Environmentalists denounce the use of pesticides at local airports

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Local environmental activists are voicing concerns about the use of pesticides at local airports.


Contributing journalist


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Local environmental activists have raised concerns about the use of pesticides at Tweed New Haven Airport and Sikorsky Memorial Airport, which may have negative effects on the water supply, nearby residents and the community. wildlife.

Tweed recently obtained approval from the New Haven Board of Alders and the Federal Aviation Administration to expand the airport, which could affect the use of pesticides on the property. Pesticides are chemicals that kill or control pests, such as weeds and insects, and are primarily used to protect crops. The dangers of pesticides have entered the general public in recent years, especially with a class action lawsuit bring against the manufacturers of the weedkiller Roundup, the use of which has been linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Tweed uses herbicides to kill vegetation on airport signage, lighting and fences, says FAA and Transportation Security Administration guidelines. When pulverized, these pesticides have the potential to seep into groundwater, contaminate the soil, or spread into the air.

“The companies that make these chemicals have done their best to stop even researching and asking the questions that need to be answered about whether they are safe or not,” said Laura Cahn, chair of the advisory board on the environment of Elm City. . “And it has been proven that they are not safe.”

Environmental Protection Agency assess pesticides for a potential risk to humans, wildlife and the environment before they can be sold, and requires safety regulations for use.

In 2017, the Conseil des Aulnes approved a voluntary ban on pesticides, encouraging local residents to no longer use them on their own lawns. However, the city cannot enforce such a ban – only the state can.

On September 23, the New Haven Alder Council unanimously approved a 43-year agreement between Tweed and the city, citing new jobs, economic development and an environmentally conscious approach. The deal opens the door to a significant expansion of the existing airport, including a new terminal near East Haven and a longer runway. Since the FAA approved the plans, the airport is now going through an environmental assessment process, which Tweed executive director Sean Scanlon told News it would take about a year to complete. The airport has engaged the consulting firm McFarland Johnson, Inc. to study the potential impact of the proposed expansion on the environment.

In June 2018, New Haven resident Jody Rowell observed dead vegetation on the Tweed fence near Morris Creek, which flows into Long Island Strait, according to a complaint filed with the Department of Energy. and Environmental Protection of Connecticut and obtained by the News. DEEP investigated the incident and discovered that airport staff had applied Roundup and Topsite herbicides to the perimeter to discourage animals from entering the runway. DEEP found that the airport had applied Topsite without “any application equipment”, according to the report, and that the lack of calibrated equipment could have harmed the herbicide spreaders or resulted in water pollution.

According to Scanlon, Tweed now employs a DEEP-approved certified herbicide applicator to remove vegetation that might obscure airport fencing, signage or lighting in accordance with FAA regulations.

There could be more lighting and signage at the airport due to the expansion, Scanlon told the News.

“I think there is a good chance that [herbicide use] would increase, but the percentage increase would not be much different from what it is today, ”he said. “We are thinking about this. We don’t use pesticides anywhere in the airport.

The airport uses herbicides rather than gasoline mowers to reduce exhaust fumes emitted into the air and potential occupational hazards, he added.

Scanlon also said it had not received specific complaints from residents about the airport’s use of pesticides impacting their properties, but Cahn noted that pesticides applied at the airport can still affect residents. residents who live nearby.

“They are in danger because we know that herbicides that are sprayed don’t stay where you spray them – they’re in the air, the wind is blowing and they are drifting,” she said.

Another concern shared by airport officials and environmental activists is the mediation of migratory bird activity near Connecticut airports. Birds seek out swampy areas, such as those near the Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Tweed and Bridgeport, to eat insects. Insecticides have been proposed as a solution, as removing the bird’s food source could reduce their activity in the airspace.

On August 26, Michelle Muoio, manager of the Sikorsky airport, wrote in an email to tenants and airport users that airport staff had “observed a significant increase in birds”, in particular tree swallows, which could cause “temporary closures or other restrictions”. at the airport.

In an undated email obtained by News, a wildlife specialist from the United States Department of Agriculture wrote to Muoio about the Sikorsky tree swallow problem. The email says USDA Wildlife Services “recommends the use of insecticides to reduce insect numbers and reduce swallow activity.”

In a statement to the News, Muoio and other airport officials wrote that Sikorsky complies with FAA and USDA regulations regarding wildlife risk management at the airport.

“Historically, pesticide application has not needed to be a major component of field maintenance; however, this is something the USDA will recommend if necessary, ”the release said. “This airport primarily uses other risk management methods such as non-lethal sound-emitting devices to deter wildlife from entering airport property.”

Scanlon said he was “not aware” that Tweed is using insecticides to reduce the number of birds near the airport.

Although Tweed is in the midst of its EA on the proposed expansion, some campaigners are hoping the project will go through an Environmental Impact Assessment, a report mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Tweed would need to appeal to external experts to assess the impact that the expansion of the airport could have on the environment. Scanlon said that from now on, it looks like the expansion won’t need an environmental impact statement.

“Airport managers are just thinking about how to fly planes,” said Rachel Heerema, a New Haven resident, who works with 10,000 Hawks, an environmental protection organization that has opposed the expansion of Tweed Airport. The organization’s name refers to the 10,000 raptors that migrate through Tweed’s airspace each year. “Pesticides are an outdated and unsustainable way of life and cohabitation on this planet. “

Tweed New Haven Airport is located at 155 Burr St.


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