Complaint about creekside spraying draws quick response in Menlo Park | News | Almanac Online |


Complaint about creekside spraying draws quick response in Menlo Park

New policy prohibits spraying near waterways

Janet Davis was aghast when she saw a tanker truck and a man spraying what she thought was an herbicide next to San Francisquito Creek near Alpine Road and Junipero Serra Boulevard in Menlo Park on Tuesday, March 17.

Ms. Davis, a resident of the Stanford Weekend Acres neighborhood, fired off an email to the Menlo Park City Council, county supervisor Don Horsley and, for good measure, Portola Valley environmentalist Lennie Roberts.

Her email said the herbicide would be washed into the water. "Even the county has stopped doing this," she wrote. "This is idiotic. One man (or at least one WOMAN) with a hoe could do the job in half an hour."

At first, Menlo Park officials responded that the sprayers were not a Menlo Park crew, and that they had checked with Palo Alto, Stanford and San Mateo County as well but had not found anyone who would admit to spraying in the area that day. The email mentioned that tanker trucks had recently sprayed liquid fertilizer and water nearby.

That might have been the end of the story, except Ms. Davis found a neighbor who had been walking her dog in the area on the 17th who had spoken to the sprayer. "All I know is the guy said he was hired by Menlo Park," the neighbor told Ms. Davis. "He said it was Roundup," an herbicide, that was being sprayed, the neighbor said.

The new revelation set Menlo Park Director of Public Works Jesse Quirion back on the trail. By Thursday morning he sent out this reply:

"I apologize for the previous inaccurate information," he said. "I was notified yesterday afternoon that the spraying that occurred was performed by the landscape company Gachina who is contracted by the city of Menlo Park."

Mr. Quirion said the mix-up has led to a new city policy. "Due to the lack of information about who was spraying, I am from this point forward restricting the use by city staff and city contractors of any and all pesticides within a 100' range of waterways, creeks and/or canals and requiring all city contractors to notify city staff in writing at least 24 hours in advance of any uses of pesticides," he said.

Herbicides, which kill plants, are considered pesticides, as are substances that kill insects.

"I agree that the use of pesticides directly adjacent to the canal is unacceptable and I am grateful for the residents bringing this to our attention so that we are able to address it and prevent it from occurring again," Mr. Quirion said.

Mr. Quirion said Menlo Park in June restricted the use of Roundup within 100 feet of schools, daycare facilities, picnic areas and playgrounds. "We began a test section for the use and effectiveness of different types of weed abatement treatments" and the city will consider the results in modifying its existing Integrated Pest Management policy, he said.

Menlo Park's Integrated Pest Management policy dates from 1998 and is being updated, Mr. Quirion said, so to better align with San Mateo County's Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program policy. The draft of Menlo Park's pest management plan should come before the council by May, he said.

Ms. Davis said she feels the city needs to do even more. Even an herbicide sprayed 100 feet from a waterway "still flows down to the creek and is lethal to aquatic life" she said. "The spraying that I saw was right adjacent to the creek where there is a ditch that flows directly into San Francisquito."

"There also needs to be public notification several days ahead of ANY intention to spray ANY area," she wrote to the city.

The issue of herbicide spraying has been in the news lately because San Mateo County residents who live off Skyline Boulevard (Hwy. 35) and Woodside/La Honda Road (Hwy. 84) are upset that Caltrans continues to broadcast spray herbicides near their homes.

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9 people like this
Posted by MenloJim
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Now we just need the City of East Palo Alto to adopt a similar policy. EPA, or their contractor, apparently sprayed roundup on their San Francisquito Creek bank along Woodland Avenue between Euclid Avenue and Manhattan Avenue a few weeks ago.

15 people like this
Posted by Margo
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 19, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Menlo Park should restrict the use of Roundup everywhere, not just near waterways and schools. Rainwater and excess sprinkling will also wash RU into the sewer system and into the bay. This goes for all pesticides and herbicides (remember Agent Orange and all the deformed babies we left in Viet Nam?). We should be gardening organically, using companion planting---plants that noxious insects don't like.

Not only do these chemicals do incredible environmental damage, but also they are killing the bees. In the past spring has brought hundreds of bees to my plants. Now I am blessed if I see 10. My yard is totally bee friendly, but neighbors use chemicals and the bees don't understand. When the bees are gone, so will our backyard vege gardens and fruit trees be gone.

Please, Menlo Park, investigate this and find out how to grow our trees without damage to the environment.

4 people like this
Posted by oakleaf
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Mar 19, 2015 at 4:25 pm

oakleaf is a registered user.

Great that Menlo Park responded to their residents' complaints. I hope they heed their policies better than Caltrans heeded the San Mateo County Supervisors' ban on herbicide spraying on Skyline and 84.

11 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm

This stuff is poison to bees, kids, our planet and future. Yet our City uses thousands of gallons of it every year in our parks and now evidently by the creek. Shame on our City and it's leaders who are more concerned with giving millions to developers in tax breaks than taking care of residents and wildlife.

1 person likes this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 19, 2015 at 10:33 pm

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by chicken little
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Mar 19, 2015 at 11:32 pm

good grief! more alarmist reactions to roundup. try reading the label sometime. at the mixture used for weed control it doesnt kill fish or birds or bees. It just kills weeds, with no residual effect after about 1 day. im sure gluten is worse for you than this stuff lol! cmon with the agent orange and deformed babies, were all a little more informed than we were about these chemicals today than we were in 1965! and we wear seat belts now too. agent orange, you are hilarious! the sky is definitly not falling. im totally good with toundup use, anybody else.

6 people like this
Posted by Michelle Daher
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2015 at 9:29 am

My name is Michelle Daher. I work for the City of East Palo Alto managing the city's environmental programs. This comment is to clear up a comment pertaining to the City of East Palo Alto's purported use of sprays around San Francisquito Creek.
The City of East Palo Alto has an internal policy NOT to spray around San Francisquito Creek, Cooley Landing, and the local levee system. Any weed control around the creek is conducted by the City with a hand tool or weed whacker. Furthermore, it is the internal policy of the City to sparsely use Roundup-Pro Max with use limited at local parks, only as needed for spot-treatment, and along City medians. Our maintenance staff handles all spraying and does not contract this effort out except for managing pests at public buildings, for which we rely on our contract with the company Terminix to provide spot-only spraying. We have an Integrated Pest Management Policy which we adhere to and have found even our contractor has managed to significantly reduce the reliance on pestides and herbicides through IPM efforts. We are proud of this!

The City does have private land owners around San Francisquito Creek owning a significant portion of the bank of the creek. It is possible that a spraying has been conducted without the City's knowledge or direction. Any questions of this matter pertaining to East Palo Alto can be directed to me at (replace the "at" with "@"). Thank you.

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