DSM joins with CCAG 8-30-18

Thanks to Concerned Constituents Action Group for letting us join their weekly rally at the Court House corner in West Chester… in intense rainfall…

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Please join us Fri. Aug. 31!

Friday Aug. 31, 11:30am to 1pm, rain or shine.

Show our views about pesticide spraying at the weekly Concerned Constituent Action Group rally.

Location: NW Corner of High Street and Market Street, at the Historic Chester County Courthouse, West Chester.

Bring a poster or DSM sign, or pick up one there.

On-street parking or park at the Bicentennial Parking Garage at 20 S. High Street, West Chester.

West Chester Mayor Herrin vs. spraying

Excerpt from Bill Rettew, “Health Department set to spray for mosquitoes,” Daily Local News, 8/14/18:

“Spraying to control mosquitoes is still standard practice in many localities,” Herrin said, “but that doesn’t mean it works. The insecticide kills only adult mosquitoes, not larvae, and research suggests mosquito populations can bounce back quickly and even increase after an application.

“Research also suggests that rates of West Nile Virus cases are no different in cities that spray vs. those that do not. The Don’t Spray Me organization has done an excellent job helping our residents understand this and offering other, safer ways to help address the mosquito problem.”…

read the full article at Daily Local News

Some basics

We in Don’t Spray Me! are in favor of scientific knowledge.

We would like public officials to share more background information with the public.

We find it disrespectful of taxpayers and residents when public employees do not reveal information that they should have, even when we file Right To Know requests as specified by state law.

How does the Health Department decide when and where to spray pesticides on private and public spaces?

How does it implement its promise of “exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies” before spraying?

Where has the County been applying larvicide (the most effective means of mosquito control)?

The short answer we keep getting is: no answer. But we will get answers, because we believe in an informed public active in asserting its rights against policies whose own implementers cannot or do not care to justify them.

In case you are wondering: spell “larvicide” or “larvacide,” “mosquitoes” or “mosquitos.”

“Spraying” refers to an air-borne mist, spread by trucks in streets in the case of mosquito control in inhabited areas, that kills adult insects (not eggs, larvae, or pupae) that happen to fly into its droplets and can harm others like amphibians, fish, and cats.

“Larviciding” involves dropping in standing water a biological agent that kills mosquito larvae right where they are growing; larvicide is harmless to people and other organisms (except another pest insect species).

Don’t Spray Me! wants more larviciding and less spraying!

“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!

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

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

DSM volunteers at work for food and the environment

It’s no surprise that Don’t Spray Me! volunteers are active in other community activities. For four years, Ashlie Delshad, DSM Block Captain and Associate Professor of Political Science at West Chester University, has led student service trips to work with urban gardens in Philadelphia that grow food to combat food insecurity throughout the city. The WCU group partners with organizations including the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (their City Harvest Program), the Eastern Philadelphia Revitalization Alliance, and Philabundance.

Here is a photo from last year: