Let us Spray. Or Not? Roanoke Wants to Know

The outcome of the Wednesday morning meeting in Roanoke may determine more than just the future of AEP power line right-of-way control along a tributary of Back Creek in western Roanoke County.

If nothing else comes from the gathering of city officials, AEP officials, local advocacy groups and area neighbors, attention will be focused on the choices we make when by our action or inaction we weigh efficiency against health–specifically the known and unknown costs and risk of herbicide use near creeks and streams.

The herbicides in use (how widely used by AEP across its rather vast service region) are Clearstand-Lineage together with Krenite. Both have stated risks when used near water.

Interested parties are encouraged to attend the meeting at 9:30 am at the Roanoke County Admin Bldg (Bernard Dr), in the 4th floor office of the Cave Spring Magisterial District Supervisor.

Related reading:

Roanoke Co. man questions effects of herbicide

Should AEP be spraying hazardous chemicals?

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Arguing against spraying has to be made separately from health risks (except allergies). There are three approaches that are valid: Personal property rights; forest fire risk and allergy notification and exposure minimisation.

    The first risk of spraying is the fire risk left behind. In Indian Valley, we had a large tree come down and dislodge a live wire which dropped and ignited sprayed and dry foliage under the wires. Despite high winds, the good volunteers of Indian Valley were able to prevent the field fire from reaching our home. Had we not been home to see the event occur, we would surely have lost our home.

    Spraying is cheap, but sprayers seem to have no desire to come back and clean out the tinder dry fire hazard that is left behind.

    Secondly, personal property rights are frequently and indiscriminately violated in spraying programs. In Huntersville, NC, Duke subcontractors sprayed so indiscriminately, they cost us thousands of dollars in landscape repairs after they targeted a small pruned dogwood and ended up killing all our low-lying foliage and boxwoods as well. We had been assured that if we kept the dogwood below 5 ft, we would be fine.

    Thirdly, a single intense exposure to glyphosate can trigger allergic reactions for quite sometime. The programs are so extensive over the course of a day, that people with allergies have a hard time finding allergy-free places to retreat to while the roundup settles out of the air. The spraying schedules need to be publically announced well ahead of time and strictly adhered to. They also need to work in very small geographic areas at a time, avoiding following long powerline routes.

    The studies concerning Glyphosate are pretty solid that birds, mammals and humans suffer no risk from the chemical, except for the occasional allergic reaction. So presenting the correlation data from organic websites will not help. AEP undoubtedly is already armed with real data from very extensive glyphosate studies.

    Demanding follow-up mulching of dry tinder to prevent forest fires is critical. They may not want to spend money on dead tree removal. Demanding spraying be performed in a small grid pattern to help allergy sufferers is also important. Demanding a payout system for damage to incidental foliage will also limit indiscriminate spraying.

  2. Kenite is a fosamine-based herbicide. Fosamine studies are consistent with glyphosate studies. No risk to birds, mammals unless you bath in it. Fosamine also has no risk to insects and bees, unless improperly sprayed (drowning of nests). Direct application of herbicides to skin can result in a development of allergies for an extended period.

    Fosamine can upset delicately balanced ecosystems in waterways. But that too is highly unlikely as the chemical penetrates foliage extremely slowly and can be washed away and diluted before harm is done.

    Risk to fish is studied here: