than one has used the term "slippery slope" in referring to Nancy Brownfield's pesticide addiction. She referred to posting signs "24 hours ahead"; then, "At least 12 hours ahead." What the heck is that supposed to mean? 24? 12? 17? Never mind the fact that residues are around for long periods of time. See "What's wrong with Roundup?" at www.eastbaypesticidealert.org to read about the New York Attorney General's suing Monsanto over false claims and to learn about the half-life of Roundup.
Perhaps the most important thing to take from the Oakland Fire Marshall's quote is, "This is ratified by our council." Last time I heard, this was an issue going through public channels to allow for informed discussion, research and thought to lead decision-making. It appears, by this comment, that, the city council has been convinced by the hills users UC, EBMUD and the Regional Parks and also the five-decade pesticide user past president of the California Native Plant Society, and the Friends of Sausal Creek who simply are frustrated with year after year of clearing work and want a quick fix which doesn't actually exist. Apparently they have told the Oakland Fire Marshall that they plan to make yet a third exemption to the so-called ban on pesticide use by the city. A little sunshine would be nice, right about now.)
WH: As the Oakland Tribune reports in today's edition, A growing voice cries out against such use, saying that a segment of the population suffers from exposure to chemicals and experiences cases of asthma, cancer, thyroid disorders and skin rashes. The group Stop Toxic Trespass representative Michelle Miller says the die is already cast.
MM (of Stop Toxic Trespass): I personally nearly lost my life from a pesticide used by the label. People definitely will get sick because the herbicides are a harm to the environment. If you put herbicides on a tree or a bush, when it rains it gets into the groundwater. There's nothing to stop the animals, the birds, the raccoons from rubbing up against it and so the herbicides are bad both for the environment and for people. The point really is that, if there's a lot of methods to get rid of weeds people need to do an experiment and say ok, here are all the different methods. Let's subdivide the eucalyptus and the broom into, say, 10 piles and try 10 different methods, see which one is most effective, or which ones are most effective, and then continue on those methods and those methods not including something which is going to, excuse me, one of the methods which is going to harm people because people do get harmed and when you have a pesticide contamination it is extremely expensive to get rid of.
WH: The legislation ban amendment is the venue of city council member Jean Quan whose aide Michelle (sic) Sue Piper says will not allow any spraying and will only use what herbicides are needed.
SP : No spraying. We're not talking about spraying. It has to be hand-applied directly onto a freshly cut stump. Or, uh, we're talking about Eucalyptus, acacia, pampas grass, broom.
(note: apparently UC does spray because UC's Klatt clarified without even being asked that the 2 gallons reported being used actually translates into 100 gallons of spray (his word). Perhaps the Oakland City Council has planned this exemption in such a way as to do a 2-part punch: first try to placate people insisting: no spraying... just hand-applied; next, after pushing through the exemption, announce that the city just doesn't have the labor to do this and for the sake of doing as promised for the Wildfire Assessment District, they now have to resort to spraying. Because just imagine for a moment. No problem squirting on tree stumps. But pampas grass stumps? Broom? Oh, come on. Let's be serious. For just a moment, imagine the time it would take to have chopped, or disced broom. So far so good. Now imagine someone bending over and squirting each end. First, there is no way not to cause it to drip directly on the ground, but in reality it gets there anyway because of dew and rain, melting, etc. And what is this freshly-cut stump thing? Klatt pointed out that UC goes in every month to do treatments on the acreage they "manage." So if they actually are cutting new sprouts, that is exactly what they can keep doing for tree stumps, if they don't want to bother with covering in plastic sheeting, or hacking up the stumps. Their method is actually labor intensive, too. And if Oakland's idea is simply to hand-apply without cutting new sprouts, it is bound to fail miserably. Everyone wants a quick fix; it does not exist. The non-native species problems are not new but nature's attempt at handling them has been hampered by fire suppression when it is a healthy part of this ecosystem, and pesticide use which has lead to goats being kept from being able to be used for a year plus the next rainy season where herbicides have been used. Goats R Us knows the danger to their goats. In 1998, about 20 goats keeled over and died immediately after drinking runoff from a vineyard across the road, in the famous Carneros District of the Sonoma Valley. The neighbor grower used Roundup on a regular basis. Using herbicides will lock Oakland out of an important tool which should be available any time it's needed. Do the math: one year plus a rainy season (because water does wash herbicides down into the ground and down the hill). Soon you have no possibility of using goats at all. Second, if you are taking the time to do that on 1,000 acres... well, you'll be paying so much to fund it that there is no reason not to be funding hand removal, particularly because pesticides kill off the weakest strains of any "pest," causing a process called "selecting" or "selecting out." Just as we see super-strains of antibiotics caused by irresponsible antibiotic use which was pushed by chemical companies (who are looked to for reference by doctors!), we see superweeds created by pesticides killing off weaker plants around, grasses and more delicate "weeds" which would have been easier to pull out by hand than the super resistant weeds which sprout right back up with glee. We can thank the chemical companies for this, too, also used as reference by municipal agencies. All you have to do is take a look at any sprayed highway edge to see the deep, healthy green leaves of broadleaf "weeds" which have survived the onslaught of regular herbicide applications. Those are the ones which reproduce. We can thank Caltrans for the example anyone driving freeways can view daily. On 580, surrounding the Oakland Zoo. It's Glyphosate-based Roundup and Pendamethalin-based Pendulum Aquacap which has allowed us our fine examples on the Great Wall of Poison.
