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May 8, 2014

DOT to replace toxic spray on Route 80

After pressure by public officials to stop spraying a toxic herbicide along state Route 80 alongside Otsego Lake, the state Department of Transportation has tentatively agreed to instead use an organic substance, officials told The Daily Star on Monday.

“I’m happy to confirm we are moving forward with an alternative,” said Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz.

The mayor is one of a chorus of voices asking the state agency to indefinitely suspend the spraying of a product called Accord XRT II, a weed killer that contains the controversial active ingredient glyphosate.

The Otsego Lake Watershed Advisory Committee has also called on DOT to abandon the use of toxic herbicides in proximity to the lake, noting it serves as the source of drinking water for residents of Cooperstown and lakeside homeowners in the towns of Middlefield, Springfield and Otsego.

Officials said the state’s plan is still being finalized. Citing that fact, a DOT spokesman declined to comment on the new approach to weed control along the state highway running along the west shore of the lake.

Along the east side of the lake, county highway workers rely on mowing to keep down weeds and brush on the side of county Highway 28, another fact that the herbicide critics have been making in their discussions with state officials.

Katz said he has not been advised of the specific product that DOT expects to be using this summer.

“I think what we are going to agree to is going to make everyone happy,” he said.

The move comes on the hands of the village’s successful push last year to eliminate the use of toxic herbicides and pesticides on village-owned Doubleday Field.

For that trail-blazing project, village officials and the head groundskeeper for Doubleday Field, Quentin Hasak, were given guidance by Jennifer Grant, co-director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University.

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