Roadside herbicide application in Placerville, CA Credit: Credit: Paul Cherubini

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Wednesday, requesting the Virginia Department of Transportation to notify the county executive and to publish a written statement on the VDOT website at least 30 days prior to spraying herbicides along county roads.

This resolution is the result of an Aug. 16 incident, in which Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, who represents the White Hall district, received numerous constituent complaints regarding the locations of and methods used by VDOT contractors to spray herbicides along Sugar Hollow Road.

“I’m thrilled about the resolution,” Mallek said. “It will allow citizens to see the proper information so they can decide what precautions to take.”

In addition to advance notice, citizens will be able to contact VDOT’s call center to have any personal property along right-of-way roads removed from spraying. To ensure these requests are honored, Mallek said that VDOT plans to use a disc system to tell drivers where to start and stop spraying.

“Red discs will tell the drivers not to spray, and green discs will tell them where to start again,” Mallek said. “VDOT will try to attach the discs to existing fence posts and telephone poles, so it’s not like they’re going to plant a bunch of new poles.”

“I would appreciate the discs very much,” said Mary Anna Dunn, who lives along the Moormans River. “ “There are people in the community who have a better understanding of our ecosystems and how spraying chemicals would affect the Moormans River, but as a homeowner I’m much more comfortable with spraying if I’m given enough notice and the opportunity to opt out.”

At Mallek and VDOT’s request, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services conducted an investigation of the incident, specifically what chemical were sprayed, and if the methods used to spray those chemicals were appropriate and match with citizen reports. VDACS says the investigation is now in its final stages.

Dunn, who was driving behind one of the trucks in question, reported that the contractors sprayed a liquid high into the air, rather than low to the ground, and that contractors told her they were spraying Roundup.

“I would like to see the drivers be more informed of what they are spraying,” Dunn said. “We can’t have chemicals being sprayed when people don’t know what they are.”

VDOT officials, however, insist the contract called for Krenite S, a brush-control agent.

“Approximately 163 shoulder miles were sprayed with Krenite S in Albemarle County this year,” VDOT administrator James S. Utterback wrote in a Sept. 6 email to Mallek. “This chemical is widely used, and recommended…as a brush control agent on highway right of way across the state.”

Utterback also promised a review of the contractor’s work, and encouraged the Albemarle Supervisors to pass a spraying resolution.

“I have no issue with providing advance notice to Albemarle County,” Utterback said in his email. “I do request that the BOS pass a resolution requesting this advance notice to ensure the county’s desire is properly documented and not overlooked by any future VDOT Krenite spraying operations.”

As a result of Wednesday’s resolution, county executive Tom Foley says his office is working to develop a more complete communications strategy, but insists that the strength of the community will play a large role.

“In addition to the plan we’re putting together, we have our [electronic mail] A-mail list and citizen advisory boards that will help spread the word to the targeted areas,” Foley said. “One of the reasons we’re requiring 30 days is because we have a lot of good people, like Supervisor Mallek, committed to this. We can do a lot in 30 days.”