Herbicide use draws concerns

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NAUGATUCK — The Inland Wetlands Commission has raised concerns over the borough’s use of herbicides to maintain overgrown vegetation along roads.

The commission submitted a letter dated April 24 to the Board of Mayor and Burgesses stating its concerns about the impact on the environment the herbicides could have and that their use goes against the Environmental Stewardship Pledge Resolution that was passed by the board last November.

Mary Davis, chair of the Inland Wetlands Commission, addressed the board at its May 5 meeting.

“I’m not sure if you are aware of the toxic chemicals used in this spraying,” Davis said. “This will be a town-wide spread use of poisons, and it’s going to go through the whole town. The poisons will seep into the wetlands and wash into the catch basins.”

Public Works Director James Stewart said, in a telephone interview, the borough has been spraying the herbicides along borough roads where sightlines can be impeded for two years.

The practice was started due to a reduction in the number of public works employees, Mayor Robert Mezzo said. Due to the shortage of manpower, employees are unable to mow along the roads.

“My preference would be to not use it at all,” Mezzo said. “We did use it last year because we have had a significant drop in our public works employee base. We’re down nine employees.”

Public works has contracted with TruGreen, a national lawn maintenance company, to spray the herbicides, Stewart said. The company, which is paid $1,500 per application, sprays twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, he said. Spraying is currently planned for the end of this month, he said.

The company only sprays on areas that the borough has identified as either overgrown or having the potential to become overgrown, Stewart added.

Davis expressed concerns that people aren’t supposed to enter the treated area for a specific time after the herbicides are sprayed.

“How do you do this in a town? How do you keep people away when you are spraying,” Davis said.

Davis also was concerned about the effect the spraying would have on the insects, animals, and aquatic life around the sprayed areas, and the potential for those chemicals to leaching to wetlands.

Stewart said TruGreen uses three types of herbicides when spraying in the borough: Dupont Landmark XP Herbicide, Dupont Escort XP Herbicide, and NuFarm Razor Pro.

All three sprays have different active ingredients in order to take care of different plants.

Landmark’s active ingredient is sulfometuron methyl, Escort’s active ingredient is metsulfuron methyl, and Razor Pro’s active ingredient is glyphosate, according to the products’ labels.

Diane Jorsey, an environmental analyst at the state Department of Energy and Environmental, said all three products are registered for use along roads by the state. If the products posed any significant risk, she said, they wouldn’t be registered with the DEEP or allowed to be used in the state.

In its letter to the board, the Inland Wetlands Commission urged the board to increase public works staffing so the herbicides don’t have to be used.

Davis told the board the money the borough is saving doesn’t offset the impact of the use of the sprays.

“Saving money is no excuse for the use of these poisons,” Davis said.

Mezzo said he is also concerned about the use of the sprays, but that it is something the borough has to do this year.

“Ideally I would not like to have it at all. The problem we get into is we have a lot of safety hazards in terms of sightlines. We just don’t have the people power and equipment to address them as quick as we want,” Mezzo said.