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Residents Speak Out Against Weed Spraying

Thu., March 30, 1995

Stevens County officials got a verbal dose of DDT at a meeting Wednesday night to explain a countywide roadside weed spraying program.

Many of the 50 people who attended the informational meeting were more interested in presenting information than receiving it. Their message overwhelmingly was that they consider chemical herbicides unsafe and don’t want the county to use them.

Few of those who attended the meeting were satisfied with the county’s offer not to spray roadsides along their property if they would sign a contract to control noxious weeds on their own. They worried that any spraying would harm people and animals and contaminate ground water.

“I’m worried about everything, planetarily,” Chewelah-area resident Phyllis Mueller said. “Couldn’t we just mow?”

Assistant Public Works Director Terry Davis said mowing sometimes spreads noxious weeds such as knapweed. Also, Davis said part of the $132,000 spraying program is for protection of paved roads. He said mowing allows roadside plants to grow back quickly and contribute to the breakup of asphalt.

But Davis said herbicides aimed at controlling crop-killing noxious weeds would be sprayed only where needed. He said county officials hoped this year’s spraying would be more selective because a professional contractor will be used for the first time.

In the past, Public Works Department workers have sprayed onethird of the county roads each year. Davis said officials decided it would be more effective to hire Rumble Spray Inc. of Ellensburg, Wash., to spray the entire county road system.

Contractor John Rumble assured the crowd he sympathized with their concerns and would use all the government-required precautions for the five chemicals his company would use.

No soap.

“The EPA is wrong” about the safety of the herbicides it approves, retired veterinarian Brian Cummings of Waitts Lake said. Most of the testing cited by the EPA actually was done by a couple of private companies, Cummings contended.

Long-term studies of low-dose exposures to the chemicals have revealed risks of cancer and other problems not revealed in earlier flawed testing, Cummings declared to an applauding crowd.

“The EPA is worthless,” his wife, Jackie, agreed. “It took 30 years to get DDT off of the market and it almost eradicated some species of animals.”

Chewelah businesswoman Susanne Griepp worried about the possible effects of the unspecified “inert” ingredients in the weed sprays.

“I find that very threatening, personally,” Griepp said.

Davis repeatedly called for people to ask questions instead of making statements as the meeting grew more contentious.

“Why don’t you want to hear our comments?” Waitts Lake resident Judy Pryse demanded. “We don’t want it. Please don’t kill my babies.”


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