Special to the Cape Charles Mirror by Ken Dufty
October 9, 2016 A recent article in the Eastern Shore News by Carol Vaughn covered a September Accomack County Board of Supervisor’s meeting during which many residents voiced concern over the unprecedented amount of industrial chicken-producing factories that are proposed or under construction throughout the county. Indeed, the room was so packed with residents objecting to the wholesale industrialization of their beloved land, “neighbors and stakeholders spilled into the hallway.”
The article reports that Supervisor Hart, in response to many who spoke at the meeting, made a motion to have the Planning Commission take a harder look at the regulations that are allowing as many as 24 industrial houses on one parcel (once lot lines are erased). Interesting, but not surprising, that no supervisor seconded the motion, and it died on the floor.
I say it is not surprising that the majority of the Accomack Board thumbed their elective noses at the masses (after all, what do those pesky citizens know?) because this is not the first time they turned their backs on their constituents..and judging by the arrogant refusal to take into account the legitimate grievances and fears voiced…it probably will not be the last.
Take for instance the October 18, 1997 headline in the same newspaper which declared “Supervisors decide Temik poses no threat.” In that article by ESN reporter Alfred Edmonds, local environmentalist George Reiger questioned the use of the pesticide Temik on the sensitive Eastern Shore, saying that “wells in Long Island, NY had been polluted by widespread use of Temik on potato (and cotton) fields”.
In response to Reiger’s concerns, the Board turned to Brian Nault, assistant professor of entomology at the Eastern Shore Agriculture Experiment Station, to give a professional opinion on whether this citizens fears were legitimate. Kinda reminds me of the way the present Accomack Board calls in reps from Tysons or Perdue to give them their undivided attention on the industry’s side of the story. Anyway, Nault convinced the Board that the widespread use of Temik was no problem…after all, the label did say that you should not apply it “if the watertable is less than 25 feet below ground surface!”. The assurance that the use of Temik was no problem on the Eastern Shore was echoed by Extension Agent Jim Belote. Also, Supervisor Wanda Thornton, in dismissing Reiger’s concerns (afterall, he is a treehugger, isnt he?) said she felt “very safe” with the use of Temik. Nault sealed the deal when he testified to the receptive Board that aldicarb (Temik) “has not been shown to cause any long-term or chronic health problems.”
So Reiger was sent packing…outgunned by the people in the know. Fast forward 15 years to 2012 when the EPA slammed their regulatory gavel and finally banned the use of Temik, admitting it had been responsible for the worst known outbreak of pesticide poisoning in North America. It was deemed one of the most acutely hazardous pesticides still used in the US, and it was found that potatoes, citrus and water contaminated by Temik’s residue can result in toxicity levels in children between the age of one and five as much as 800% higher than the EPA’s level of concern for health effects. Indeed, effects of ingesting crops that had been protected from pests by Temik are listed to include gastrointestinal disturbance, unconsciousness, blurred vision, excessive salivation, seizures, disorientation and possibly death, as your reporter wrote nearly 20 years ago. The last possibility listed, at least to this writer, could be characterized as “long term” in contrast to the expert’s assurance.
In Northampton County, the informed and engaged supervisors listened carefully to the chorus of voices concerned about our quality of life, environmental integrity, the future of our burgeoning aquaculture industry and our pristine water quality and protected their charge (us) by passing an amended yet friendly zoning ordinance that reflected the common sense concerns voiced by their constituents.
We present that Accomack County elected officials should take a page from our fine leader’s play book, and apply a little good old fashioned common sense when addressing the issues raised by their citizens regarding this pending environmental catastrophe orchestrated by the chicken industry upon the land and its people. Reflecting on this unfortunate situation gives rise to free-thinking Civil War era writer Robert Ingersoll when he mused “it is a thousand times better to have common sense without an education than to have an education with no common sense.” To this we say, Amen.