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Opting out of having your property sprayed with herbicides under your power lines

By Lisa Neal
Posted Monday, July 16, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC - I have information to share about opting out of having your property sprayed with herbicides under your power lines.

Herbicide spraying by the power companies is a huge problem. It is cost effective for them, but not cost effective for our communities, when we consider the impact on our groundwater, wildlife, companion animals, not to mention our children playing in freshly sprayed areas and our very health. The sprayers do not announce their arrival. It just happens. It alarmed and outraged me when I discovered a few months ago that landowners in N.C. and elsewhere are not legally recognized as having the right to refuse herbicide spraying on their property.

In 1998 there was an agreement in N.C. through the N.C.Pesticide Board between a coalition of environmental groups and the major power companies to offer landowners an "opt out" alternative. This agreement expired after five years and there is nothing new in place. However, the power companies in our area, as I understand it, continue to offer this option as a "courtesy" to their customers.

My power company, Central Electric Membership Corporation, sprays our area every three years. That's how long the spraying is effective. Also, it takes CEMC that amount of time to move through their multi-county service area with spraying before it's time to start over. I live in central Chatham County and our area was last sprayed in July 2009 and is due again any moment. This past spring I got together with my neighbors on my driveway and the majority of us opted out of spraying. CEMC will now be mowing our power cuts instead. They gave us several No Spray signs to post at the entrance to our neighborhood to alert the sprayers not to spray us. Even if your neighbors don't join with you, you can post your own land with No Spray signs, one sign where the power line enters your property and one where it exits it.

The power companies use outside contractors to spray and absolve themselves of the responsibility for their contractors' actions. So it is really between the landowner and the contractor who is spraying. The No Spray signs bear a standard image and are recognized by the spraying contractors. If you are concerned about spraying of pesticides on your property, get some No Spray signs up right away. Your power company can give these to you. They may require you to sign a contract, which absolves them of any responsibility to you for damages and which is taylored to their needs, not yours. If you do not wish to sign their contract and have problems procuring signs from them, you can just put up your own signs. Again, ultimately it's between you and their spraying contractor, not between you and the power company. If you send me an email with your name and snailmail address, I can give you information on where you can order signs which the spraying contractors recognize, how much they cost and instructions for how to post them properly (on a metal post 6 feet above the ground). Meanwhile, you could quickly post your own handmade sign with the words "No Spray" and hope for the best. You are not allowed to post them on the power poles themselves.

My power company CEMC, which gives excellent service and restores our power quickly during outtages, has been very cooperative and helpful with me in helping my neighborhood "opt out". Now it is left to be seen whether their spraying contractor leaves us alone this summer.

Landowners have a responsibility, too. It is a tough job for any power company to keep vegetation clear under the power lines. Landowners should do their own part by mowing under the lines on their property. My husband and I mow our power cuts in the winter when the mowing is easier and once or twice in summer. Don't grow trees and shrubs under your power lines. This will greatly reduce the workload on the power companies and reduce their reliance on spraying contractors. Power companies would still need to periodically prune the high-canopy trees that are located along the perimeter of a power-line corridor and grow toward the power lines. But this is a lot less maintenance than having to spray or mow the corridors.

Pay attention to when the sprayers come through your area and determine from your power company how many years it will be before they come back (Three?). Mark that date. Speak up for landowner rights not to have our land sprayed with herbicides!

 
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