Pesticides and Propaganda


Nassau County officials, skilled at public relations, placed full-page ads in Newsday announcing the aerial spraying of Anvil, weather permitting. But the county was also required by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to publish a legal notice in Newsday that comes without the spin. You may have to squint to read the fine print of a legal notice, but it’s often worth the effort. Here’s a comparison of the legal notice (page A27 of the Oct. 4 paper) with the ad (page A32 of the same edition):

The Legal Notice “Anvil: Label Precautionary Statements— Hazards to Humans and Domestic Animals: Harmful if swallowed or absorbed through the skin. Avoid contact with skin, eyes or clothing.”

The Ad “Anvil is extremely safe, but there may be some sensitivity by those who are subject to allergies, hay fever and asthma since it is similar to a substance found in the chrysanthemum flower. It does not cause any serious health problems, even in children, pregnant women or pets.” Despite having just said the chemical was “extremely safe,” county spin doctors told residents and motorists to seal themselves off from the spray. “As an added precaution, we are advising people and pets to stay inside during the actual spraying. Children’s toys, pet food dishes and clothes should be removed from outdoors. Playground equipment and larger toys may be washed off with soap and water, then rinsed or hosed off. Sandboxes should be covered during spraying.”

The Legal Notice “Environmental Hazards: Do not apply directly to water, or to areas where surface water, [sic] or to areas below mean high water mark.”

The Ad “Environment: The insecticide breaks down quickly.”

The Legal Notice “Health and Safety Statements: The Nassau County Department of Public Works uses the following insecticides safely and in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. Their uses for mosquito control does not [sic] pose danger to the public nor to the environment and is permitted by the NYSDEC.”

The Ad “The health and safety of our residents is [sic] paramount.”

The Legal Notice Several other pesticides are listed for possible use by the county, including “ground applications for adult mosquito control” of one called Scourge, of which the notice says: “Scourge: Label Precautionary Statements— Hazards to Humans and Domestic Animals: Avoid breathing vapor or spray mist. Avoid contact with skin, eyes or clothing.”

The Ad No mention of Scourge.

The Legal Notice “Environmental Hazards [of Scourge]: This product is toxic to fish and birds. Do not apply to lakes, streams or ponds. Do not apply when weather conditions favor drift from areas treated.”

The Ad No mention of Scourge.

The Legal Notice “Insecticides for adult mosquito control can be highly toxic to bees.” Beekeepers are urged to register with the county so they can be warned when Scourge is used.

The Ad No mention of Scourge. No mention of bees.

One Long Islander who is willing to mention Scourge and bees is Lalo Guerra, president of the Long Island Beekeepers Club. “We’ll seal up our hives,” says Guerra, an East Northport resident who teaches anatomy and physiology at Nassau Community College.

Bees aside, Guerra is glum about the prospect of the possible use of Scourge.

“It’s long-lasting,” he notes. “It could cause great ecological harm in the long run.”

Nassau and Suffolk counties used to do localized spraying of streams to keep mosquitoes down. If that had continued, says Guerra, maybe the all-out assault by air wouldn’t be thought necessary.

As if the survival of Long Island’s bees isn’t worry enough, Guerra says beekeepers themselves are dying off on the Island. The club’s membership has dwindled because young people aren’t getting excited about things like studying and hanging around bees. Now, he notes, most people aren’t up in arms about the prospect of massive spraying.

“We’ve lost touch with nature,” says Guerra.

Who Owns What?

Sometimes just figuring out who owns a particular building in the Village of Hempstead can be nearly impossible.

Tenants at the complex Carlos Mackey lives in, at 565 Fulton Ave., were notified in September that the building had been sold to Hempstead Partners LLC. In a two-sentence memo, they were told to send rent checks to 185 Sherman Ave. in New York City.

Some of the apartments at 565 Fulton, which was once owned by the Metz family, are privately held condominiums. Others are rented. Mackey is challenging the sale because he believes all the units should now come back under rent control since the complex has a single owner.

Mackey has enlisted the help of the state Attorney General’s Office in an effort to sort out who owns 565 Fulton, to determine the tenants’ rights and to track down a dozen or more security deposits that renters say they’re owed.

But even the Attorney General’s Office has been unable to follow the paper trail. “The information has changed hands so many times that it’s complicated,” says spokeswoman Christine Von Dohlen. “We’re still looking into the property to gather information.”