tree spray, 7/17/13

Dead trees on Pleasants Valley Road, just south of Putah Creek Road, were recently sprayed in an effort to curb invasive invasive plants. The spraying apparently went beyond the targeted species and killed native plant life. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

Solano County

Oak trees killed, damaged in spraying mix-up

By From page A1 | July 18, 2013

VACAVILLE — The orders were to inject some invasive plants and to spray others along Pleasants Creek in rural Vacaville.

Those instructions were mixed up somewhere along the way and resulted in around 12 dead oak trees and 20 to 30 more that were damaged.

An investigation by the Solano County Department Agriculture is currently underway, said Simone Hardy, assistant agricultural commissioner.

Hardy said Wednesday that “there seem to be some issues” with the application of the chemicals.

The issue in question took place during an eradication effort to rid the creek beds of Arundo and Tree of Heaven, which are non-native species that cause erosion and water flow problems in the creek, said Rich Marovich, streamkeeper with the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee.

Marovich said with regret that crews from the contracted Agrichem Industries in Davis mixed up orders to inject one species and spray the others. That led to overspray landing on the oak trees, killing the dozen or so, he said. Marovich said it was the first time in 12 years of using the company that such an incident had occurred.

“The spray crew just mistook their marching orders. They treated the plants in mixed canopies,” Marovich said. “I was certainly dismayed with the amount of overspray. I feel terrible this happened. We don’t want to be hurting native populations.”

Paul Washburn, owner of Agrichem, confirmed the crew mixed up the orders and said he regretted the error.

“They didn’t mean to do that,” Washburn said. “It won’t happen again. I can guarantee you that.”

Arundo is likened to bamboo that grows in thickets, making the spray method the best to kill it. Tree of Heaven, brought over from China, is more susceptible to injecting the herbicide into the plant itself given that it is commonly found among other plants, Marovich said.

The spray is treated with a blue dye to help crews see where it is landing, which in this case was also in the water, Marovich said. Residents near where the damage occurred soon noticed the water had a bright blue color, which caused concerns.

“I would be (concerned), too,” he said. “You see that water an unnatural blue and the first thing you think is it’s a septic tank or some other toxic material.”

The spray is considered “relatively nontoxic to aquatic species,” he said. The California Department of Fish and Game inspected the area. Marovich said they noted seeing species still living in the area and would later issue a report on the findings.

Hardy agreed and said there was likely no risk to the water, but the damage was done to the plant life.

Marovich said the dead oaks would be replaced and even offered to have the landowners personally pick out the new trees from the nursery in Davis the group regularly uses. In areas where larger trees were killed, he said several would be planted in their place.

He said the irony of the whole situation is they are there to protect the native species and plant new trees once the non-native species are killed off.

“We will be leaving it in better condition eventually, but we didn’t want to take a step back doing it,” Marovich said.

Any land owners or others who want more information about the incident or the replacement of trees can call Marovich at 530-902-1794.

Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.

Danny Bernardini

Danny Bernardini

Danny is a newspaper man born and raised in Vacaville. He attended Chico State University and has written for the Enterprise Record and the Reporter. Covers the City of Fairfield, education and crime. A's, Warriors and Saints fan. Listener of vinyl, frequent visitor to the East Bay. Registered "decline to state" voter. Loves a good steak.

Discussion | 4 comments

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  • Steven KaysJuly 18, 2013 - 7:17 am

    Better luck next time.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Sandy CulbertsonJuly 18, 2013 - 10:08 am

    This earth is the ONLY home we have. NICE JOB! Kill some Oak trees and poison the water... But uh, whatever. The trees can always be replaced and who cares about the water? Nice going ~ keepers of our chemical safety. Hope ya got the plants you were originally after. I'd hate for this to have been a waste of time!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJuly 18, 2013 - 2:15 pm

    Now let's not go all Inspector Javert here. Mistakes happen. Responsible people own up to it, make restitution the best they can, and move on. I’ll wager Rich or someone responsible was even the original lead on this story. Rich and the people responsible for the management and environmental enhancement of Putah Creek for 12 years (did you miss that?) have had an excellent track record prior to this incident, and they deserve a “pass” from us from time to time when something goes wrong. A risk-free program would be to leave the creek alone, and everyone who knows anything about Putah Creek would agree that is the worst possible outcome; neglect wasn’t benign. So I say, well done! There are responsible, trustworthy people working on Putah Creek, and we see them at their best when they have to deal with a problem like this.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Brian KleinJuly 18, 2013 - 8:01 pm

    Well said, Rick.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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