Don’t Spray Me! events


If you can’t see the calendar above, click here. See also the Chesco Environment Calendar here.

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Prevention of Mosquito Breeding at Sartomer’s West Chester Site

The Sartomer Company, which has a production facility at 610 S. Bolmar St., West Chester, Pennsylvania, informs us that:

“The Sartomer site in West Chester is diligent about controlling standing water that could potentially harbor mosquito larvae. Dikes containing storm water runoff at the site are drained daily to eliminate standing water. The site’s waste water treatment holding pond, which has standing water by design, is treated with biological agents to control the potential for mosquito breeding. These efforts are among many actions that the site takes in order maintain a safe workplace and to be a good member of the community.”

Don’t Spray Me! will welcome, and will gladly post, similar statements from other Chester County businesses.


Sartomer in its neighborhood, courtesy of Sartomer Co. (S. Bolmar St., at the bottom, E. Union St. at the right, Goose Creek at the back, then S. Adams and other streets).

Human immunity to West Nile Virus

We’ve seen prior references to some or all people bitten by WNV-positive mosquitoes acquiring immunity to WNV (see, e.g., WEbMD and a California State site). Most WNV cases have unnoticed symptoms but as in the case of other viruses, one can assume the affected individual acquires immunity. Below is the most positive statement we have seen so far, from “Mosquitoes with West Nile Virus popping up across PA” by Jack Eble, Fox43 News, 7/5/18:

…there are no confirmed cases of West Nile Virus in people, statewide.

Dr. John Goldman, infectious disease specialist with UPMC-Pinnacle, said finding a positive case in a person can be hard to find.

“Most people who’ve had [West Nile Virus] aren’t aware of it. Once you’ve had it, you’re immune. You can’t get it again,” said Dr. Goldman.

He believes most people have become immune to West Nile Virus, slowing the spread of the illness.

In 2003, Pennsylvania had 236 people test positive for West Nile Virus.

But since then, the most confirmed cases was 60 in 2012….

This plastic isn’t just harming wildlife anymore

email from Environmental Action, 7/8/18 [We also need to point out that it’s not just about pollution, because discarded plastics can favor mosquito breeding. Plastic containers and bags in the street can hold rainwater; plastic that enters storm drains can clog the drains and cause standing water retention; and plastic in waterways can clog flow and produce stagnant surface areas.]

A World Health Organization (WHO) working group just announced that they have concluded that styrene, a foundational component of polystyrene foam, probably causes cancer. 1

In addition to this plastic foam polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans, and harming wildlife, it also risks human health.

If enough of us speak up, we can convince our leaders to ban harmful plastic foam. Add your name today.

From coffee cups to fast food containers, polystyrene foam — what most of us call Styrofoam — is used every day all across the country. And this plastic foam often ends up polluting our water, and risking our health and wildlife. 2

In early April, a young sperm whale washed up on a beach in Spain with 64 pounds of human-made trash in its digestive system. 3 In June, a pilot whale was found in a canal in Thailand, with 80 plastic bags and other plastic debris in its stomach, unable to swim or breathe. 4

It’s stories like these that make it clear, it’s time to act to reduce and rid our planet of plastic pollution.

One place we can start is to not use plastics that end up in our oceans in the first place. One of the worst forms of plastic pollution comes from plastic polystyrene foam. This foam never fully degrades — every single bit of polystyrene foam ever made is still out there. 5

We shouldn’t allow plastic foam to threaten our health, wildlife and the planet. The time to act is now. Add your name opposing plastic foam today.

Thank you for taking environmental action,

The Environmental Action team

1. Aarhus University, ” After 40 Years in Limbo: Styrene Is Probably Carcinogenic ,” ScienceDaily, May 30, 2018.
2. Jose G.B Derraik, ” The Pollution Of The Marine Environment By Plastic Debris: A Review ,” Marine Pollution Bulletin, September 2002.
3. Kristine Phillips, ” A Dead Sperm Whale Was Found With 64 Pounds Of Trash In Its Digestive System ,” The Washington Post, April 11, 2018.
4. Elaina Zachos, ” How This Whale Got Nearly 20 Pounds Of Plastic In Its Stomach ,” National Geographic, June 4, 2018.
5. ” Plastic Marine Debris ,” Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Marine Debris Program, September 2011.

“Adopt a Drain” in West Chester

by Rachel Davis, geologist and environmental professional

“Adopt a Drain” is a free, community-driven service program for West Chester Borough started in May 2018 by the Chester County Sierra Club-sponsored Don’t Spray Me! Group and is supported by West Chester Borough Council. Our goal is to educate citizens of all ages, but concentrating mostly on the youth, on how to maintain their local waterways by first caring about the direct avenues to those waterways: the storm water drains. Most people pass drains by without a thought — because drains are flush with the ground and easily overlooked. However, with enough time and education, one can truly begin to understand how important these vital pathways are to our community’s health and well-being.

