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Town committee rejects permethrin discussion

REPORTER FILE PHOTO A deer brushing against a permetrin soaked post as it feeds at a 4-poster unit.
A deer brushing against a permetrin soaked post as it feeds at a 4-poster unit.

Are there dangers to long-term use of the tickicide permethrin? The town’s Deer & Tick Committee doesn’t want to discuss the possibility.

The committee couldn’t muster a single vote from members at the August 2 meeting to discuss two resolutions suggested by their colleague, Marc Wein.

His resolutions could have opened the possibility of tests related to the safety of eating deer meet from animals that were exposed to the tickicide over a lengthy period of time, as well as the effects of permethrin on groundwater.

“I am making a motion that we immediately try and discover exactly what we are doing to our delicate Island,” Mr. Wein said. “The town’s policies may be causing irreparable damage to ourselves, our families and our friends.”

“I am not suggesting ending 4-posters or discontinuing spray,” Mr. Wein said. “I am asking for answers to questions we need answered.”

Mr. Wein suggested two possible resolutions, the first to direct Animal Control Officer Beau Payne locate two to four deer that were originally tagged by Cornell when the employment of 4-poster units — feeding stands that brush deer with permethrin — was started on the Island in 2008. Mr. Payne could then test the animals for traces of permethrin residue.

Mr. Wein’s second suggested resolution would be to ask the town to test water in six locations, three close to 4-posters and three in areas where regular lawn spraying of permethrin occurs.

When his proposed resolutions needed a second to open a discussion, none of the members present at the meeting — Chairman Mike Scheibel, Dr. Scott Campbell, Hank Amann and Chuck Tiernan — were willing to second the motion.

Members Craig Wood and Dr. James Bevilacqua were absent.

Mr. Wein prefaced his call for the resolutions with a statement that permethrin is a banned carcinogen in Europe and said the Island “probably” deploys more of the tickicide in 10 square miles than anyplace in the United States.

When Police Chief Jim Read challenged that statement, Mr. Wein responded that he had used the word “probably.”

Some Island hunters have said at public forums they won’t eat the meat because they fear it’s tainted with permethrin.

No case of illness has been reported here related to permethrin, but Mr. Scheibel said those who think it’s dangerous aren’t going to be convinced.

Others regularly eat the meat without incident, he said.

Studies in other communities have shown that permethrin doesn’t leech into the water supply, but Mr. Wein questions whether the sandy soil here might be too loose to filter out reaches the aquifer.

The committee has previously discussed testing of possible long-range effects of permethrin, but took no action to either ask for a town study or request that Cornell, the county or sate conduct such a study, Mr. Scheibel said.

With respect to water quality, he said it’s “definitely something we should keep an eye on,” but there has been no indication from other studies that permethrin would move through the soil to the aquifer.

If Mr. Wein wants to have the water tested, he can do so as an individual, Mr. Scheibel said.