Vineyard activities should be regulated
By Jack Holz, Delaplane

©Times Community Newspapers 2006

In response to W.U. Couzens article regarding wine growers (“Wine growers focused on productivity, the Democrat, Feb. 8, 2006), I find it interesting that when comparing public health risks of different products or industries, which are spotlighted and which are ignored.

Virginia has been very aggressive with regard to second-hand cigarette smoke in public areas and asbestos contamination in public and private buildings, particularly in areas where children, the elderly or infirm might risk exposure.

On the other hand, the recent proliferation of vineyards in Virginia is completely unregulated, and has actually been encouraged by the state to promote agriculture vs. development.

Vineyards require intense spraying of many hazardous chemicals to combat pests, fungus and aggressive weeds and grasses.

Grape vines can require up to 40 spraying cycles per growing season, depending on rainfall and climate. The results of the spraying are chemical residuals in the air (drift) and on the ground that can enter the groundwater supply.

Due to non-regulation, vineyard owners are not required to disclose the type of chemicals used, amounts sprayed or the number of times chemicals are sprayed. They are not required to test air, soil or groundwater for potential contamination.

Vineyards can be planted next to schools, hospitals, day care centers and nursing homeswhere the school children, elderly or infirm can be exposed to unregulated toxic spraying. Landowners adjacent to vineyards have no recourse against vineyards, should the chemical drift cross property lines or invade their groundwater supply.

The common response to complaints against vineyard spraying is, “If you don’t like it, move.”

But just as most people prefer not to live next to industrial plants, more and more homeowners choose not to want to purchase property next to vineyards with unregulated chemical spraying, which decreases land values.

Virginia needs to take a serious look at the grape-growing industry, and enact legislation to regulate the chemicals used, amounts sprayed and number of spraying cycles. Adjacent landowners should be protected from chemical drift and groundwater contamination.

Vineyard owners should be required to pay for continuous air, soil and groundwater testing and regularly submit results to the state. Vineyards should be prohibited in the vicinity of schools, day care, hospitals and nursing homes.

I am not against grape growing or wine making, but this industry has gone unregulated too long, and needs to be brought under same spotlight as second hand smoke and asbestos.

©Times Community Newspapers 2006