West Chester Borough asks County for notification of spraying to all schools

The following letter was presented to the County Commissioners at their Nov. 19 meeting by Borough Council member Bernie Flynn.

Borough of West Chester, 401 East Gay Street ▪ West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380, http://www.west-chester.com, 610-692-7574

Borough Council Diane LeBold, President; Michael R. Galey, Esq., Vice President; W. Donald Braceland; Bernard J. Flynn; Michael Stefano; Denise Polk, Ph.D.; William J. Scott, Esq.Mayor Dianne Herrin
Borough Manager Michael A. Perrone, C.B.O.

October 22, 2019

Chester County Commissioners, 313 West Market Street, Suite 6202, West Chester, PA 19380

RE: Notification Process on the Application of Pesticides and Herbicides

Dear Commissioners Kichline, Cozzone, and Farrell,

West Chester Borough Council voted at their September 18, 2019, Council meeting to urge the Chester County Commissioners to require notification to all schools and daycares prior to spraying pesticides and herbicides in the Borough of West Chester. Currently, only public schools are notified. Council believes that all charter, private, independent, and religious schools and daycare centers have a right to be notified prior to spraying pesticides and herbicides within 300 feet of their facility, just as public schools are.

The Borough of West Chester would appreciate your consideration of this request at your next Commissioners’ meeting. Council member Bernie Flynn plans to attend the meeting to follow up with you.

Best regards,

Michael A. Perrone, C.B.O., Borough Manager

C: Borough Council; Robert Kagel, County Administrator

Farewell to Gail and Les Silberman!

Gail and Les Silberman, activists in Don’t Spray Me! and the West Chester Green Team, are leaving West Chester and moving to Woods Hole, MA.  Their environmental colleagues here are so sorry to lose them from our community.  

Both Gail and Les have contributed a great deal in a range of areas.  Gail’s posts on the Next Door site brought in many new members to the Green Team’s Plastic-Free Please committee. The online responses suggested the depth of support in the community for such an initiative, which passed Borough Council last summer after a turnout of 200 residents advocated for it.  Next month, Downingtown Borough Council plans to follow our lead and pass a ban on plastic bags and straws effective July 2, 2020.  Even Philadelphia has been influenced by our work on plastics.  Thank you, Gail, for your leadership.  

We have particularly appreciated Les’ realistic insights into the personalities we work with. His advice on interactions with allies and those resistant to our goals has proven invaluable. His scientific and medical expertise have contributed to many fruitful discussions both through his membership on the Borough’s Sustainability Advisory Committee and on the Board of Don’t Spray Me.!

Both Gail and Les have enriched the community environmentally.  They will be greatly missed.

Don’t Spray Me! and the West Chester Green Team offer them our heartfelt best wishes.

The Biggest Little Farm (film) Nov. 20 at WCU

And it’s a non-toxic farm!

Room 102, Mitchell Hall, WCU, West Chester PA 19382. Nov. 20, 7:30 pm.

The Biggest Little Farm is a story about two people who left the city behind in an effort to revitalize barren farm land and live more harmoniously with the earth. This recently released film has been generating a lot of excitement for its inspiring tale and gorgeous cinematography.

Sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, the Slow Food Club, and the West Chester Green Team. See trailer at https://www.biggestlittlefarmmovie.com/videos/.

Free and open to the public.

As winter approaches, plan less-toxic measures against snow and ice

If you feel inclined to stock up on sodium chloride to apply to your sidewalk, here are some thoughts first:

Salt is harsh on pet’s feet, car undercarriages, footwear, wood floors… to say nothing of plants and water life. See also “The problem with Salt” on our site.

Salt spread on a dry surface, as often happens, is kicked up by passing cars, thus counterproductively pushing the salt to the edges of the driving surface and wafting chemicals into the air breathed by passersby and residents, with potential adverse health impacts.

Here are some ideas from Minnesota (where they know something about winter!) for reducing, but unfortunately not eliminating, your use of salt, in 4 earth-friendly tips to clean up your icy sidewalk” by Cody Nelson, MPR News, January 11, 2018:

The salt we’re so inclined to dump on roads and sidewalks after winter storms is a growing threat to Minnesota’s lakes and streams.

