The county ban applies to its own public works department, not to Caltrans, and the state agency warned residents after the supervisors' action three years ago that it would continue the practice under certain circumstances, including in matters of roadway safety and potential fire danger. Why Caltrans is not following through on its commitment to let residents know beforehand is baffling, and unacceptable. Advance notice allows residents to post "No spray" signs on their own property, to keep their pets indoors, and to avoid walking or bicycling along a roadway where toxic fumes may be lingering. As Ms. Mayall said last year after finding out about the unnoticed spraying, "... how can people opt out from having their property sprayed when they don't know the spraying is taking place?"
The question of whether spraying herbicide, rather than mowing, is the only effective method of controlling weeds along rural roadsides is an important one that should be pursued, but meanwhile, Caltrans should be clear about why it continues the practice in this county when it finds alternative strategies in other counties that have banned spraying.
When they passed the spraying ban in 2012, the supervisors agreed with residents pushing for it that the chemicals put people, wildlife and the watershed at risk. In addition to living up to its commitment to notify residents if it continues to spray, Caltrans should also explain why the perceived need to use toxic chemicals in the public space should outweigh public health concerns.
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