Caltrans again delays, but won't stop, spraying

Experts say chemicals have dangerous side effects

For the second week in a row, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has at the last minute postponed spraying herbicides along Highway 84 west of Skyline Boulevard, due to weather.

Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro said Caltrans will now spray on March 17 and 24, both Tuesdays, between Skyline Boulevard and Stage Road, about one mile east of Highway 1, on the westbound side of 84 (also known as La Honda Road), with no spraying between Hildebrand and Pescadero roads.

Ms. Navarro also issued a statement on March 10, saying Caltrans will not give up herbicide spraying in San Mateo County, as residents had requested.

In 2012, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors banned broadcast spraying of herbicides everywhere in the county except at its two airports. But the county has no authority over Caltrans. Although Caltrans has stopped spraying herbicides in other counties when asked to do so, the agency continues to spray herbicides alongside its highways in San Mateo County.

Local residents, who have formed a group called "Protect Our Watershed," have protested Caltrans' spraying, saying they fear it will pollute local water sources and harm the health of local residents and others who use the roads, such as cyclists.

According to Ms. Navarro's statement, Caltrans has "evaluated mowing as an alternative to herbicide application and have determined that it is not feasible to implement this activity in a manner that is safe." The statement says the highway has limited sight distance around curves and mowing equipment cannot safely be dropped off and loaded.

"In general, the use of herbicides is more effective and efficient," the statement says. "Herbicide application guarantees the eradication of the noxious weeds and promotes fire safety and can be done quickly. Mowing along Route 84 could take four to six weeks to complete, if it were safe to do so."

But those who study the toxicity of chemicals used as herbicides warn that those Caltrans plans to use have dangers.

Patty Clary, executive director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, says the herbicide Milestone has the active ingredient of aminopyralid. "This chemical made headlines when -- after compost caused stunting and maiming of crops -- it was found to persist at toxic levels in compost containing grass or manure from areas where it is applied," Ms. Clary said.

The herbicide's label "requires 'restricted entry' for 12 hours" she said. "If a worker is to re-enter earlier, they are to wear coveralls and waterproof chemical-resistant gloves." "The interested public should question why … (they) can potentially be exposed to a pesticide during the restricted re-entry period without warning," Ms. Clary said.

"Milestone is very persistent with a half life of 50 to more than 550 days depending on environmental conditions," she said.

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5 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2015 at 10:31 am

Well, these are the same folks who did such a wonderful job replacing the eastern half of the Bay Bridge. They've spent millions protecting the wildlife on and around the bridge, but that doesn't apply to humans.

6 people like this
Posted by Trisha Lee
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Well, my last post is not here so I am not sure what happened to that. In Humboldt County, Mendocino County and most of Trinity and DelNorte Counties, there is no roadside spraying allowed. Caltrans must stop this terrible practice everywhere. Don't give up. Thanks to Patty Clary, executive director of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, spraying was stopped up here years ago. Let's see if this comment is posted.

7 people like this
Posted by rural mom
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Mar 11, 2015 at 3:54 pm

There are plenty of places to load and unload equipment along 84 and 35, that is not a valid excuse. Leaving dead vegetation does not provide defensible area for fires (notice how the CDF does not spray?). Maybe it is cheaper to apply toxic chemicals, but it is NOT cheaper for those people who get cancer and other health issues. Maybe someone is just getting kick backs from the herbicide companies. I find it impossible to believe that our area is unsuitable for mowing but so many other counties are. What will it take for Caltrans to listen to us? Our Board of Supervisors did after hearing expert testimony.

This is the first time I've heard about the chemicals they are planning to spray. I thought Glyphosate was bad, these sound unbelievably bad. Twelve hours before it is safe to enter? Is Caltrans going to put up signage to prevent hikers and residents from crossing into these toxic areas? Unbelievable.

Thank you to Patty Clary of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics.

4 people like this
Posted by MenloJim
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 11, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Why has Roundup been used on the vegetation between Woodland Avenue and the San Francisquito Creek in the City of East Palo Alto during the critical Steelhead migration period? Is the error of CalTrans or the City of East Palo Alto?

6 people like this
Posted by Patty Mayall
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Thank you to Barbara Wood and The Almanac for covering this crucial issue to my community and beyond.
What needs to happen is for Caltrans (CT) to do AS THEY HAVE DONE in other CT districts : end broadcast, herbicide spraying of roadsides for vegetation management and follow the San Mateo Co. Board of Supervisors Resolution (March 2012) which ended this practice on county roads and parks.
It is disturbing to read CT responses claiming that they spray only once a year, when we have documented on Hwys. 35 & 84, roadside spraying being done in January, last year in June, and other years in November also. Now it's being done in March. We simply never KNOW when, where and what they are spraying from year to year, as it varies, and there is no on-road notifications posted to warn us. As we have experienced, no notifications at all (as this January on Hwy.35) or emails to some residents.
They claim that mowing cannot be done, first they said because of costs, yet they are refusing to show the numbers comparing the costs of spraying and mowing, and what their budget IS for vegetation management.
They HAVE done mowing and cutting of Hwy. 84 just a few years ago when a Bicycle group requested clearing for an event ! On a section of 84, CT managed to mow the Scotch Broom and roadsides in a day or two. Yet, they ignore YEARS of constant requests from residents for !
It would benefit all concerned if CT would work WITH our community and not against us. Quit delaying and END this unnecessary risk to public health, our water sources, and the environment NOW.

4 people like this
Posted by Dee Smith
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Mar 12, 2015 at 6:39 pm

I'm very much opposed to the spraying.

1 person likes this
Posted by Trisha Lee
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2015 at 8:24 pm

[Post removed. This doesn't seem to have anything to do with the local spraying issue. Also, don't post copyrighted material in Town Square. You can link to a blog if it is relevant to the topic.]

1 person likes this
Posted by oakleaf
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Mar 18, 2015 at 4:47 pm

oakleaf is a registered user.

Add your voice to those who oppose Caltrans continued spraying of herbicides! Please sign and forward our petition to others who are concerned:

Web Link

Thank you!

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