Chloride — the mineral in salt that’s toxic to fish, birds and other aquatic life — is now considered an impairment in 50 bodies of water across the state. Scientists only expect that number to rise.

While large-scale salt application is the biggest culprit, there are some things individuals can do to minimize their impact:

1) Break out the shovel. If you’re going to use salt, first clear off as much snow and ice as you can with a shovel or scraper. Manual removal is more effective, and it’s cheaper.

2) Don’t dump. A little salt goes a long way. Spread it out. According to Clean Water Minnesota, “a 12-ounce coffee cup of salt is enough to cover 10 sidewalk squares or a 20-foot driveway.”

3) Check the temperature. If it’s below 15 degrees, it’s too cold for salt to effectively melt ice. Consider using sand instead. It won’t melt the ice, but it will increase traction. Plus, sand is easier on your pet’s paws.

4) Sweep up excess salt. It’ll end up as runoff into waterways or the soil. Clean Water Minnesota recommends sweeping up whatever salt is left sitting on the pavement so you can reuse it after the next storm.

To the left: pile of taxpayer-financed road salt in a West Chester alley, 2/21/21, prior to being swept up and donated to a neighboring landscaper for (sparing) use. This is a big pile; the trowel to the right of the bag gives the scale.

Some other ideas:

• Mix sand with salt. Sand will give traction that salt doesn’t.

• Experiment with mixing in other substances like (unused) kitty litter or fireplace wood ashes.
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• And about sweeping up excess salt, as shown above: keep an eye on streets and alleys!

• West Goshen municipality adds de-sugared beet molasses to reduce salt use and also the temperature at which salt can melt ice.

• For other alternatives, search the internet for “What melts snow besides salt” and check out results such as this article and this commercial product.

See also, from Minnesota: “‘Dead fish or dead people?’ The challenges of curbing road salt use” and “Shingle Creek: A cautionary tale for Minnesota’s water.”

If you wish to share your observations or good ideas, please comment here or contact us.

Trash cans that keep out water

Who cares if rain water builds up in trash cans? Everyone should, because:

1) In warm weather, the accumulated water provides ideal breeding opportunities for mosquitoes: warm dank stagnant water with lots of organic matter;

2) The can or bag becomes heavier for disposal crews to pick up and the waterlogged trash is more expensive to put in the landfill;

3) If the water is dumped on the ground, or runs out through holes in the bag or container, it can generate mud and mess (think soft drinks, improperly deposited animal waste, bits of pizza filling…) — especially not what one wants children and pets poking around in.

Here’s a trash can model designed to keep out water:

West Chester Area School District policy

The following WCASD policy on pests and weeds was circulated in August, 2019. Download the pdf here: Pesticide Ltr-Eng 8.2019. Compare “PA Public School Code sections on pesticide notification” on our site (note that the law defines “pesticide” to include “herbicide”). We support the IPM approach; for the sake of children, staff and the environment, we hope that every school in the system will conform scrupulously to it and that no spraying will be considered necessary. The unwelcome use of herbicides at one school is documented in the photo below from summer 2019.

The West Chester Area School District uses an integrated pest management (IPM) approach for managing insects, rodents and weeds. Our goal is to protect every student for pesticide exposure by using an IPM approach to pest management. Our IPM approach focuses on making the school building and grounds an unfavorable habitat for these pests by removing food and water sources and eliminating their hiding and breeding places. We accomplish this through routine cleaning and maintenance. We routinely monitor the school building and grounds to detect any pests that are present. The pest monitoring team consists of our building maintenance, office and teaching staffs and includes our students. Pest sightings are reported to our IPM coordinator who evaluates the pest problem and determines the appropriate pest management techniques to address the problem. The techniques can include increases sanitation, modifying storage practice, sealing entry points, physically removing the pests, etc.

From time to time it may be necessary to use chemicals to manage a pest problem. Chemicals will only be used when necessary and will not be routinely applied. When chemicals are used the school will try to use the least toxic products when possible. Applications will be made only when non-authorized persons do not have access to the area(s) being treated. Notices will be posted in the areas 72 hours prior to application and for two days following the applications.

Parents or guardians of students enrolled in the school may request prior notification of specific pesticide applications made at the school. To receive notification, you must be placed on the school’s notification registry. If you would like to be placed on the registry, please complete the online form on the district website, under Departments, Facilities & Operations, IPM Notification Request form. This request must be made annually. If you do not have internet access, please call the Facilities Receptionist at 484-266-1252, to request notification.

