Spray Truck Drivers Sickened by Pesticides Go Public; EPA Orders NYS DEC to Investigate Workers Charges

January 24, 2001 NO SPRAY COALITION #212/343-2209


New York, N.Y. — Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News (front page!) broke the story on Wednesday of the spray truck workers who were sickened by last year’s massive pesticide spraying. It is a story that the No Spray Coalition first brought to the attention of NYC officials a month ago, to no avail.

Juan Gonzalez’s article about spray truck drivers being poisoned by the pesticides they sprayed over New York City last year is just the beginning of the story,” said Meg Feeley, a researcher with the No Spray Coalition.

Some of the additional information Feeley noted: The drivers told of testing the spray equipment for 50 trucks, gators and ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) every day, releasing large clouds of Anvil pesticide into the air directly adjacent (well within 100 feet) of the Bronx River, in violation of federal law and endangering the surrounding residential community.

Spills and open “overpour” containers left unattended well into December.

Videotapes obtained by the No Spray Coalition confirm the workers’ stories. By the time the spray season ended last year, the depot yard on Bronx River Avenue — a yard open to children — was saturated with pesticides and other chemicals. Residents of apartment buildings at 860 and 880 Colgate Avenue, across from the yard, reported that their children had been forced to use inhalants in increasing numbers and for longer periods to combat asthma, brought on by the trucks that repeatedly sprayed their neighborhood.

“The workers’ situation typifies the Giuliani administration’s approach to the whole pesticide issue — just sweep it into the river or throw it up into the air, claim that pesticides are “safe,” and hope no one notices that the Mayor is poisoning the entire city (particularly children) and the natural environment,” said Mitchel Cohen, an organizer with the No Spray Coalition. “Meanwhile, the city plans to spray again next summer, which is a ‘cure’ far worse than the mosquito-borne disease it is supposed to prevent.”

The No Spray Coalition also revealed the following new concerns with the city’s spray campaign:

  • Earlier this month, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to open an investigation into not only the particular workers’ charges but into every aspect of the Department of Health’s spray campaign.
  • Mayor Giuliani and other city officials continue to claim, repeatedly, that the pesticides used were “perfectly safe,”a statement that is untrue and in violation of federal law as advised by New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, in a public rebuke of the City administration.
  • Spray truck drivers have filed affidavits testifying that they were ordered to spray alongside and over New York’s rivers and large bodies of water, in violation of a number of federal statutes, including the Clean Water Act — the basis for one of the lawsuits filed against NYC — another fact that Giuliani has heretofore denied.
  • A municipal worker who was sprayed in the face with Anvil while on the job, has been diagnosed with “occupational asthma” caused by pesticide spray, by occupational disease specialists at Mt. Sinai hospital.
  • The drivers also provided troubling evidence against indiscriminate use of Vectolex (BTi), a widely used larvicide previously said to be “harmless.” Fumes from open containers of the larvicide alongside one driver caused him to become dizzy and lose control of his vehicle on the FDR Drive, crashing it into the walls and spilling 40 gallons of Anvil all over the highway along the East River.
  • An examination of the City’s contracts with Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management Inc. has turned up numerous irregularities. The Coalition will have a full report of these in its next newsletter. On top of that, Clarke was paid $650/hr. per truck in a $4.6 million City contract to control mosquitos by spraying the City. The company then hired non-union workers at a maximum of $11/hr.
  • The No Spray Coalition has filed papers with the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, appealing a federal magistrate’s decision to limit the Coalition’s lawsuit to violations of the Clean Water Act, citing a number of other federal statutes that the City violated by its indiscriminate spray campaign.
  • The pesticide used by NYC last summer, Anvil, is made up not only of 10% artificially manufactured Sumithrin (an estrogen-mimicking chemical linked to breast cancer in women and lowered sperm count in men) but 10% piperonyl butoxide, a suspected carcinogen, and 80% so-called “inert” ingredients such as polyethylbenzene, which is listed by the EPA as being “potentially toxic,” as well as other chemicals.

Attorney Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project is representing the spray truck drivers in their workers compensation case as well as advocating on their behalf with OSHA and the New York State DEC. Kupferman, in conjunction with Pace Environmental Law Clinic, is also handling the No Spray Coalition’s lawsuit against the city.

The No Spray Coalition calls for a complete ban of all aerial spraying of insecticides over New York City and other urban areas, and an end to all indiscriminate spraying from trucks and other ground sources.

The Coalition continues its work to educate, inform the public, and challenge the city’s dangerous pesticide spraying.

For more information: No Spray Coalition Hotline: (718) 670-7110; Website: www.NoSpray.org.

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