J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s first case of West Nile virus this year was detected recently in a dead bird found in northeast Santa Rosa near Trione-Annadel State Park, regional health officials announced Friday.
The dead American crow was collected near Timber Springs Drive and Timber Springs Court, according to the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District. That puts Sonoma County among 33 California counties to report the presence of the virus this year.
West Nile virus generally spreads through mosquitoes who feed on infected birds and then bite humans. Most people never show any symptoms of the disease, but about one in five will show mild symptoms including fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting and rash. Less than 1 percent of people will develop severe neurological symptoms, including possible death. Nizza Sequeira, a spokesperson for the regional mosquito and vector control district, said in a written statement that preventing and controlling mosquitoes and vector-borne disease “is a responsibility we all share,” encouraging residents to take steps to reduce the production of mosquitoes on their properties and report problems to health officials.
Source: First case of West Nile virus this year found in Sonoma County | The Press Democrat
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Russian River tested clean this week for a toxin related to blue-green algae that prompted cautionary signs at 10 popular beaches last month and in each of the past two summers.
The river remains open to swimming and other recreation. But warning signs urging visitors to avoid ingesting river water will remain at 10 popular beaches between Cloverdale and the river mouth as a precaution against exposure to the neurotoxin involved, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services said.
The weekly sampling suggests the threat, already minimal, could be diminishing. But precautions can only be lifted after several weeks pass without detection of the neurotoxin called anatoxin-a, county health personnel said.
Read more at: Blue-green algae-related toxin warnings remain at Russian River beaches | The Press Democrat
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County provides more information on blue-green algae at its website here
Sonoma County officials posted caution signs at beaches up and down the Russian River on Wednesday alerting visitors to positive test results for a potentially dangerous, naturally occurring neurotoxin linked to harmful algae, a problem surfacing around Northern California this summer.
Water samples collected at three local beaches turned up very low levels of a substance called Anatoxin-a, which is produced by certain species of blue-green algae, Sonoma County health officials said.
It’s the third year in a row the algae-related toxin has been detected in the river.
The most-recent samples were taken Monday and the test results received Wednesday, Sonoma County Health Officer Karen Milman said.
Though the level of toxin in the water “was just at the ability to detect it,” the finding triggers precautionary alerts under state guidelines, she said.
Rivergoers should be particularly watchful of dogs, which are actually attracted to harmful algae, according to studies, and, by virtue of their relative body size and habits when around fresh water, are particularly susceptible to exposure.
Read more at: Sonoma County issues toxic algae warning for Russian River beaches | The Press Democrat
J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The section of Sonoma County government responsible for everything from monitoring the Russian River for toxic algae blooms to inspecting the safety of local restaurants is overworked and insufficiently staffed, challenges that hamper its effectiveness, according to a recently released civil grand jury report.
In its latest annual analysis published late last month, the 19-member civilian panel determined the county’s Department of Health Services’ Environmental Health and Safety section faced a staffing squeeze, particularly for middle management jobs, and relied too much on trainees to play key roles, among other findings. The little known but critically important government section has found it difficult to recruit and retain qualified employees, placing too great a burden on current staff members who suffer from “reduced job satisfaction” as well as “low morale,” the report said.
Matthew Stone, the grand jury foreman, said the report’s findings continue to show that the county has yet to fully recover from its recession-era belt tightening. “They’ve got a whole bunch of sort of big-picture priorities, but they’ve been starving their foot soldiers a little bit,” Stone said. “And that’s a concern.”
The section faces budget restrictions and hiring difficulties that, in the grand jury’s estimation, result in some positions being underfilled, meaning the job is held by a trainee rather than a more senior staff member.
Read more at: Civil grand jury says Sonoma County’s Environmental Health staff overworked | The Press Democrat
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa is the latest Sonoma County city to take a harder look at how it uses synthetic herbicides like Roundup following the state’s action to list the key ingredient in the weed killer as a known cause of cancer.
The City Council agreed Tuesday to re-bid a large landscaping contract to see if there are maintenance options that don’t use glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup, or neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides suspected of contributing to the demise of bee populations.
The city will seek bids for landscaping methods using common chemical sprays, as well as bids using more organic methods outlined by the Russian River Watershed Association.
“I will be very interested to see the Russian River-friendly proposal,” said Councilman Chris Rogers, who urged the city rethink its approach.
The move was the latest by a local government amid rising regulatory and scientific scrutiny of glyphosate, listed this month by California as a cancer-causing agent over the objection of agrichemical giant and Roundup maker Monsanto, which contends it is safe when used appropriately.
Read more at: Santa Rosa may rethink use of chemical sprays such as Roundup in parks | The Press Democrat
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Inquiries and inspections have been made about septic tanks, porta-potty operations and homeless encampments as well, in an effort to narrow down the cause, ….
Updates on the status of the beach are available at sonomacounty.ca.gov/Health/Environmental-Health/Water-Quality/Fresh-Water-Quality/.
