A new type of weedkiller, one that does not contain the controversial substance glyphosate, will be used this summer along the roadside running along the west side of Otsego Lake, a source of public drinking water, state and local officials confirmed.
State Department of Transportation spokesman David Hamburg said his agency will test a product called Finale on an 8-mile stretch of state Route 80. The agency is in the process of working out a formal agreement with the village of Cooperstown, he noted.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in a popular herbicide called Roundup, produced by the Monsanto chemical company. It is also in a similar product called Accord XRT II, the spray used by DOT workers in 2013, despite objections from some local officials.
In March, controversy over the easy availability of glyphosate flared anew when the World Health Organization issued a report that described it as a possible carcinogen. That report prompted the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Food Safety to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to “weigh heavily” the WHO findings as it prepares its risk assessment of glyphosate.
Last year, DOT switched to a glyphosate-free weedkiller called Scythe for the Route 80 applications. However, Hamburg said, an inquiry by the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Ithaca determined that Scythe was ineffective on poison ivy, perennial woody plants and vines.
“The Finale is expected to provide the results we need,” Hamburg said.
Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz said he anticipates no problems in reaching a memorandum of understanding with the state agency on the new product, noting DOT has been responsive to the concerns raised by the village.
Cooperstown, Middlefield, Springfield and the town of Otsego get their drinking water from the lake.
Environmental activist Michael Whaling of Sharon Springs has argued the state should avoid using any herbicides in the vicinity of the lake, pointing out that growth along the road on the east side of the lake, county Route 31, is mowed by county workers.
Katz said state officials voiced concerns about the safety of their workers on Route 80, pointing out the banks running down to the lake are very steep in many places.
Win McIntyre, a consultant to the Otsego Lake Watershed Supervisory Committee, said the committee is in accord with the state’s latest plan for addressing weed growth. He called Finale “a much safer herbicide than glyphosate.”
He also said Finale would not be harmful to aquatic species when “used in the right quantities.”