Group petitions for ban on roadside pesticides
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
A petition is unscrolled by (from left) Elizabeth Skyhawk, O'Neill Louchard and Gail Chatfield. Jefferson County Commissioners David Sullivan, Phil Johnson and John Austin are in the background. 

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — A citizen's group that opposes all roadside pesticide spraying submitted to Jefferson County commissioners on Monday a petition with 4,700 names that urges a ban of all herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals on county rights of way in Jefferson County.

“We have provided the commissioners with dozens of studies showing the cumulative and recurring damage that may be expected by continuing the use of herbicides,” said Norm Norton, who represented the group known as Jefferson County Ecological Roadsides.

“There is little evidence that we have been taken seriously by the county commissioners, despite our efforts and county-wide community support.”

The petition was delivered during the public comment period and the issue was not on the agenda.

Commissioner John Austin said during the meeting in the Jefferson County Courthouse that the names on the petition should be used to create a database of people who are interested in the issue and should be kept apprised of future developments.

After the meeting, Commissioner David Sullivan said that he did not see a need to change county policy in the use of the chemical, which he said has been done on a very limited basis over the last few years.

Three members of the group, Gail Chatfield, O'Neill Louchard and Elizabeth Skyhawk delivered the petition as a continuous scroll which they unrolled during their remarks.

The scroll, which was about 500 feet long, created a pile of paper that stayed in place for the duration of the meeting.

After the meeting, the scroll was gathered up by Assistant Clerk Raina Randall, who spent about an hour cutting the scroll into individual sheets of paper.

The petitions submitted were copies of the actual petition, said Mary Marinkovich, a member of the Jefferson County Ecological Roadsides group.

Commissioners approved limited spraying of herbicides three years ago under the auspices of the weed board.

This year, the systemic herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in the commercial herbicide known as Roundup, has been sprayed three times.

Roadsides group members called for a strict one-year moratorium on the use of the chemical by the county, during which time its impact could be studied and other weed removal options could be explored.

Other options included the removal of toxic weeds by volunteer groups who would do so by hand, said group members, who have previously said they are willing to talk with county officials about a compromise solution — but only after a moratorium was passed.

George Yount of Port Townsend said the issue should be discussed by a wider range of people before action is taken.

“This is not a black-and-white issue,” he said.

“So far, we haven't had a lot of input or discussion, which isn't how we did it when we were discussing the growth management act or the critical areas ordinance.

“We should get input from a broader group of citizens before we take any action.”

Sullivan said that two gallons of the chemical was used in 2010 followed by 0.59 gallons in 2011 and 1.15 gallons in 2012.

“We use only a small amount of the chemical in order to prevent the need to use larger amounts if the weeds spread,” Sullivan said.

“This is a preventive measure.”

Sullivan said that the county uses far less the chemical than private citizens.

Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at

Last modified: September 24. 2012 6:02PM
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