Highway Department Halts Herbicide Use, Conrail Sprays March/April 1999

For the Green News, March/April 1999

Highway Department Halts Herbicide Use, Conrail Sprays

Boston Globe3/13/9 "In response to concerns raised by citizens and environmental groups, Matthew Amorello, the new commissioner of the Massachsuetts Highway Deparatment, has announced that the depatnment will not be sprayuing herbicides in 1999.  Instead, Amorello said the department will weed-wack and now some roadside areas."

The Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM), several watershed associations, and the Hilltown Anti-Herbicide Coalition in Ashfield, were successful in convincing the Highway Department to stop using herbicides, there is more work to be done. Conrail has filed its yearly plan to spray trackside vegetation with herbicides during the periods June 7 - 18 and August 9 - 20.  The chemical products used include Roundup-Pro, Arsenal, Karmex, Oust, Chopper RTU. This includes sections of track in designated "sensitive areas" due to their proximity to wetlands or water sources.

GreenCAP is concerned about the problem of herbicide drift and runoff into water supplies, wells, and wetlands. None of these products have been evaluated for the cumulative or synergistic effects when used together. According to ELM, Oust is one of a new generation of herbicides called sulfonylureas that are 100 times more toxic to weeds than their predecessors. These chemicals have been shown to cause serious crop plant damage when they drift away from target areas.   Glyphosate has been measured in runoff four months afters its application.  Glyphosate (Roundup) increases non-target plants' susceptibility to disease and reduces the growth of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. It has reduced populations of beneficial insects, birds, and small mammals by destorying vegetation on which they depend for food and shelter. (Journal of Pesticide Reform, Fall, 1998: Research review showing the hazards of glyphosate products. 15 pages, 183 citations.)

The highway department has clearly seen the light and we would like to encourage Conrail to do the same. For more information, call GreenCAP, 617/965-1995 or Ellie Goldberg, Co chair, 617/965-9637.