If a chemical application must be made to control an emergency pest problem, notice will be provided by email to any parent or guardian who has requested such notification. Exemptions to the notification include disinfectants and antimicrobial products; self-containerized baits placed in areas not accessible to students, and gel-type baits placed in cracks, crevices or voids.

Chester County Environment Alliance meeting Sept. 14

Last month, Don’t Spray Me! met productively for 2.5 hours with our environmental friends in the Chester County Environment Alliance (CCEA), an umbrella organization formed with almost 30 of Chester County’s local environmental organizations–and still growing!

“Like” the CCEA public Facebook page to stay up to date on local meetings, other groups you might find of interest, and upcoming events like the Clean Energy Open House Tour on October 19.

The Chester County Environment Alliance brings the representatives of its groups together three times a year to discuss the issues affecting our environment, help each other amplify our messages, coordinate events and campaigns, and use our resources jointly to help our shared mission to preserve and protect our environment and encourage sustainable choices in everyday life.

Please spread the word about this growing initiative as we work together with our friends and neighbors to preserve our environment on so many worthy fronts.

Find out more about the CCEA and its member groups and fellow environmentalists here, including the Chester County environmental calendar.

Countries That Banned Glyphosate Weedkiller

By Michael Bennett, Weed Killer Crisis, November 8, 2018 [Needs updating: Ontario banned most uses of rounded several years ago, and Germany just banned it effective 2023]

Glyphosate is the most used herbicide or pesticide in the world, with hundreds of millions of pounds being used every year across the globe. While the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that glyphosate is probably a cancer-causing agent in humans, the chemical remains in widespread use.

Still, several countries around the world have taken steps to limit glyphosate use or ban it altogether. The legal status of glyphosate and Roundup is ever-evolving, so check back frequently for updates to this page.

see the list at Weed Killer Crisis

Environmental Film Series at WCU

The Third Annual Environmental Film Series at WCU sponsored by the Office of Sustainability at West Chester University, the West Chester Green Team, and member groups of the Chester County Environment Alliance, in memory of Graham Hudgings.

Sykes Student Union Theater, 110 W. Rosedale Ave., West Chester PA 19382. Door opens at 5:30 p.m., films at 6:00. Films are free!

SEPTA’s 104 and 92 buses stop on High Street, the ChesCo SCCOOT bus stops at the corner of Rosedale and New Streets, and the campus is easily accessible by bicycle and on foot. If you drive, access the lot in back of Sykes side via the streets to the east or west of Sykes.

10/17, River Blue, about wasteful and polluting clothing manufacturing.
11/7, Reinventing Power, about renewable energy, with West Chester Sustainability director Will Williams as guest speaker
12/12, Eating Animals, with a vegetarian food tasting buffet by the WC Coop

What’s this about Eastern Equine Encephalitis?

Eastern Equine Encephalitis, like many diseases, is not a good one to have. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

EEE virus is a rare cause of brain infections (encephalitis). Only a few cases are reported in the United States each year. Most occur in eastern or Gulf Coast states. Approximately 30% of people with EEE die and many survivors have ongoing neurologic problems.

The good news above is that this mosquito-transmitted disease is rare. And, CDC gives more good news, especially for people who do not live in swampy areas:

…Human EEEV cases occur relatively infrequently, largely because the primary transmission cycle takes place in and around swampy areas where human populations tend to be limited. All residents of and visitors to areas where EEEV activity has been identified are at risk of infection. People who engage in outdoor work and recreational activities in endemic areas are at increased risk of infection. Persons over age 50 and under age 15 seem to be at greatest risk for developing severe disease when infected with EEEV. Overall, only about 4-5% of human EEEV infections result in EEE. EEEV infection is thought to confer life-long immunity against re-infection.

So, as with West Nile Virus, only a fraction of infected humans have serious symptoms and it seems probable that even a low-grade and often unnoticeable infection confers subsequent immunity.

And in Pennsylvania? In 2009-18, the state has had 1 (one) reported case total and none in 2019. In the entire US, 2018 saw only 6 known cases and one death.

To put those figures in perspective, Chester County alone had 118 reported opioid overdose deaths in 2018.