If Alaskansâ€™ drinking water, children or fishing streams are at risk, Alaskans should have a say
Yesterday, Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) expressed concern about the governor’s proposal to eliminate public input on pesticide use that could contaminate waters where Alaskans fish and get drinking water.
“If someone’s plans risk poisoning our drinking water or fishing streams, Alaskans should have a say,” said Rep. Gara. “Alaskans have a right to fish our streams, drink our water, and hunt without fear that our resources will be contaminated by toxic pesticides. If the Parnell administration blocks public comment, it would rob Alaskans of their fundamental right to speak on potential damage to fish and wildlife, and dangers to our children and drinking water.”
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing multiple changes to how it regulates the use of pesticides on state land. One proposed change would eliminate public comment on individual pesticide application permits and instead simply notify nearby residents the state will begin using pesticides in their area. While the public would still be allowed to comment on airborne spraying and spraying directly on water, it would be banned from commenting on spraying near a water body into which the pesticides can leach, on lands that might lead to a contaminated drinking water well, or on trails that, for example, children use.
In his official comments, Rep. Gara wrote, “I believe Alaskans should have a right to comment on important state issues. Elimination of a public commenting process by a state agency is always cause for concern, and when the public process pertains to human health and safety, the action is particularly disconcerting.”
“Some of the proposed changes are for the better, and small scale private pesticide use by homeowners shouldn’t require public comment. But the public shouldn’t have to silently trust its government on large scale pesticide use that can endanger fish and wildlife, drinking water, or trails that children use,” said Rep. Gara.
“We are deeply concerned that the governor would weaken our democracy by eliminating public participation in decisions that affect our water quality, fish habitat, and public health,” said Pamela Miller, Biologist and Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. Alaska Community Action on Toxics is a statewide non-profit environmental health research organization whose mission is to advocate for environmental and community health—the right to clean air, clean water, and toxic-free food.
The public may comment on the proposed regulation changes by submitting written comments to Rebecca Colvin, Solid Waste and Pesticide Program, Division of Environmental Health, Department of Environmental Conservation, 555 Cordova St., Anchorage, AK 99501, by facsimile at (907) 269-7600, or by e-mail at Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org. The comments must be received no later than 5:00p.m. on August 2, 2012.
Because the summer season is a busy time for many Alaskans, and Alaskans who work away from home in the summer, Rep. Gara has asked Commissioner Hartig of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to extend the public comment period on the proposed changes to the pesticide regulations another 60 days to October 2, 2012.