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June 13, 2013

DOT ends lakeside chemical spraying

By Joe Mahoney The Daily Star
Cooperstown Crier

---- — State officials have agreed to stop spraying chemical herbicides along a stretch of state Route 80 that runs along the west bank of Otsego Lake, the source of drinking water for some 2,000 people, Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz said Monday.

The move comes a year after the Otsego Lake Watershed Advisory Committee and Katz asked the state Department of Transportation to mow the vegetation along the side of Route 80 instead of spraying chemicals at it.

The local officials said then they were concerned that the two products DOT was using, Roundup made by Monsanto, and OUST-XP made by Dupont, could end up leaching into the nearby lake.

The DOT then switched to a different herbicide product, Accord XRT II, which was billed as effective in eradicating poison ivy and knotweed. But Accord XRT II contains glyphosate, the same active ingredient in Roundup.

A DOT official said at the time that Accord XRT II was safe to use near water supplies, and had been approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The same product is being used to control vegetation near the New York City watershed reservoirs, according to DOT.

However, upon further reflection, DOT officials agreed to re-evaluate the applications and won’t be doing them this summer, Katz said. In the meantime, he added, the agency is studying the use of alternative ways to control the vegetation.

“They are just not doing it, which is great,” Katz said. “My hope is this is a transition to a lessened reliance on herbicides and pesticides. Every move towards the goal of having minimal or zero use of herbicides should be applauded.”

Contacted late Monday afternoon, a state DOT spokesman, David Hamburg, said he would need more time to formulate answers to questions posed by The Daily Star regarding the roadside vegetation along state Route 80.

Katz, in a letter to a top DOT official last year, said that under Public Health Law Section 1100, the village was authorized to create watershed rules and regulations, which state “no herbicides, pesticides, or toxic chemicals shall be discharged, applied, or allowed to enter any reservoir or watercourse.”

Katz also suggested then that the village was empowered to ban the spraying from the south end of the lake to county Route 53 at the lake’s north end.

In response, DOT Regional Director Jack Williams stated: “The department maintains that the use of herbicides, in general, and Accord XRT II in particular along this corridor, is an acceptable risk, based on the application method and best practices.”

The mayor said Monday he was pleased that DOT remained “open and agreeable” to considering options other than using chemical herbicides. He said significant research was done by Win McIntyre, the coordinator for the watershed advisory committee.

Along Otsego County Route 28, which runs along the east side of the lake, the vegetation is controlled by county workers using mowing equipment.

The use of herbicides to control weed growth at Doubleday Field, a village-owned property, has also triggered debate.

Trustee James Dean, the chairman of the village’s environmental committee, said the panel hopes to gradually make Doubleday herbicide-free and has authorized a study examining alternatives to chemical treatments of the grass there.