No Spray Settlement of Lawsuit Against Giuliani, et. al.
Feds Approve and Judge Daniels Signs Agreement on April 12, 2007
New York City admits that pesticides may remain in the environment beyond their intended purpose and may cause adverse health effects
Coalition Wins Eighty-Thousand Dollars for NY Grassroots Environmental Groups
For seven years, the No Spray Coalition has battled the City of New York in Federal Court in opposition to the Giuliani administration’s massive and indiscriminate spraying of toxic pesticides, including Malathion.
On April 12, a federal judge signed a settlement agreement in which New York City admits that the pesticides sprayed may indeed be dangerous to human health as well as to the natural environment.
The settlement agreement states that, contrary to the City’s prior statements, pesticides may remain in the environment beyond their intended purpose, cause adverse health effects, kill mosquitoes’ natural predators, increase mosquito resistance to the sprays, and are not presently approved for direct application to waterways.
Mitchel Cohen, the coordinator of the No Spray Coalition and an individual plaintiff in the lawsuit, sees the settlement agreement as a “tremendous victory” for health and environmental advocates.
“Thousands of New Yorkers were made seriously sick by the spraying,” Cohen said. “A number of members of our coalition, including several of the plaintiffs, died from pesticide-related illnesses. Many suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) or Asthma caused or exacerbated by the spraying. We are very glad that the new City administration has to some degree acknowledged that pesticides are extremely dangerous to human health. They need to be rejected as a way of killing mosquitoes.”
“In particular,” Cohen continued, “the use of insect repellents containing DEET should never be used, especially on children.”
Another plaintiff in the lawsuit, the artist Robert Lederman, noted that in 1999 and 2000, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and other City officials claimed that the spraying was “safe” and was used as “a last resort” in its effort to kill mosquitoes said to be vectors for West Nile encephalitis.
“This agreement represents the latest rebuff to the notion that Giuliani was a good Mayor,” Lederman said. “In 1999 and 2000, while repeatedly spraying the population of NY with pesticides derived from Nazi-era nerve gasses, Giuliani appeared in daily press conferences claiming that the chemicals were completely harmless. The City of NY has now admitted that these chemicals are harmful, that they persist in the environment and that much more caution will have to be used if they decide to ever spray them again.”
Attorneys for the No Spray Coalition — Joel Kupferman, of the NY Environmental Law and Justice Project, and Karl Coplan and Daniel Estrin, of PACE Environmental Litigation Clinic, announced that as part of the settlement the City agreed to pay $80,000 to five grassroots environmental and wildlife rehabilitation groups and meet with the plaintiffs in several sessions to review an extensive list of concerns that the Coalition provided. The Plaintiffs are not permitted, under the terms of the Clean Water Act, to receive a monetary settlement themselves.
The Coalition says that the resolution of the lawsuit begins a new phase in its activities. In its letter of concerns to the City, which is an attachment to the lawsuit settlement, the Coalition seeks to win official approval for its proposed “Community Environment and Health Council,” with members drawn from the plaintiffs, the City, and health care professionals, environmental organizations, advocacy groups, non-toxic pesticide applicators and other pesticide-conscious parties.
Cohen said the Environment and Health Council would “make recommendations on environmental health impacts of pesticide use and alternatives, hear from (and possibly include) neurotoxicologists, neuropsychologists, non-toxic pest control experts, wildlife rehabilitators; analyze toxicological samplings, and submit findings to review by occupational and environmental health case providers and advocates.”
The Council would also sponsor public meetings before pesticides are used, at which the DOH and other public officials must attend and be available to answer questions, Cohen said. It would “review and propose alternative, nontoxic control of mosquitoes; critique the city’s official mosquito control plan and offer new plans to replace adulticides with safe materials; assess agents chosen with regard to interaction with all toxins in our living environment, and then test agents in combination with them for synergistic or cumulative impact on health and environment.
“Additionaly, it would review transportation, storage, and financial ramifications of pesticides; develop and publicize substantive and “least harmful” application guidelines for any chemicals the City seeks to apply to the environment; access all NYC information on health concerns for pesticides and other chemicals; establish a liaison to the NY City Council Committee of Health and Environment and be added as non-voting, adjunct members to that City Council committee.”
Cohen added that he sees the terms of the Settlement Agreement as helpful to those fighting against pesticide spraying elsewhere. “Indeed, we consulted with many organizations not only in the U.S. but in Canada and Mexico as well,” Cohen said, “and we negotiated clauses in the Agreement with other locales in mind.”
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were: the No Spray Coalition, National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, Disabled in Action, Save Organic Standards – New York (by its president, Howard Brandstein), and individual plaintiffs Valerie Sheppard (deceased), Mitchel Cohen, Robert Lederman, and Eva Yaa Asantewaa.