GOSHEN — Negotiations have broken off between the local mosquito district and the environmental group appealing the district’s state pesticide permit, and the matter will now go before a judge.
Last year, the Toxic Action Center appealed the Agency of Natural Resources’ decision to allow the BLSG Insect Control District to spray mosquito-killing chemicals under the state’s pesticide general permit. The center’s main claim is that the district hasn’t met its requirements dealing with monitoring the effects of the “adulticide” chemicals on water and organisms that aren’t mosquitoes.
The Toxic Action Center is a New England-based environmental group with an office in Montpelier and members who live within the BLSG Insect Control District. The district was formed in 1979 to control mosquito populations in the towns of Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury and Goshen. Pittsford has since joined, and Proctor pays for some level of service as well.
The district is run by a board of directors with representatives from member towns. The board’s chairman, Ben Lawton, said Tuesday that while the center’s filings claim it wants more information on the chemicals being used, what it’s been asking for is the district to cease using the chemicals altogether.
The district controls mosquito populations in two main ways, by using larvicide and adulticide. Larvicide only works on mosquito larvae. It’s a bacteria that kills the insects before they become adults. Adulticide is a poison used to kill mosquitoes after they’ve hatched. The district gets money from the state for larvicide, but not adulticide, which it pays for with funds from member towns.
Lawton said the district was willing to reduce some of its adulticide use, and he thought the two sides were close to a deal, but it didn’t happen. He said he plans to meet with the select boards of the district’s member towns to bring them up to speed on the state of the appeals case.
Woody Little, Vermont community organizer for the Toxic Action Center, said Tuesday his group is disappointed that an agreement couldn’t be reached. He said it’s a shame the district has chosen to spend money fighting the matter in court rather than complying with the law.
Mason Overstreet, staff attorney for the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, housed at Vermont Law School, said Tuesday that early on in the process, Environmental Court Judge Thomas Walsh strongly urged both parties to reach an agreement through informal negotiation. Since the parties weren’t able to, both will now file motions for summary judgment. Overstreet said each side has until April 1 to do so. Each party will then be allowed to file a response and a reply. Overstreet said the court indicated that a decision might be made sometime in June.
Fighting the case has led the district to spend substantially more on legal fees than it expected to, which led to it asking member towns for more funds this coming fiscal year.
Lawton said in a past interview that the district has budgeted $25,000 for legal fees in the coming fiscal year. It spent $20,000 in the last one, but had only budgeted for $150. The difference came from other places within the district’s approximately $99,000 annual budget.
“The pesticides at issue in this case — malathion and permethrin — are harmful chemicals used to control mosquitoes but also kill other wildlife,” said Little in a release. “The World Health Organization deems malathion a probable carcinogen. The Environmental Protection Agency determined that malathion is ‘likely to adversely affect’ the endangered Indiana Bat, which inhabits the BLSG district. Four other species of protected bats are likely to be impacted by the spraying. The neighboring Lemon Fair Insect Control District manages mosquitoes without using toxic pesticides.”