Are the pesticides being applied by Coastal EMC killing roadside plants and wildflowers in Richmond Hill? The Richmond Hill Garden Club thinks so, and they have sent a letter to EMC voicing their concerns.
"We noticed everything dying along the roadside, after they sprayed," Garden Club President Mary Burns said.
Burns said she spoke to the Garden Club board about it and sent a letter to EMC in September.
"I also sent a copy to all the board members of EMC – there’s nine of them – and I never heard anything back from them," Burns said.
They got their response in person when EMC CEO Whit Hollowell visited them during their Jan. 14 meeting at the Richmond Hill Library.
"As a cooperative, our mission is to provide reliable service at the lowest costs, and that’s one of the drivers that has led us to spray," Hollowell said.
He said the roadside maintenance takes place every four years and pesticides are applied to 1,000 miles of roadway parallel to EMC power lines, which includes Bryan, Liberty, Long and McIntosh Counties. He said it costs $200 per mile to spray as opposed to $500 per mile to mow.
Hollowell said it would cost each EMC customer around $25 per year on their bill to ditch the spraying method and go with only mowing.
"In my mind it doesn’t cost that much to do the right thing here," Burns said. "I think that we’re going to pay for it in the long run. $25 a year extra doesn’t seem like a lot to protect the environment. If you bump your thermostat up, it could easily raise it that much."
Hollowell said the majority of the directors would have to agree to make the change for it to happen. He said this may be difficult because rates just went up six percent. He said rates are projected to double over the next two years.
When asked if he has done testing to see how the pesticides effect the environment, Hollowell said EMC used a consultant and stated that spraying is standard practice in the industry. He also said the effects this year may be more apparent because it was a dry year, and chemicals become more effective under those conditions.
Garden Club member Peach Hubbard said EMC should hire an independent scientist to do some testing. She said the chemicals used are harmful to plant and animal life. She also said many states no longer spray due to environmental concerns.
"It’s been proven that continual use of these herbicides creates a dead zone where you can no longer plant anything there," Hubbard said.
Hollowell said he will take all the information he received back to the directors for consideration.