Assembly talks state proposal to spray pesticides
The Petersburg Borough Assembly voted unanimously to request greater community input on the spraying of
pesticides to control vegetation in the borough. The issue is the result of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issuing a notice of
proposed pollutant discharge. The current permit, issued by the Environmental
Protection Agency in 2011, expires at the end of October of this year.
“The state has changed their process,’’ said vice mayor Cindi Lagoudakis as she began
reading the permit proposal. “It’s for pesticide general permit for discharges from the application of pesticides.’’
The assembly will
request public hearings and a comment period extension that would fall outside of the fishing season so more people can actively participate. Two residents from Petersburg spoke out against the 30-day comment period on such an important issue, and Lagoudakis mentioned her thoughts on the state’s new direction.
“This is a very streamlined process that the state has
gone to that is really giving us less ability to have a
meaningful discussion in my view,’’ she said. “And I would certainly recommend that we at least ask for a public hearing if not make a comment as an assembly.’’
The notice makes no
mention of when or where spraying could take place. Information about the notice and where to send comments will be available on the borough website or the borough offices.
Brian Lynch spoke at the meeting, saying he desired an extension to the 30-day comment period and a public hearing to be held by the assembly. Lynch said holding a public hearing should be “a given.’’ He takes exception with the timing of the comment period, which runs from Aug. 2 through Sept. 2, and said he just recently became aware of it.
“I get really concerned
when I see issues like this, particularly during the summer, you have a 30-day comment period, that really disturbs me,’’ he said.
He referenced pertinent
documents from the state on the issue being 55 pages long and the federal document
being over 130 pages, calling the amount of information a lot to digest. For Lynch, the
issue is important because of possible impacts on the fishing, whether it be commercial or subsistence, calling it the livelihood and lifeblood of the community.
“We need to really understand what chemicals are being used out there in the environment,’’ Lynch said.
Assembly member Eric Castro asked Lynch his feelings on a proper extension and Lynch acknowledged wanting a 30-day extension.
“Simply put, I’d like to echo Mr. Lynch’s comments,’’ said assembly member Jeigh Stanton Gregor. “I think it would be powerful for us as a borough to ask for a 30-day extension and local public hearings in communities affected by this.’’
Laura Wong-Rose also asked the assembly to submit a written comment and request a public hearing. She told the assembly spraying of pesticides to reduce vegetation could have the “long-term potential to devastate our wetlands and our community.’’ Wong-Rose mentioned the chemicals in question have been registered in the U.S. since 1979, but little research on the impact they have is available. Last spring, Wong-Rose actively researched the chemicals being used in other communities, and ended up accumulating hundreds of pages of research. She gave multiple examples of impacts on wildlife, including Coho salmon.
“The more I researched the more I became concerned,’’ she said. “Please take the time to do your own research on the likely effects of Garlon 4, Habitat, Roundup being sprayed in our community near our wetlands and streams and come to your own conclusions. But I am convinced that the DOT is not being a responsible steward of these lands by repeatedly refusing to listen to residents whose livelihood is directly affected by these actions for the sake of reducing some foliage.’’