Herbicide Spray Causing Concern For Some Reno Residents

Jun 7, 2016

Some residents near Keystone Avenue are mad about a recent incident in which the City of Reno was spraying nearby weeds. They say the city got too close to their properties, causing health concerns. Our contributor from ThisisReno.com, Bob Conrad, has the story.

Credit Cory Frey / Courtesy of ThisisReno.com

Cory Frey says that she was hit in the face with weed killer that city employees were spraying near her backyard.

"I was sprayed with a fine mist in the face and on my body," she says. "The symptoms I experienced after the spraying were, my eyes were stinging; subsequently, I didn't develop natural tears for about two days in my eyes, a headache came on within about five minutes of exposure, and then (I had) some coughing and respiratory irritation."

The experience has made her question how others may be impacted as well.

"The more I thought about it, the more angry I became because I thought, 'Well, how can they be spraying this  back there, because kids are walking to school, people are walking their dogs. This is right behind my house."

The City's Director of Public Works John Flansberg says employees were spraying in the area to reduce vegetation and noxious weeds and to ensure storm water can efficiently drain through its system. Increased moisture this spring has led to more dry weeds, such as cheatgrass, which can impact storm-water grates and drains.

“The place in question is referred to as a high-hazard dam," he explains, "and the only reason it's high hazard is because of the amount of water that can fill in there during a storm water event.”

Charles Moses, an environmental scientist with the Nevada Department of Agriculture, says that the state could end up investigating the city if the citizen files a formal complaint with his department.

"The products that they're using are legal products, but we felt like there is still some things that they could try to do to avoid these kinds of issues in the future," Moses says. "This mist blower that they're using is probably not something that they should be using close to residential areas."

Fansberg with the City says the incident has spurred his department to review its practices at the nearly 1,400 locations around the city that it manages.

"It's not ever our intention to have spray go onto private properties," Flansberg says. "The use of herbicides currently is the most effective method for large-scale weed management, and I think it's important for the public to know, we're using chemicals that you purchase off the shelf at Home Depot or Lowe's. They're non-restricted-use chemicals. We're making sure that nothing that we're using is overly strong."

A group of residents, including Cory Frey, say they would like to see advance notice of weed treatments in the future. They plan to make their concerns known at Wednesday's city council meeting.