“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” That’s what the simplest, most life-loving element inside me wants to shout when I see our vital SF Bay Area water sources being blasted with a toxic herbicide in the name of ‘controlling’ a weed. But I need to do more than shout. I need to give you the basic facts about the Spartina Project and the ground and aerial spraying that is contaminating some of our largest and most critical bodies of water with an herbicide that has been linked to massive health harms in mammals. If you reside anywhere in the Bay Area, the Spartina Project is being conducted where you live and you have a right to know that you and your family is being exposed to Imazapyr through contamination of the air, ground and water as a result of this terribly misguided project.
I find it especially diabolical that Marin County, with one of the highest breast cancer rates in the nation, is being saturated with Imazapyr, further exposing local women to totally unnecessary toxins that can only derail their ongoing struggle for health and life. None of us should be eating, drinking or breathing this toxic herbicide, but as usual, it is the babies, women, elders and already-ill portions of Bay Area populations that can least afford to be exposed to further toxins. Just last year, Marin Ag Officials had to admit that they had violated their own pesticide laws by allowing thousands of gallons of carcinogenic pesticides to be sprayed over public places for years and years. No need to look much further for an answer to all that Marin County cancer! And now the government is funding the further contamination of this already-compromised area with yet more unnecessary chemicals. I am convinced that this needs to be stopped, but I want you to have the chance to review the hushed-up facts about the Spartina Project and make up your own mind.
What Is The Spartina Project?
Spartina is a grass that, if left unmanaged, can alter ecosystems by filling waterways with weeds and mud instead of water. Spartina grass is found growing in much of the SF Bay Area. A government-funded group has been created to manage the growth of spartina grass, but rather than doing in this in an ecologically-sound manner, the group has decided to partner with an herbicide company to aerially spray and ground spray massive amounts of toxins into our rivers, marshes and other water bodies to poison the grass to death.
It is disgraceful that here in 2010, government agencies are still using these moronic approaches to wild land management – meeting the presence of a few weeds or bugs with an insane barrage of chemicals that assaults all life. In my 2008 article on the Spartina Project, I suggested that these government agencies stop making fat deals with herbicide manufacturers and start using that money to employ our growing population of jobless Californians to manually remove spartina grass where there is too much of it, on an ongoing basis. The harvested grass could then be used in some green business such as basket making. Here in 2010, our unemployment rate is even more drastic, but the Spartina Project continues to funnel funding to bureaucrats and chemical barons while exposing citizens to totally unnecessary toxins because these agencies refuse to embrace green management practices.
What Are The Toxins In the Spartina Project?
Here is the Herbicide Fact Sheet for Imazapyr. Please, read it in full, but to summarize, this herbicide has been linked to the following drastic health harms in mammal studies:
- Increased brain, adrenal gland and thyroid cancers
- Kidney cysts
- Stomach ulcers and lesions
- Fluid accumulation in the lungs
- Abnormal blood formation in the spleen
- Irreversible damage to and corrosion of the eyes and skin
As a woman with Crohn’s Disease, I don’t want to be exposed to anything that causes stomach lesions, and I don’t want anyone I love to be exposed to increased incidence of cancer, tumors or any of the other devastating effects linked to Imazapyr. I’m sure you don’t either. From what I have read in the Herbicide Fact Sheet, Imazapyr cannot be filtered out of drinking water, and in the few studies that were conducted, it was found to be a ‘persistent’ herbicide which contaminated both water and soil and was still there until the farthest out date from spraying for which it was tested. In other words, as long as researchers kept looking, Imazapyr was still there. No one knows if it ever ‘goes away’.
In addition to this, this herbicide, which is being ground and aerially sprayed directly in some fo the Bay Area’s most vital waterways, has never been tested for its chronic toxicity to fish and other aquatic life! As hard as that is to believe, it’s true. The Spartina Project is spraying an herbicide on aquatic animals without having any idea what it will do to them. The only known facts from testing are that the related herbicide, imazamethabenz-methyl, has high chronic toxicity to fish with effects occurring at less than 1 part per million. So much for the Coho Salmon everyone is trying to save in Marin’s waterways.
Imazapyr, which is manufactured by the American Cyanimid Company and is sold under the brand names, Arsenal, Chopper and Assault (don’t those names give you some idea of the danger of this product?), contains 47% ‘inert’ ingredients which U.S. law enables the manufacturer to keep secret from the public. So, we don’t know what these secret ingredients do, but what we do know is that the disclosed ingredients break down into two products when exposed to light. One of these, quinolinic acid, is a neurotoxin that causes nerve lesions and symptoms similar to Huntington’s Disease. This, of course, is only what we know about the disclosed ingredients in Imazapyr. No tests have ever been done on the secret ingredients.
Finally, Imazapyr is deadly to other plants, destroying their synthesis of DNA. Endangered plants and food crops are damaged by this herbicide.
In sum, Imazapyr is extremely dangerous to mammals, may well be deadly to aquatic life, contaminates drinking water for a prolonged, unknown time period, contaminates soil and kills non-targeted plants. This is not something any informed Bay Area resident would knowingly allow to be introduced into our environment.
Where And When Is The Spartina Project Happening?
As of writing this, the Spartina Project is going on near water bodies right now all over the SF Bay Area, including the Bolinas Lagoon, the Petaluma River, Limantour and Drakes Esteros, San Pablo Bay, all over San Francisco and elsewhere. The spraying is being done both via airplane and via ground spraying.
Please look at the 2010 Spraying Schedule to see the locations and dates, but please do not rely on the dates as readers have reported to me that the Spartina Project has not stuck to their own schedule and has sprayed on days they said they wouldn’t. But whether you happen to be walking along a marsh, creek, river or bay trail the day of a spraying or not, it almost doesn’t matter. Once these Spartina Project people spray, the herbicide will be in your air, water, ground and body for a long, long time.
What Can You Do About The Spartina Project?
Here is the contact page for the board members of the Spartina Project:
Step one is to let them know that you have taken the time to educate yourself about the toxicity of Imazapyr and do not want it in your water, air, soil or body. Tell them you want this project stopped in the SF Bay Area.
Step two is more open to you, depending on what you think you can do to put a stop to such an unnecessary and dangerous plan. Perhaps you will organize a neighborhood protest group, write to local government officials or to local newspapers telling what you’ve learned about the toxic environment the Spartina Project is creating in the SF Bay Area. I think the main thing is not to be silent.
Government agencies have always relied on quiet and secrecy in order to conduct projects that would cause public outrage and opposition if they were widely understood. Right now, there are people going for their evening run around the local creek or marsh. They’ve got the baby in the stroller, the dog on the leash. And they have absolutely no idea that they are jogging through an invisible fog of carcinogenic chemicals because these chemical projects seldom make the news.
People proudly publicize accomplishments like the founding of a recycling center or the creation of a new green business. Spraying the San Francisco Bay Area with herbicides is hardly whispered about at all and its continuance depends of that weird, unnatural quiet. I started this article shouting, because I’m getting sickened to death by an ‘environmental/autoimmune disease’ while my neighbors are continuing to contaminate the world I’d like to keep living in. I spent last weekend in the hospital with my strange illness, called Crohn’s Disease, becoming epidemic in the U.S., cause unknown, cure nowhere in sight. As I lay in that hospital bed, hooked up to IVs and monitors, surrounded by fellow sufferers with cancers, disorders and disease, I thought about those Spartina Project people, spraying away. We should all be shouting.