It started with a quiet stroll down Larch Street one day. I noticed an EWEB truck parked in the driveway at the transfer station on Larch Street, one block from West Amazon. I saw a couple field crew with back pack sprayers treating weeds just outside the fence line along the sidewalk. Curious and suspicious that this was herbicide, I approached one of the crew members and asked “What are you spraying?” I was not shocked by the reply. “Roundup, we are just doing a light spot treatment for weeds” so I said “Ok so how can we stop doing that?” This time I was surprised, the employee was very friendly and told me “I don’t know, let me go get my boss and you can ask.”
From this humble start came a subtle shift in how EWEB has agreed to treat this property. The field crews let me know that they were concerned with this herbicide, they knew the health risks they were being asked to take when handling this compound and explained that, if they had a choice, they would not use it. I explained that I wanted to work with them to convince EWEB that this neighborhood is not in favor of spraying harmful chemicals near areas of public use, where we walk our pets, bring our children to play in the dirt and take walks within inches of this property. Graciously, they gave me contact information, phone numbers, names and email addresses to write. I took them all down and did what they advised.
Within a few weeks, I was contacted by someone from EWEB who was interested in hearing why I was concerned. I explained that I have seen dying bees on my sidewalk the day after spraying, that I know Roundup is not safe for our pets or children and that I found it alarming that EWEB would use this without alerting the neighbors. The EWEB representative was very understanding and explained that they would not be spraying the area again until I had a chance to talk with the person who could make a decision about this issue.
On Monday, June 18th, 2018 I met with EWEB employees, including Rod Price. We discussed the use of alternatives to herbicides in managing this transfer station. I was impressed that they were well prepared, showing me two products from a local supplier dubbed “bee friendly” which they were hoping would meet the standard of non-toxic, non-hazardous to pets and people. On examining the alternatives, I was satisfied that we were on the right path since the product ingredients contained no poisons and came from a reputable, local supplier known to promote organic and non-toxic garden products.
The agreement? “No more Roundup at the West Amazon/Larch Street transfer station owned and operated by EWEB”. Product alternatives will be reviewed for effectiveness and safety, according to Rod Price, who will keep the lines of communication open should a new plan need to be implemented. “We are also looking into similar alternatives for a few other transfer stations in the area” says Price, who recognizes neighbors are concerned and wants to assure residents in close proximity to the Larch St. station, that this is being taken seriously. For now, there will be no more dead bees on my sidewalk each month and the field crews that work at this site will have one less reason to be concerned about the products they handle while earning a living.
Sounds like a win/win to me! The moral of the story: When a citizen encounters an issue in their community, it often pays to start by just asking nicely!