July 29, 2014

Non-Toxic Solutions Urged by Citizens

 

Dear Editor:

Thanks to the Messenger for continuing to cover the ongoing work of the Topanga Canyon Boulevard Ad Hoc Committee. The use of herbicides, or alternatives, in Topanga, by Caltrans and others, is an extremely important and hotly contested issue that everyone in the community has a stake in.

Your article of September 6 (see “Roadside Committee Creates Mapping Plan,” Topanga Messenger, Vol. 36, No. 18, [Sept. 6, 2012]) regarding the work of the Ad Hoc Committee states: “...the question was once again debated whether the herbicide touched or seeped into the Watershed.” This point needs to be clarified.

The Watershed includes everything in Topanga, from ridge-top to ridge-top, from Summit to Summit to the ocean. There was never any question or debate as to whether herbicide touched or seeped into the Watershed — everyone agrees that herbicide was sprayed along a good portion of the shoulders of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, from Pacific Coast Highway to Top o’ Topanga.

The debate alluded to in the article actually concerned the application of the herbicide Aminopyralid, which, according to its label, should not “enter into soil, ditches, sewers, waterways and/or groundwater,” due to its toxicity to aquatic organisms.

The Ad Hoc Committee, at its first meeting, saw photographic evidence that this chemical, mixed with the herbicide Glyphosate (which should also be kept away from waterways), had in fact been sprayed into at least three wet habitats, including seeps (natural springs), that exist by the side of Topanga Canyon Boulevard (TCB). These photos can be seen at www.topangacreekwatershedcommittee.org.

The comment quoted in the article, that there is no evidence that the herbicide migrated from the seeps into Topanga Creek, is encouraging, but beside the point of the debate. The point that Mr. Allanoff was trying so hard to make was that Aminopyralid and Glyphosate were applied, here, in water, outside of their permitted use, even though Caltrans' Paul Lofthouse (according to his statement) personally supervised the application.

Some have questioned the relevance of this point, since the mission of the Ad Hoc Committee is, appropriately, to plan and implement non-chemical vegetation control along TCB, not to put anyone on trial for past actions. This point about off-label use is relevant because we as a community value having a clear and accurate record of what takes place here, and because everyone should understand that even when maximum care is taken by skilled professionals (from Caltrans or anywhere else) to apply biocides (chemicals designed to kill) in accordance with their labels, significant mistakes can and do occur.

Many members of this community have been fighting the use of biocides here for over a decade. Our greatest wish is that everyone who thinks that poisons are necessary or not so bad, will let go of those antiquated ideas and devote their considerable resources toward non-toxic solutions. When that happens, the volunteers who spend so many nights and weekends defending our environment and our community will be overjoyed, at least in part, because we will be able to devote ourselves to much more pleasant pursuits.

In the meantime, we do not hesitate to stand up for what we believe is right, true and important. The Ad Hoc Committee presents the possibility of a great step forward. It is our goal to make the most of this opportunity, to support the mission of the Committee and to resolve this issue once and for all.

—Roger Pugliese, Topanga Association for a Scenic Community; Joseph Rosendo, Topanga Chamber of Commerce; Dorothy Reik, Progressive Dems of the Santa Monica Mountains; Julie Levine, Topanga Peace Alliance; Rabyn Blake, Topanga Creekside Homeowners Association ; Carrie Carrier, Bill Carrier, and Ben Allanoff, Topanga Creek Watershed Committee; Lucille Yaney; Kay Austen; Craig Houx; Kimberlie Nitti; Randi Johnson; Ken Mazur; Dr. Candace De Puy; Josie Kelly; Gail McDonald-Tune; Joan Siegel; Barbara Webb; Thomas DuKet; Viktoria Zaita