Do we smell some great rat here (no doubt selected out to be the one of your nightmares), of UC (with its pesticide corporation contracts) leading the way with all these other agencies following suit? UC's Klatt is part of the police department. Do we go to an electrician when we are having medical problems? And should we refer to a municipal water agency whose IPM list of ok pesticides is 22 long (google: ebmud ipm), and whose representatives say they follow what PG&E suggests? Do we expect PG&E to be our reference for human and environmental health? How about a Regional Parks representative who uses fetotoxins where pregnant moms abound? Or a Native Plants guy who says there is not other way than to use pesticides, but does not talk about how herbicides are well-understood by anyone doing research to inhibit the workings of mycorrhizal fungi which naturally act to starve out non-natives when they aren't subjected to herbicides? The City Council needs to back down, admit they were mistaken, put on the brakes and spend the 20 minutes it would take to scan the materials received by Jean Quan and various staff members on1/26, materials which make most people shudder when looking at the facts of the dangers of these pesticides in question.
WH: But the proponents (sic) of herbicides say there is no safe level of the toxins and too many options abound for the city of Oakland to risk the lives and limbs of people, animals and the environment. Maxina Ventura is one of them.
MV (of East Bay Pesticide Alert): And one of the very, very big issues is that of synergism, that when you mix chemicals together the toxic effect is potentiated. And so, where one of those chemicals, or the other, could be said to have a certain effect, you put them together and the toxic effect often is on a much higher degree, on a much higher level. Many of the studies are government studies which give us this information and are being ignored, right now, unfortunately, by people representing Jean Quan's office, I'm very sorry to say. They were given information, they were given toxicological profiles including government study references and they have persisted in saying, essentially, that these pesticides are safe.
(note: Ms. Quan and each of the panelists was handed a stack of relevant toxicological profiles; info on the city of Arcata's ban in 2000 on pesticide use (after a 14-year successful moratorium), and award-winning ballfield. The alternatives are there, for everyone's enjoyment and health. It would be nice if the policy analyst working for Ms. Quan had done enough research to understand that herbicides are one category of pesticides (others include insecticides, rodenticides, bacteriacides, etc.). Recycling is great... except when we see a recycling of misinformation, which abounds here, and which we saw all last year with the West Nile Virus reports, all parrotting chemical companies' words about the need for insecticide and deet use. Apparently Ms. Piper told Ms. Quan that rather than face the health issues straight up, she should just try to discredit environmental and health activists by saying that herbicides are not pesticides. Too bad for all involved that it was incorrect information, perhaps meant to steer people away from healthy questioning. What a shame. We need discussion so that decisions are made with honest information. It is clear that Ms. Quan is dedicated to restoring native ecology, regularly do the hands-on work of pulling weeds in Sausal Creek. Clearly she is frustrated feeling like with all their work, the weeds come back. Well, one of the neighbors who borders both Dimond Park and Sausal Creek obviously uses some form of herbicide. I would like to think it's hot water but wouldn't count on it. Whatever is used is leaching into the creek along with probably many neighbors' herbicides. Go to the source of the superweeds in the creek... the neighbors, difficult as it is. Help them understand that they are endangering the very creek they love, as well as their loved ones. If everyone reading this devoted a day a month, or two days a month, or whatever you can work out, to this kind of work, to support it actually, by doing the work, native habitats could be restored more quickly indeed. This is a challenge, folks! Choose the park or creek you love most and do the work. Demonstrate your love for our beautiful Bay Area and its habitats.)
WH: Two more hearings will be held on the subject before a final ruling and a decision. Wendall Harper reporting for KPFA news.î
Following story: The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to formally adopt a policy ofÝ accepting human pesticide experiments.