Border Agents to Poison Foliage Along Border

Does anyone remember Agent Orange? If this is what Janet Napolitano has in mind for Homeland Security, fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a wild and bumpy ride.

The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.

If successful, the $2.1 million pilot project could later be duplicated along as many as 130 miles of river in the patrol’s Laredo Sector, as well as other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Are they going to force Sheriff Joe Arpaio's inmates to do the planting? [More...]

Among the objections:

“We don’t believe that is even moral,” said Jay Johnson-Castro Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, located at Laredo Community College, adjacent to the planned test area.

“It is unprecedented that they’d do it in a populated area,” he said of spraying the edge of the Rio Grande as it weaves between the cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.....Mexican officials are raising concerns the herbicide could threaten the water supply for Nuevo Laredo.

This is simply disgusting.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Trust us, it's safe... (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by desertswine on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:37:21 AM EST
     "Border Patrol and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials say the chemical is safe for animals..."

    It just stands to reason that if this poison kills plants, it's not safe for either animals or humans either.

    yeah (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by lilburro on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:38:04 AM EST
    I assume they realize some animals eat plants.  I assume..

    Of course it's not safe (none / 0) (#9)
    by Dr Molly on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 12:01:25 PM EST
    And it will contaminate a large portion the watershed through runoff.

    Maybe they think that is a (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 01:11:17 PM EST
    feature not a bug?  Dead people don't buy drugs.

    I wonder how anyone could defend such a plan.

    It is trully absurd to think that the potentially high health costs of poisoning an ecosystem would be worth even considering.


    Oh my god (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by lilburro on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:37:33 AM EST
    this is horrifying.

    And I fail to see how they can possibly say this doesn't destroy the ecology in the area.  130 miles near a river covered in herbicide?  

    I would think that in addition to the (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Anne on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 12:00:23 PM EST
    physical harm that may result from this plan, the stripping of the vegetation would present an environmental problem, as well.  

    My husband has full VA coverage as a result of his service in Vietnam and the link between Type-2 diabetes and exposure to Agent Orange; his diabetes showed up 38 years after he left Vietnam, so the "oh, it won't hurt people" dismissal of the concerns about killing the plant life on the border is just a little too glib for my taste.

    Couldn't they just run a hedgehog? (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by BarnBabe on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 12:09:02 PM EST
    I see what they are trying to do, but to put people and animals at risk by using a POISON is assinine. And a great idea along the river? The river that provides water for humans and animals? To create a dust bowl? And these 'experts' have Masters in Stupidity?  

    Does this river also provide water for crops? (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 01:30:36 PM EST
    thinking back to almost a year ago and the tomato/pepper/salmonella issue, iirc, river water was used on the crops. Runoff from livestock is what contaminated the field.

    Sick (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 12:27:05 PM EST
    Hope the local US and Mexicans sue. They should can get an injunction and do an environmental impact report.

    Muy stupido. (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 12:41:40 PM EST

    postponed, at request of Mex. Government (5.00 / 1) (#56)
    by Ben Masel on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 11:51:18 AM EST
    Thanks Ben. The project has been halted. (none / 0) (#57)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 12:24:57 PM EST
    Here's the link if yours gets deleted.

    Your tax dollars at work... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:40:43 AM EST
    pitchforks lookin' like the best course of action more and more everyday.

    And nobody dare say this is just job stimulus for the poison industry...:)

    The wall is what is disgusting (none / 0) (#5)
    by Saul on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:45:19 AM EST
    Obama was one that voted for it.

    Why don't ... (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:45:58 AM EST
    the just dig them up and then maintain the area after that to keep the plants from growing back?

    How will this keep the assault (none / 0) (#7)
    by hairspray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:46:55 AM EST
    rifles from getting into Mexico to fuel their drug war?

    Carrizo Cane (none / 0) (#13)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 01:00:32 PM EST
    is awful stuff, an Asian invasive that doesn't belong there, and it's essentially impossible to get rid of with mechanical means.  It spreads by underground roots or rhizomes that can go as deep as three feet.  Worse, it regrows from fragments of the root or rhizome as small as an inch.  That means you can't dig it up without also spreading it.

    It's also sterile, like many invasives, in that our native animals, insects and birds cannot live in it.  IOW, it's not only not part of the ecosystem, it destroys existing ecosystems wherever it grows.  Replacing it with native plantings, as Napolitano apparently is proposing, is a superb idea.

