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Have you been sprayed by Duke?

To the Editor:

Duke Energy, through a contractor, has started aerial spraying of herbicides over the rights-of-way for their transmission lines, the lines supported by large steel towers.

Here in Oak Grove, this means that three routes are subject to the defoliants: the line which runs over Lakey and Bradley creeks into the Cowee Community, up Goshen Creek and down Greens Creek in Jackson County; the line which crosses the Little Tennessee River at Deans Island and runs up Tellico Creek to Wesser Gap, crossing the Appalachian Trail and descending into the Nantahala Community; and finally, the line which parallels N.C. 28 and the Little Tennessee before veering toward Bryson City.

Were you notified prior to the spraying operation? We were not, yet Duke’s own instructions state: “In developed and maintained areas, we typically notify property owners a minimum of three days prior to the start of planned vegetation maintenance work. We usually notify customers with a door hanger, but we may also call, send a letter or knock on your door. Sometimes notification includes a combination of these methods. We’ll also provide a point of contact in case you have questions or concerns about the work being done. If our attempts to notify a customer are unsuccessful, work will proceed without further direct notification.”

What chemicals are being used in this operation? We have observed containers labeled IMAZAPYR, METHOD, and TRICLORPYR. The safety data sheets warn of not allowing human contact with the airborne mist or allowing it to enter surface water. 

But, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved these herbicides. They must be safe. Wait. Look again. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, who made a two-year investigation of EPA approval of pesticides (and herbicides), the EPA used a regulatory loophole to approve 65 percent of 16,000 pesticides that pose a threat to public health. Aerial spraying of herbicides has only been used by Duke for the past 3 1/2 years, since 2016. Go figure.

Have you come into contact with the spray while it was airborne, or on grass, vegetables or fruit where it has come to rest? Have you experienced skin or eye irritation? Have your crops or fruit been damaged by drift from the prescribed ROW zone? Has your drinking water source been contaminated? 

In the past, right-of-way vegetation management of transmission lines has been a ground operation, much safer for Duke customers in proximity to this ROW, but not now. Be aware. Be safe. Stay out of the way of active spraying and airborne drift. Aerial herbicide application is happening right now.

See a doctor, of course, if your body has been impacted, but also call the regulatory agency to report any contamination of crops, gardens, water or trees outside of the ROW: Dwight Seal, Western District Manager, N.C. Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services 939.733.3556. 

Doug Woodward

Franklin