The program is based on the nationwide concept called “Adopt a Drain” as featured from Nashville to Burlington to St. Louis. Cities throughout the United States are making it viable and accessible to citizens to perform voluntary drain cleaning activities by incorporating debris collection and notation with computer-based mapping software. When the hands-on aspect joins with the technological, a comprehensive city- or town-wide view of the drain quality can be constructed.

The West Chester Borough “Adopt a Drain” program has thus far completed two two-hour events in which we worked as a team to find, observe, take notes on and then clean the surficial area around the storm drains in the borough in Ward 3. We are working to complete this same activity per ward per section until all 1000+ drains are completed within the Borough by the end of the summer 2018. At each drain, we note if there is organic debris (leaves, sticks, etc.), plastic debris/trash (bags, straws, cups, lids, etc.) and/or standing water in and/or around the drain. By combining the physical removal of waste from the drains and the observing of the standing water inside the drains, we hope to identify which drains need attention from the borough to be cleaned further, fixed, dredged, or larvicided.

By the end of summer 2018, “Adopt a Drain” plans to present our data to the West Chester Borough Council and Public Works Department with the help of a West Chester University Graduate Student concentrating in Geographical Information Systems. Additionally, we hope to address the problem of mosquito larvae in the standing water within the drains and share a detailed view of trash in the borough’s drains too. Given the success of the program thus far, we hope that our observations continue to educate citizens for years to come and that the program is embedded in West Chester’s sustainable culture.

The program is open and available to all ages and but is prepared if the participant is less than age 12 that there be a parent or guardian there to support the event. If you are interested in joining in our events, please email me. Meetings at 1 pm on Sundays are confirmed through an email blast. We hope to see you there!

Mother Earth, Symbol of Sustainability

Today’s inspiration: metal sculpture entitled Mother Earth, Symbol of Sustainability, on the Georgetown DC waterfront on the Potomac River.

What does Don’t Spray Me! have to do with sustainability?

1) We wish to control mosquitoes by natural means, best of all by denying them to option of breeding in our properties and communities.

2) When urban water runoff is dealt with sustainably, water sinks into permeable areas naturally, neither producing long-lasting pools nor overburdening streams.

3) By cutting down on the use of pesticides and herbicides, we help maintain the balance of species, threatened by our society’s rush into monocultures and chemical dependency.

4) We promote crops grown by earth-friendly methods, as opposed to the brutal (for people and the environment) methods of “big ag.”

More: add your own!

No More Bee-Killing Pesticides

PennPIRG summer newsletter

Bees pollinate everything from strawberries to broccoli to the alfalfa used to feed dairy cows, and without them, our food supply and environment would be at risk.

Even so, Americans spray about 46 million pounds of neonicotinoid pesticides—one of the worst types of bee-killing pesticides in the world, yet also the most widely used—on our gardens and public spaces every year.

Given the consequences, PennPIRG is calling on Pennsylvania to ban the sale of bee-killing pesticides. There is already momentum building: Maryland and Connecticut have both taken important action to limit the use of neonics, and the European Union just voted to completely ban them.

We can, and must, do better. Join us in calling on Pennsylvania to take action to protect bees and our food.

Learn more about our Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides campaign and take action here, including link to a petition to PA Governor Wolf, with the description:

Tell Governor Wolf: Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides

Millions of bees are dying every year, and scientists point to a widely used class of pesticides as one of the main culprits behind these die-offs. We rely on bees to pollinate everything from strawberries to broccoli to the alfalfa used to feed dairy cows.

For the past several years, PIRG and other groups have asked the EPA to ban these pesticides nationwide, and they have failed to do so. Now, to protect bees and our food supply, we’re calling on states to act. Call on Governor Wolf to ban the sale of bee-killing pesticides.

Entomologist John Jackson: “Bugs and Weeds Away–the Natural Way”

On May 29, John Jackson (BA in biology, MA in zoology, PhD in entomology) spoke on having a weed-free sidewalk and neutralizing mosquito breeding spots without using harmful chemicals. His talk at Iron Works Church in West Chester was sponsored by Don’t Spray Me! / Sierra Club and the South West Association of Neighbors (SWAN).

Here are some highlights of his talk and the subsequent discussion (with some resorting of topics):

1) Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are the best-known insects in the world, because of their role in spreading diseases, especially malaria, yellow fever, and dengue. But the ways chemical tools have been overused against them are not in the interest of either people or wildlife. Chemicals may be needed to prevent massive epidemics, especially in the tropics, but when overused become ineffective because insects develop resistance.

There are lots of biting flies beyond mosquitoes. Here, the predominantly evening-biting Culex mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus but day-biting Aedes (including Asian Tiger, which has been in the US only since 1985) almost never do. People should not view all insects (of which most don’t bite) as enemies.