    But getting rid of it first is a big, big problem.  I note from the article linked that the plan calls for testing several different methods, including having it dug up, presumably with earth-moving equipment that can dig down under its 3-foot root depth. (What is done with all that root-infested soil is a big question, though.  It can't be put back or the plants will grow right back again from the roots and root fragments.)

    The herbicide Imazapyr is a new one on me.  Googling around, I can find little information from independent sources on its effects on wildlife.  It does appear to be both more effective and less toxic to aquatic life than glycophosphate (Round-Up) and in fact one of its recommended uses is on aquatic weeds.  Glycophosphate must not be used within at least 50 feet of bodies of water, especially streams, since it is toxic I think to both fish and amphibians.

    is cutting the plants down and covering the cut stumps with heavy tarps for a long time, like a year. Eventually they'll die out.

    Also it seems that because the stumps/roots create such tough, thick, dense and inpenatrable mats and decompose so slowly if they are allowed to remain (like if they're herbicided or cut and smothered, or whatever) not much of anything else will be able to grow where the roots/stumps remain for quite a while.

    They are also voraciously thirsty in an area that needs every drop of potable water it can get.


    They should just start harvesting it (none / 0) (#18)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 01:46:18 PM EST
    start a joint venture with Mexico and use it for product or fuel. Turn the border into a productive business :)

    I has good potential for (none / 0) (#19)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 01:58:41 PM EST
    biofuel also, something like the highest biomass/acre of any known plant. It's just so not native and so debilitating to the natural environment it invades. Oh, and thirsty.

    Wiki says it's considered naturalized and (none / 0) (#20)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 02:11:33 PM EST
    sound like it has some decent uses, but if they don't want to use it, why don't they just burn it down? Covering the ground long enough that it doesn't grow back shouldn't be that big of a deal. Seems like it would be less work to burn and cover than their other options. Cheaper than poison, that's for sure . . .

    I found a link, but have trouble posting them. (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 04:57:48 PM EST
    "Practically notoxic to fish birds and bees on an acute (short term) basis... does NOT bioacuumulate in animals (Emphasis mine)." This is from the state of Oregon fact sheet. Just google Imazapyr, and sorry for my html ignorance.

    once I saw the tradenames, Arsenal and Chopper, my worries decreased.

    Not as bad to the environment as glyphosphate (you might know it as Roundup).

    I don't have nearly the problem with this herbicide as I would with many others. I'd use this one around the house and garden. I would follow the label and application rates, of course.

    Comparing it to Agent Orange, as the newspaper article does, isn't fair.


    Links (none / 0) (#33)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:02:33 PM EST
    type a word, like "link" (no quotes necessary), then add the link (copy/paste) right after the word (link), add brackets ( [ ] ) around the whole thing and you have created a link.

    I'll try! (none / 0) (#35)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:09:07 PM EST
    Above is the Oregon fact sheet... (none / 0) (#36)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:10:22 PM EST
    kudos to squeaky for being able to explain how to do this in a way even I could understand!

    Great (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:12:11 PM EST
    Glad to be of assistance.

    again. They'll block your IP for that. ;-)

    From your fact sheet jeff (none / 0) (#41)
    by lilburro on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:26:28 PM EST
    However, you should take  reasonable precautions to avoid  exposure. Do not walk through  freshly-sprayed vegetation. Do not  eat berries, mushrooms, or other  edibles, or drink the water from  newly-treated areas.

    and from another (EPA) site:

    The toxicological database for imazapyr is complete. Imazapyr has low acute  toxicity via the oral (Toxicity Category IV) and dermal (Toxicity Category III) routes of  exposure. Imazapyr has been placed in acute Toxicity Category II for the inhalation route  of exposure.  It is not irritating to the skin, and is negative for dermal sensitization;  however, imazapyr results in irreversible eye damage (Toxicity Category I) as seen in  Table 1.  Normally, an acute hazard value is chosen from acute (non-lethal), subchronic,  or developmental toxicity studies from which there is reasonable evidence that a single  exposure can lead to a potential effect.  The available data suggest that a single exposure  to imazapyr does not result in an effect of concern for risk assessment purposes.

    This is a really creepy way to deal with border issues.  


