Franklin County commissioners have gone on record in opposition to Duke Energy spraying herbicides as part of its vegetation management program.

Spurred on by remarks by Apalachicola charter captain Charles Wilson, a Vietnam vet, commissioners voted unanimously Sept. 4 to send the company a letter to ask that it stop spaying herbicides around power lines in close proximity to the bay.

“I want staff to contact Duke,” said Commissioner Noah Lockley, who sponsored the motion. “I want them not to use something that’s going to hurt the public, something that’s going to hurt our bay, because it’s dying now.

“All that money they make, they can have somebody cut,” he said.

For its part, Duke Energy says on its website it “uses environmentally responsible herbicide applications to control tall growing incompatible plants within power line rights of way.

“Our objective is to maintain low growing vegetation to minimize potential electric power interruptions, which also enhances wildlife habitat. We use professional contractors to apply herbicide by utilizing different methods including foliar, stump, stem and vine applications,” it reads. “Duke Energy contractors have been trained on the proper, safe and environmentally responsible techniques of managing plant growth. All products used by Duke Energy are registered by the Environmental Protection Agency and approved by appropriate state agencies.”

Wilson said his research into the four types of herbicide used by Duke, including Clearstand, Manage and Milestone, suggest they are related to Dow Chemical’s Agent Orange, a defoliant used in Vietnam. That nation has reported some 400,000 people were killed or maimed as a result of exposure to herbicides like Agent Orange, and that a half_million children have been born with serious birth defects, while as many two million people are suffering from cancer or other illness.

“That’s some pretty strong stuff, pal,” Wilson told the commissioners. “This will affect our children, our grandchildren, our bay, our community.”

He said Franklin County could be placed on a “no spray list” by Duke. “They’ve used pretty much strong arm tactics in every state they’ve been in,” Wilson said.

He took a moment to read from herbicide labels he found on a link www.cdms.net provided by Duke at its website www.duke-energy.com

He noted that one such label indicated it was harmful to plankton. “All that stuff washing off into the bay is killing our plankton. There’s no shrimp in the marsh grass, no fish on the beach like they’re used to be. There’s none there now,” Wilson said. “We got a real problem folks that really needs to be addressed.”

Commissioner Cheryl Sanders said she was successful a few years back in getting the power company to cease using herbicides near property around Carrabelle. “It is bad,” she said. “That’s cancer causing right there, like Charles said.”

On its website, Duke says it uses “an Integrated Vegetation Management approach” which includes careful pruning, selective herbicidal application and tree felling.

“This allows us to evaluate power line areas and determine the best method for maintaining reliable service.” It reads. “The objective (is) to maintain the lines – before the trees and brush are close enough to cause outages – in a manner that is consistent with good arboricultural practices.”