Roadside weed control spraying questioned; DEP uses chemicals near reservoirs it protects

By Brian Sweeney
Days after a citizen complained to the Middletown Board about potential contamination from municipal pesticide use, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection applied pesticides adjacent to the Pepacton Reservoir.
Fleischmanns resident Gloria Zola-Molloy attended the Middletown Board’s August 11 meeting and expressed concern about the chemicals being used to kill weeds near guardrails on local roadways.
Ms. Molloy was told that the town does not utilize any chemicals for weed control. Supervisor Len Utter said that chemical weed killers are used by county and state highway personnel on the roads they maintain.
Fearing potentially harmful effects from such chemicals for humans and animals, Ms. Molloy asked if the town could request that this type of spraying not be carried out within the municipality.
The supervisor recommended that Ms. Molloy obtain a list of the chemicals being applied (and their effects) and then determine a course of action.
Supervisor Utter added that the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also applies chemicals along its roads around local reservoirs.
Ironically, within days of the meeting, the DEP had posted a number of Notices of Pesticide Application on guardrails along the Pepacton Reservoir.
The notices indicate, “The pesticides are being applied to control swallow-wort.”
The pesticides to be used adjacent to the reservoir were Roundup “with the active ingredient isopropylamine salt glyphosate” and Garlon 4 with the active ingredient “butoxyethyl salt of triclopyr.”
Research by the News found the following information from the Journal of Pesticide Reform regarding Garlon 4: “In laboratory tests, triclopyr caused an increase in the incidence of breast cancer as well as an increase in a type of genetic damage called dominant lethal mutations.”

Possible effects
The study indicated that, “Triclopyr also is damaging to kidneys and has caused a variety of reproductive problems. The ester form of triclopyr (Garlon 4) is highly toxic to fish and inhibits behaviors in frogs that help them avoid predators. Feeding triclopyr to birds decreases the survival of their nestlings.”
The article also stated, “Triclopyr is mobile in soil and has contaminated wells, streams, and rivers. Contaminated water has been found near areas where triclopyr is used in agriculture, in forestry, on urban landscapes and on golf courses.”
An article at stated that “The swallow-wort weed can be controlled manually by mowing or hand pulling pods as they are forming, which minimizes seed production.”
The Pepacton Reservoir and other upstate reservoirs that supply more than 90 percent of the drinking water for New York City have come under considerable scrutiny in recent years. The DEP has successfully avoided filtration of the city’s water by utilizing an extensive land acquisition program and restrictive upstate land use regulations to ensure water quality. Those guidelines were first outlined in the 1996 Memorandum of Agreement between New York City and upstate watershed communities.
The News made several attempts to reach the DEP for comment on its use of pesticides adjacent to its reservoirs, but calls were not returned by press time.