    I've been reading these labels since I learned (none / 0) (#42)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:53:56 PM EST
    to read-- we grew up farming-- growing pecans, blueberries, strawberries, sweet corn, peppers, etc.

    the paragraphs you mention are actually common for all herbicides. Not so much the specific effects, such as the Ld and LC 50's (I know, you didn't quote those) but in the effects. There are plenty of ag chemicals out there that are much more frightening. For example, once this dries, it is not a problem for humans, animals, or bees. When it enters the water, it's nontoxic to fish.

    Also, there are plenty of commonly-used agricultural chemicals that can cause severe eye damage.

    Seriously, don't let the language creep you out. Read the small print on a can of roach spray, or look up the chemicals used. You might be much less worried about this one.

    The folks applying it will be in masks, goggles, and full clothing. No need for chemical suits, just goggles and a mask, and elbow-length rubber gloves when pouring the concentrate into the spray tank.

    They could have chosen Garlon, Gramoxon, glyphosphate, even 2-4,D. those are much more dangerous.



    I'm not worried about border patrol! (none / 0) (#43)
    by lilburro on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:55:40 PM EST
    The folks applying it will be in masks, goggles, and full clothing. No need for chemical suits, just goggles and a mask, and elbow-length rubber gloves when pouring the concentrate into the spray tank.

    I think it's creepy that they're doing this, knowing that people who are not similarly equipped will be walking straight into it.  That's where it seems cruel/inhumane.  At least the concept.


    The re-entry time is upon drying. (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:58:38 PM EST
    Once it's dry, no problem.

    The stuff Chemlawn sprays is worse, frequently. 24-48 hours re-entry. But folks still pay them to spray their yards.


    Ok (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by lilburro on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 06:06:24 PM EST
    I admit, it doesn't sound like the worst thing to be used, by far.  Still hung up on the skeeviness of the concept though.

    It sounds worse than it is. (none / 0) (#46)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 06:11:41 PM EST
    Spraying marujuana with paraquat (aka Gramoxone) was worse and much more dangerous.

    I think my familiarity with ag chemicals, and the process, puts me more at ease.

    Meh, life experiences do affect our view. I am scared witless of toxic assets/debts, CDS's, and even my reading of plenty of judicial decisions.


    I don't have a problem with method 1 or 2 (none / 0) (#47)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 06:17:33 PM EST
    One method calls for the cane to be cut by hand and the stumps painted with the herbicide, Imazapyr.

    Another involves using mechanical equipment to dig the cane out by the roots. It is unclear if herbicides would be necessary in this scenario.

    The third and most controversial removal method calls for helicopters spraying Imazapyr directly on the cane -- repeatedly -- until all plant life in the area is poisoned.

    3, well that's another story. What about wildlife in the area? Do their eyes matter? And do we know how the different species will react to it? What may not "harm" humans could be torture for a fox . . . Are any of the decision makers willing to go hang out around this stuff once it's applied sans protective gear?


    Almost (none / 0) (#21)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 03:37:21 PM EST
    It actually needs to be tarped for several years.  One won't do it.

    I've never had experience with this plant, but I'm an involuntary semi-expert on several terrible invasives with the same habits in the NE.  These rhizomes or roots are designed to store energy/nutrients for a long time and resurrect themselves, maybe because they evolved in areas that burn regularly or are heavily browsed by animals, etc.

    They are beyond pernicious, and in my experience, impossible to control, never mind eradicate, without herbicides.  I've tried it all-- digging in various ways, tarping.  It always comes right back.  Some of these things, don't know if Corrizo cane is one of them, are actually stimulated to spread further and faster underground when they're cut or pulled or their roots cut through.  They're like something out of a science fiction movie.

    On a small scale in a backyard garden, it's possible to minimize the use of herbicide by painstakingly cutting the stems one by one and immediately dripping herbicide with an eyedropper into the cut stem.  That's obviously not possible on the scale we're talking about, though, and I'm dubious that tarping effectively for several years is, either.


    I agree entirely. (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 03:45:20 PM EST
    How you gonna effectively tarp 1 mile of riverbank for several years? Answer: You're not.

    How about pave over it (none / 0) (#25)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 04:02:48 PM EST
    and then do something with it a few years down the road?