Culex, the “house mosquito,” overwinters as adults in sheds, porches, tree hollows, and other sheltered areas. The adult mosquitoes we see in May have overwintered; they may have not yet had time to reproduce. Culex mosquitoes love urban environments, where they lay eggs in water where larvae feed on bacteria and organic matter.

West Nile Virus, which came to the US in 1999, depends on birds as a reservoir (unlike Zika, whose reservoir is people, making it easier to contain, as recently in Miami). Some birds, which in the past were often dying of WNV, appear now to be developing immunity. Fortunately, WNV is not transmitted through mosquito eggs, only from a bitten bird to another bitten bird or human. Known human WNV cases have been rare in PA.

Effective non-chemical defenses include tight-fitting screens, fans on ceilings or porches, repellents (notably lemon eucalyptus oil, picaridin, or citronella oil), various odoriferous granules spread in gardens or lawns.

Fogging with pesticides is a bad idea, because it kills many species, including mosquito predators like spiders; drift cannot be controlled; and it kills only adult mosquitoes, whereas many more larvae are just waiting to hatch every day and take over the air space.

The absolutely most important thing is to eliminate standing water, including where we might not think of it: in plastic bottles, the folds of tarps, in the fixed bottoms under some potted plants, even vases in cemeteries.

From mosquito egg to adult probably takes 10-15 days when weather is hot and damp, but 25-30 days with temperatures in the 70’s.

The bacteria-based larvcide Bti is very effective at killing mosquito larvae. The biscuits and granules have slower release than liquid and powder form. The hormonal Methoprene is also not toxic and prevents the metamorphosis to adult.

One of the worst sampling stations is in SE West Chester; it is not clear if that is related to Goose Creek. Trash in suburban streams creates mosquito habitat. And water can stand in old storm sewer lines like the Borough’s.

2) Weeds

Some undesired plants, like dandelions and poison ivy, are best dug up. Weeds are tough, but weakening them by cutting off the leaves a few times makes them more vulnerable to other treatments.

Old-school boiling water works really well; be careful, wear boots and goggles! Ditto butane flame torches. Or: a weak acid breaks down cell walls; vinegar works, but changes the soil chemistry.

He prefers to use 1 cup of borax (another kind of salt) in 1 gallon of warm water to kill weeds. The borax concentration can be doubled if needed. It also, for better or worse, it also kills ants, moss, lichen, and liverwort. Two applications a summer usually suffice, preferably in hot dry weather, since rain washes the borax away.

Regular table salt also kills plants; witness the die-off this past winter along roads and alleys in the Borough, which uses salt and brine to melt snow and ice. Municipalities tend to use twice as much salt as 20 years ago, even though less harmful substances are available. As a result, streams have increased chloride levels; he measured half the salt content of seawater in one stream.


excess salt, edge of alley, West Chester, 12/20/17

DSM’s secret weed-killing formula

by Jim Hudgings

Here is the sidewalk spray recipe used by the Sierra Club Youth Corps program in summer 2017, as a good alternative to toxic herbicides:

1 gallon distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup table salt
1/2 teaspoon liquid dish soap

I pour a small amount of vinegar from the jug into my sprayer in order to make room in the jug for salt, then pour the salt into the jug of vinegar and shake it vigorously to dissolve the salt so that it won’t clog my sprayer nozzle. Pour the salted vinegar into the sprayer and add the liquid dish soap. Briefly swirl the sprayer to mix in the soap, but not enough to generate suds. Spray it on the sidewalk, ideally in the morning of a very sunny day.

When finished, I spray plain water for a few seconds to clean the wand and nozzle in order to avoid re-crystallized salt from clogging the nozzle.

The year of resistance

By Nathaniel Smith, Sierra Club SEPA Group, April 25, 2018

Perhaps environmentalists have had too much faith in the power of government in advancing our goals. The federal government created national parks, put the EPA to work to protect air and water, has at times protected endangered species, and much more.

But now, with a federal government actively promoting fossil fuels and opposed to even the most reasonable measures against pollution and climate change, we are thrown onto our own resources.

States can do a lot. At least 20 of them (not so far including PA) have pledged to support the Paris Climate Accord; and hundreds of cities have signed on. Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 effort is getting a lot of municipalities to commit to using renewables.

In the gas pipeline controversy, the affected municipalities and their representatives in Harrisburg have been very outspoken. This is not a partisan matter, when people’s homes, schools, and public buildings are threatened. The stakes are air and water quality, human health, and property values; public officials are on notice that their constituents are watching. Many of this year’s candidates for PA House and Senate have been active in the effort to discipline the pipeline industry.

The group I have been most involved in is Don’t Spray Me!, which formed in 2015 as a response to excessive and unnecessary pesticide spraying to supposedly reduce the threat from mosquitoes. Last year Don’t Spray Me! started enlarging its scope to include other chemical threats to environmental and human health. …

read more at Sierra Club SEPA Group