‘No spray’ list allegedly violated

A La Plata County woman is alleging that she and her organic farm were deliberately sprayed with pesticide by the Florida Mosquito Control District. Rebecca Thomas said that she was at her property, on County Road 225, three miles from Elmore’s Corner, on Sept. 15 when a spray truck approached. In spite of her “no spray” signage, her certified letters asking not to be sprayed, and repeated phone calls and attempts to wave off the truck, Thomas said that she, her garden and her property were deliberately sprayed.

“He looked at me and looked at my sign and sprayed me,” Thomas said of the truck driver.

She added that, based on the strong odor of the spray, she suspects that it may have been Malathion, a more toxic mosquito pesticide that has been linked with human health problems, rather than the permethrin that was supposed to be sprayed. Thomas is currently having plants tested for the presence of the chemical. She also is in contact with an attorney but is not sure how she will proceed.

“I’m hoping for a public discourse that will allow those of us who don’t want to be sprayed not to be sprayed,” she said.

Thomas added: “I want to have the Florida Mosquito Control District be accountable for its actions and have responsibility when they handle these chemicals and also respect the rights of citizens. I have a right not to be sprayed and to grow food that’s herbicide and pesticide free for my family and the community.”

Thomas has sold her produce at Nature’s Oasis and Durango Natural Foods. She also said that she and other community members tried to get the Florida Mosquito Control District to move its location in the late 1990s. It had been located right next to the Florida Mesa Elementary School playground, and Thomas said the Environmental Protection Agency found two violations that winter.

Sandy Waddell, manager of the Florida Mosquito Control District, did not return our phone calls seeking comment.

Greg Vlaming, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agent, said that he is prepared to testify for Thomas as an expert witness should the case go to court. “She told me she did get sprayed, that she had ‘no spray’ signs and she was on the ‘no spray’ list,” Vlaming said.

He added that the results of the current tests could be significant. “There’s a real story there if the tests come back and say that Malathion was sprayed,” Vlaming said.

Grand Canyon fire creates local haze

The brown haze seen over Southwest Colorado this week is not the result of any prescribed burns on San Juan public lands, according to the San Juan National Forest. The haze is coming from a wildfire burning in the Grand Canyon. The lightning-caused fire, known as the Poplar Complex, is estimated at 1,142 acres and is burning 20 miles northwest of Grand Canyon Village. It is being managed as a Wildland Use Fire, meaning no structures or people are in immediate danger, and it’s being allowed to burn. The local haze should move out midweek as light winds pick up.

Fire managers in Southwest Colorado have several prescribed burns planned this fall, but more moisture is needed. The Dolores Public Lands Office has burned approximately 550 acres this fall in the Dolores Rim and Boggy Draw areas.

City hires central business specialist

The city of Durango has chosen former Durango Mountain Resort senior vice-president Bob Kunkel to fill the new position of central business district events and promotion specialist. Kunkel’s primary job will be to attract and retain business and industry for the central business district. This will include coordinating promotional and marketing activities and identifying Durango’s economic drivers. There also will be a strong focus special events.

“The process took longer than expected, but we feel we have now found the perfect person to fill the job,” said Assistant City Manager Greg Caton. “Bob brings a great amount of experience and well-rounded skills to the position.”

Kunkel said he is looking forward to helping improve Durango’s core. “From almost any perspective, the central business district is the heart of Durango,” he said. “Given the many issues and challenges that Durango is facing, contributing leadership and resources to maintaining central business district health and vitality is a top priority for the city. I am very excited to be able to contribute to the vision of a successful future Durango.”

Last fall, City Council discussed hiring a person to work on event promotion. It initially sought to fill the position through an independent contractor but was unsuccessful in finding the right fit. The city then redesigned the position and received applications from 43 people throughout the country.

County enjoys oil and gas victory

Last week, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of La Plata, Archuleta, Las Animas, Routt and San Miguel counties when it reversed a Denver District Court decision. The district court had dismissed a claim by the counties against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). The counties filed suit against the COGCC, challenging an amendment that would have exempted oil and gas drilling from some county regulation.

In its order, the court found that counties “have a legally protected interest in enacting and enforcing their land-use regulations governing the surface effects of oil and gas operations.”A0

Josh Joswick, chair of the Board of County Commissioners, commented, “This is an important ruling for counties because it reaffirms counties’ statutory right to regulate land use and development over oil and gas operations within their jurisdictions.”

Smiley receives giant solar donation

The Smiley Building has received a donation of solar panels from BP valued at $18,000. The package, capable of generating three kilowatts of clean electricity, will help the Smiley Building, located on East Third Avenue, reach its goal of going completely off the grid.

“It was very generous of BP to give these solar panels to the Smiley Building,” said Smiley Building co-owner Charles Shaw. “They are helping us reach our goal of producing 100 percent of the building’s electricity from the sun by 2008. Currently we are making 40 percent of the building’s electricity.”

The donation includes 18 new high-efficiency, mono-crystalline solar modules made by BP Solar, a solar-electric product manufacturer. Together, these modules will help boost total solar electric production at the Smiley Building by about 10 percent.

Additional information on the donation as well as solar products will be available at the Solar Buildings Tour, kicking off at the Smiley Building this Saturday morning, Oct. 4.

- compiled by Will Sands





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