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BLSG settles lawsuit over mosquito spraying

BRANDON — The board of the BLSG Mosquito Control District has approved a settlement proposal in the lawsuit between them and the Toxic Action Center. The lawsuit has cost the district $41,668 since it was first filed last summer.
The BLSG, according to budget information in its annual report, spent $20,344 on legal costs in 2018. The district asked member towns for $25,000 in additional legal expenses in its budget request this year, which was approved by all five towns.
“We filed additional information with the Agency of Natural Resources, which they accepted,” board chair Ben Lawton told the Brandon Reporter. “The TAC then reached out to us with a settlement proposal, which the board authorized me to approve.”
Once all parties have signed the settlement it will go to the Vermont Environmental Court for approval.
The additional information, filed with the Department of Environmental Conservation as an addendum to the original permit, included information on what the BLSG is spraying in the Brandon, Leicester, Salisbury, Goshen and Pittsford areas and why it chose to use those chemicals.
“This is very good news,” Lawton said. “The additional information was enough that the TAC chose not to continue litigation.”
The suit was originally filed on behalf of a handful of local residents who were concerned about the effects of pesticides on animal life and water quality, as well as its impact on human beings. The TAC, a New England-based environmental activist group, was represented pro-bono by the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School.
The TAC alleged in the suit that the BLSG did not follow strict state protocols regarding informing the public on pesticides that were to be sprayed when the bug district originally filed its permit application.
In a meeting last week, board members discussed several possible ways to better inform residents of the chemicals being used and formed a committee to look into some new technology that may help them accomplish those goals.
These steps might include ways to send out emails or text messages to residents informing them of when BLSG staff are spraying and also vehicle tracking devices that would allow residents to see where the trucks have been operating. Some of those trackers would even show whether the sprayers were turned on when they passed residents’ houses.
“It goes back to what we’ve been saying,” Salisbury selectboard member and BLSG board member Paul Vaczy said. “We need to do a better job of being more transparent and informative. We need a way to get the information about when we’re spraying, what we’re spraying, and why to the public.”
Lawton is hopeful the matter will be agreed upon and settled in the Environmental Court within a week or two.
Mason Overstreet, attorney with the Vermont Law School who has been handling the case for the TAC, said on Thursday morning that he was not prepared to comment until the settlement agreement-order is executed by all of the parties and filed with the Environmental Court.

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