    "How about pave over it" (none / 0) (#26)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 04:07:46 PM EST
    You are a NYer through and through! ;-)

    lol!~ (none / 0) (#27)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 04:11:43 PM EST
    I'm a native Californian  ;)

    But seriously, couldn't they pave it canal style? Or turn it into something useful?


    Skate Boarding Ramps (none / 0) (#28)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 04:12:40 PM EST
    Heh, I was thinking Water Park :) (none / 0) (#29)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 04:22:53 PM EST
    A Hybrid (none / 0) (#30)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 04:33:03 PM EST
    We could generate revenue from the teevee show. 24/7 border entertainment. Cartoon version soon to be a feature length movie.

    Gotta be cheaper than a government built fence (none / 0) (#31)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 04:42:40 PM EST
    with triple HS patrols and double border agents, right?

    We could also use part of the border as a wildlife reserve {grin}


    Must be from LA! ;-) (none / 0) (#34)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:08:00 PM EST
    Mouseketeer be me! (none / 0) (#40)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:24:12 PM EST
    But if they are going to spread an herbicide, wouldn't that also be an issue to the environment along the river? At least pavement would be contained. And if they're dropping this crap from the air . . .

    I do worry about the crops, long term effects etc., especially if they end up expanding the program. I guess you could say I'm ye of little faith when it comes to the government solving problems these days {grin}


    Seriously though, (none / 0) (#37)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 05:12:09 PM EST
    concreting rivers/washes is really bad for the environment. And really expensive. And the Rio Grande and it's banks are considered useful by many species, including the bipedal one...

    Hmmm, sounds like (none / 0) (#24)
    by Cream City on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 03:52:09 PM EST
    in my region, the flora of garlic mustard on the land and the fauna of zebra mussels in the water.  And then there are Russian olive trees and Asian carp fish. . . .

    We are trying everything, but invasives not native to an environment can do horrible and unintended things if introduced -- or if they find their way via manmade changes such as the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Once here, they are not easily undone.


    You said it (none / 0) (#48)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 06:25:54 PM EST
    And they're deeply infested everywhere, thousands of them.  Some are worse thugs than others.  Did you know pretty little Forget-Me-Nots are foreign invasives?  Did you realize there are no native North American earthworms, and that those lovely critters that aerate our gardens for us and fertilize them with castings are destroying the ecosystems in northern forests?  It's really quite amazing how many of these things there are out there.

    And don't even get me started on the cursed Norway Maples.


    House Finches, (none / 0) (#49)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 06:32:23 PM EST
    I love them, but gee whiz.

    The cats love them more, though.


    House finches are not invasive (none / 0) (#52)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 08:48:21 PM EST
    they're an indigenous NAmerican species.  Did you mean House Sparrows?  Those ugly stinkers are English, released here with Starlings back in the 1900s by a bunch of morons who thought we ought to have all the bird species mentioned in Shakespeare.

    House sparrows! (none / 0) (#55)
    by jeffinalabama on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 10:10:39 AM EST
    Thanks, those and starlings were the ones I was thinking of.

    Thanks again for the correction.


    Of course it is safe for animals and people (none / 0) (#14)
    by Jen M on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 01:06:57 PM EST
    There aren't any left alive in a dead zone.

    FWIW (none / 0) (#22)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 03:38:01 PM EST
    The stands of Corrizo cane are already a dead zone.  Ain't no animals in there as it is.

    Wow (none / 0) (#50)
    by Lil on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 06:50:39 PM EST
    another example of people ruining the environment at will as if it has no long term consequence. How disappointing of this administration; this is the best solution? Stupid, imo. And I doubt it will solve the problem.

    Sorry, you lost me. (none / 0) (#51)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 07:21:23 PM EST
    How does this ruin the environment?

    Not a snarky or nasty question. I'd like an explanation, please.


    She didn't read past the headline. (none / 0) (#54)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 01:11:35 AM EST
    Certainly not any of the discussion.

    from the label for "Arsenal" (none / 0) (#53)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:32:32 PM EST
    the most common brand of Imazapyr.

    "Only apply this product when the potential for drift to these and other sensitive areas, eg residential areas, BODIES of WATER... is minimal."

    Last I heard, the Rio Grande was a body of water. The greatest environmental negative would appear to be death of acquatic plants. Not sure how long they'd need to repopulate from upstream.