Progressive Forestry Service will be doing right-of-way spraying during a six-week stint in Sharp, Izard, Fulton and Baxter counties in an effort to control brush growth around 600 miles of powerlines.
The distribution lines affected in Fulton County include Elizabeth, Mitchell, Bexar, Byron, Union, Wheeling, Fairview, Glencoe, Heart, Saddle, Agnos, Kittle and Cherokee Village, said James Kerley, North Arkansas Electric Cooperative operations manager
In Sharp and Izard counties the communities of Peace Valley and Ballard will be affected.
Kerley said uniformed contract crews will be working out of trucks with the Progressive Forestry Service logo on the side. Many of the contract workers will be walking across country with backpack sprayers since all areas are not accessible to vehicles.
Efforts will be made by a representative to contact customers about crew locations and dates.
Regular maintenance of this sort on NAEC lines is recommended to provide customers with reliable service, Kerley continued.
Spraying of the brush began in the 1980s but NAEC has only been taking part since 1996, said Tollie Green of UAP Timberland. Crews wait until the brush starts growing then spray it with chemicals to keep from bush hogging. Kerley explained crews cannot keep the growth under control by just bush hogging. "We are trying to control it and keep the cost down." Kerley said.
Green said three chemicals are used -- Accord, which contains the same active ingredients as the herbicide Roundup; Arsenal, manufactured by BASF Corporation; and Escort, manufactured by DuPont. All three products are non-restricted products meaning consumers can purchase the chemicals without a licenses.
Chemicals will not be sprayed around dairy farms because of stringent restrictions applied to dairy by health departments. Green said there are no restrictions by the EPA to use the chemicals around dairy farms.
Kerley said a problem occurred in the past after chemicals were sprayed at a dairy farm. He said the cattle's milk had been tested and a non-toxic chemical was detected, but the buyer refused to purchase the milk. Kerley said NAEC wants to avoid any problems such as that from occurring.
Green said rumors circulated in the past that Agent Orange was used to spray on the growth. He said Agent Orange was popular in the 60s and 70s but was taken off the market sometime in the 80s.
Kerley said a Hispanic work force is used because most locals do not want to do this kind of work. He said it is a hard job and workers are exposed to ticks, chiggers and high temperatures.
Green said workers are required to wear long-sleeve shirts, boots with socks, pants and gloves to minimize contact with the chemicals.
Kerley said customers do not need to take any precautions, but if they do not want a certain plant sprayed it needs to be marked.
He said NAEC will explain any questions that customers may have about the program.
Workers hope for good weather because if it starts raining they will have to shut down the operation. The chemical has to stay on the brush for about an hour so it can be absorbed in the plant's stem.