County wants chemically sensitive on a warning list

A handful of Island County officials want to make sure residents adversely affected by chemicals take full advantage of a state law set up to protect them.

When the Board of Island County Commissioners decided last April to forego the use of herbicides in the county's roadside vegetation management program, capitulated in part to months of political pressure from "chemically sensitive" individuals calling for an end to the county's roadside herbicide spray applications.

However, this group of county residents did not received full protection through the county's new no-spray policy. The state still sprays herbicides in certain areas managed by the Department of Transportation, and county road crews use petrol chemicals to treat roads prior to laying down asphalt.

Such a profusion of chemicals might lead the chemically sensitive to despair were it not for "the list," a state program whereby individuals with sensitive immune systems can register to be notified any time licensed sprayers will be laying down chemicals in their neighborhoods.

This week, County Commissioner Bill Thorn and Roads Engineer Dick Snyder said it is their goal to alert chemically sensitive residents to existence of this list. Snyder said the issue came about after a Camano woman who didn't know about the list was affected by the county's spraying.

"Bill and I thought may be there are some people out there that should get on the list," Snyder said Tuesday. "There are people in the county that have concerns about the health issues surrounding pesticides, and we want to help those people that have concerns to get on the state sensitive list."

Thorn has been an outspoken advocate for reducing the proliferation of chemicals in the environment. He played a key role in the board's April decision to lay down a no-spray policy for the county's road management program.

"I think that we have been too free with that," he said of the general use of chemicals. "This, at the very least, is an appropriate precautionary measure for the county, to have backed off on the roadside spraying."

The state established its chemically sensitive listing program in 1992. It is managed by the Department of Agriculture's Division of Pesticide Management.

Currently there are about 125 active names on the list, including six in Island County.

Kathi Matherly, a state agriculture official administering the list in Olympia, said more than 300 numbers have been issued since the list's inception. The list is mailed out twice a year to licensed chemical applicators. The way the law was set up, people on the registry must be notified any time chemicals are going to be applied on property adjacent to or abutting their homes and within a certain distance.

"It was mostly set up for people in urban areas and small half-lots," Matherly said.

People on the list are notified no later than two hours prior to chemicals being applied in their vicinity.

Matherly said people interested in getting on the list should contact her department. Once contacted, registration forms are sent out immediately. Returned forms must include a doctor's certification of chemical sensitivity, plus a description of the registering parties residence and the address of abutting and adjacent properties.

Sometimes, Matherly said, it's the sprayers who take the initiative of checking for chemically sensitive individuals in their area.

"Licensed persons often ask me for an updated list, so people are being really conscientious," she said.

Sprayers are under no obligation to avoid properties where listed chemically sensitive people live once notification of a spraying date has gone out.

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