Monte Rio Beach will remain closed to swimming for at least one more day as public officials continue to pursue the reason for elevated lab tests that indicate contamination of the water with harmful bacteria, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services reported Monday.
The decision to keep beach-goers out of that stretch of the Russian River through at least Tuesday extends the ongoing beach closure to a fifth day, though officials have yet to confirm or pinpoint any specific hazard or source of pollution.
But state guidelines governing water quality required the closure last week because of test results above the state-allowed threshold for two indicator bacteria considered markers for possible fecal contamination. The beach status is now considered day-to-day.
The latest round of testing put total coliform bacteria at 11,199 organisms per 100 milliliters of sampled water collected off the beach Sunday, Deputy County Health Officer Karen Holbrook said. The state standard is 10,000 organisms per 100 ml.E. coli was measured at 149 organisms per 100 milliliters in samples taken Sunday. The state standard is 235 per 100 ml.E. coli levels dropped below the safety threshold July 6 and appear to have stayed there, though they remain above the two-digit numbers typical of routine testing at 10 Russian River beaches conducted by the county.
The highest test result in the past week put the E. coli level at 833 organisms per 100 ml. or almost four times the state standard, possibly as a result of huge crowds at the beach over the July Fourth weekend.
Read more at: Russian River beach still closed; officials search for cause of high bacteria levels | The Press Democrat
Tim Radford, CLIMATE NEWS NETWORK
US-based research has found that even a modest switch to a more vegetable-based diet could lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists have worked out how to combat climate change and improve human health, one mouthful at a time.
The answer is a familiar one: they calculate that a relatively modest switch towards a more vegetable-based diet could, in the US at least, lead to a reduction of 222kg in greenhouse gas emissions per person per year, while cutting the relative risk of coronary heart disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes by 20% to 40%.
It could also reduce US healthcare costs by at least $77bn a year and possibly $93bn.
The US spends $3tn on healthcare every year – 18% of gross domestic product – and a significant proportion of health costs are associated with obesity and illnesses linked to diet.
Read more at: Healthy diet good for climate change – Climate News NetworkClimate News Network
Megan Kaun, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
We talk a lot these days about the importance of civic engagement. If you are convinced that pesticides and your family should not mix, adopt your favorite park or school campus. Though they might be hesitant initially to change the way things are done, with persistence and a smile they will probably allow you to do their job for them.
What’s yellow and orange and dead all over?
Bright orange streaks pop from the verdant Sonoma County landscape this spring. These are poisoned plants, treated by glyphosate. If you are like me, you may have overlooked this phenomenon, but once you know, it is impossible to ignore.Glyphosate (ɡlīf-ə-sāt), the active ingredient in products like RoundUp®, is the chemical of choice for weed control.
Originally promoted for its safety compared to other pesticides, increasing evidence links glyphosate to cancer and other significant health issues. However, these dangers are largely unrecognized by its users and the general public. In fact, the County of Sonoma alone sprayed over 3,800 gallons of glyphosate-based pesticides in public spaces in 2015; from Spring Lake in Santa Rosa to Sunset Beach in Guerneville.
For a long time, I didn’t notice the dead orange weeds along the sidewalks, nor did I think about how they might be affecting my family’s health and local wildlife. I avoided using pesticides at home, but I didn’t consider use at our parks and schools. I am an environmental engineer, who spent my early career cleaning up toxic waste, so I should have known better. Two years ago I was unaware. Then a personal experience woke me up.
Read more at: Pernicious Pesticides – Hiding in Plain Sight – April 2017
Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The state Department of Pesticide Regulation on Thursday issued a revised proposed regulation on spraying pesticides near schools, changing an earlier version to provide farmers more leeway in reporting the spraying to school officials.
Despite that change, the proposed regulation remained largely the same as that issued in September and fundamentally bans pesticide applications within a quarter-mile of schools and day care centers on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
The rule has been heavily lobbied on both sides. Agricultural interests complained that it was regulatory overreach that wasn’t backed up by available science. Environmental advocacy groups argued it did not do enough to protect children and did not contain sufficient provisions for enforcement. About 500 comment letters have been filed on the plan.
Under the original proposal, farmers would have been required to notify school officials and the county agricultural commissioners of pesticide sprays made within that quarter-mile area 48 hours before they occur.
The revised rule would only require them to provide an annual notification of pesticides that they expect will be applied near the school zones. The grower must describe the pesticides likely to be used, their names and active ingredients as well as a map showing the acreage and its proximity to the school.
Read more at: Proposed rule for pesticide spraying near schools revised by state agency | The Press Democrat
Scott Smith, ASSOCIATED PRESS
California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.
California would be the first state to order such labeling if it carries out the proposal.Monsanto had sued the nation’s leading agricultural state, saying California officials illegally based their decision for carrying the warnings on an international health organization based in France.
Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued in court Friday that the labels would have immediate financial consequences for the company. He said many consumers would see the labels and stop buying Roundup.
“It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto,” he said.
After the hearing, the firm said in a statement that it will challenge the tentative ruling.
Read more at: California clears hurdle for cancer warning label on Roundup | The Press Democrat