A few weeks ago I looked at the area by our drive and was somewhat concerned at seeing what looked like the beginning of spray damage on the wild flowers and shrubs that I allow to weave their way through the railings that separate the house from the field next door. I don't clear these until mid to late May to ensure there is somewhere for invertebrates and other small creatures to find safety if there's a late frost. For the first day or so I actually wondered if it might be frost damage.
But then the tell tale sign of the grass around the edges of the field going brown, becoming brittle and dying off alerted me to the definite fact that spraying had taken place, and spray had drifted onto our drive. The blackberries all began to show the mottled yellowing that comes when they start to fight back. The willow herb browned at the roots and slowly turned yellow and faded and soon the entire bank was dying back.
Now I'm a pragmatist and I understand exactly why the owners and lease holders of this field decided to spray the edges. Time is precious, man power at capacity and the field is huge, and used by local football teams at the weekends. The area by us is left to grow, and is used by dog walkers and youngsters as a recreation space, but sadly it's also often used to fly tip and looks like a real eye sore. The spraying was undertaken, I believe, to begin to combat that issue. Often we see community payback teams in there clearing the fly tipping but my guess would be that a myriad of complaints led to drastic action.
Obviously I set about finding who had sprayed as well as what had been used. Of course it was a chemical with Glyphosate as its main ingredient, and of course I was told that it's perfectly safe. Apparently the contractor had assured that.
Now I could at this point give all the names of all the organisations and businesses involved, but that would not in any way help the situation. I'm upset for several reasons, but I'd like to concentrate on one reason that is really dear to my heart and that's safety when spraying.
I have spraying qualifications from my time in nurseries. Each qualification cost a considerable sum to my employer and I took the learning and the tests seriously. Once you start to read chemical data sheets you realise these are not things to use lightly, and indeed that principle is at the core of all horticultural chemical spraying. Before beginning to consider what active ingredient might be best to use to solve an issue, the operative is tasked with looking at cultural methods that could be used instead. Only when each of those methods have been considered, be it hand weeding an area or moving climber stock outside into the rain to stop red spider mite, should chemical spraying be considered.
And once the decision to spray a chemical is made, weather, hear, wind speed should all be at an optimal point before the spraying commences. There's no point beginning of it's threatening rain, if it's too hot and plants will scorch, if it's windy, in fact if the wind is over 5mph, meaning the spray could drift.......
So whoever sprayed that field didn't consider the wind speed. It's rarely still across us, as we are at the top of a hill, and the wind whistles down. In fact I don't think I've ever lived anywhere that windy!!
I've repeatedly requested a conversation with the contracted company, who look as if they are professionals from their website, but they are yet to get in touch. The leaseholder has been given my details but I've heard nothing and the owners of the field say they are just the middle man and whilst being perfectly pleasant aren't taking my complaint particularly seriously. I've just asked for a written apology but it's not forthcoming.
And then today I saw this.....
There are so many things wrong with this picture.
No soraying suit, or at least long arms on his top to stop any spray back.
On his phone so not concentrating.
No signage to say spraying is taking place.
Needless to say he refused to speak to me. He was spraying an area of a retail park, so I assume he was a contractor.
And then it suddenly occurred to me that this is a city/county/country/world wide issue. As less and less land is managed by local authorities so more and more land is looked after by private companies who inevitably will contract out specialist work such as chemical spraying. And how do all those companies know what is expected, in terms of basic health and safety and monitoring of spraying operatives? My guess is that many, if not most, just assume the contracted business is doing the monitoring, providing PPE etc.
But are they?
Well obviously something is going horribly wrong, but what can be done?
Now whatever my personal feelings are around herbicides and pesticides I am a realist and I understand a need for good weed control in cities, and I understand that cost implications play a part here. Of course, ideally, no chemicals would be sprayed in the public realm, but that's an unlikely target as we stand. But what we do need to do in the first instance is ensure good spraying practice. Perhaps a charter to sign up to, with promises around PPE, monitoring and ensuring good signage. I'd really like to see signage staying in place for 48 hours after sprays in the public realm, if only to ensure dog owners stop their dogs licking anything covered with a spray.
Surely that's not too much to ask?!?
In the meantime I'll wait to see if any apology is forthcoming......