Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By Keith Edwards email@example.com
AUGUSTA -- A dispute has taken root about how to get rid of weeds in city parks, athletic fields, cemeteries, walking trails, streets and sidewalks.
In September last year, a small group of residents told city officials they worried that the herbicide the city uses to help kill weeds could be harmful to people and pets. They asked the city to look into potential health effects.
Residents said they had seen research indicating herbicides can cause genetic and reproductive problems in humans.
In response, the city agreed to suspend the use of herbicides -- including glyphosate-based products such as Roundup -- and ask a state toxicologist to look into the safety of the products the city uses.
Thursday, at an informational meeting, councilors will discuss the city's "vegetative management plan and herbicide spraying," in light of a request from city department heads that the ban be lifted.
In a memorandum to councilors, Jim Goulet, director of parks, cemeteries and trees, and John Charest, public works director, said not being able to use herbicides as part of the city's overall plant management plan makes parts of the city appear unsightly. They warn that, if left unchecked, the weeds could have a destructive effect on the city's infrastructure.
They also said several city parks employees recently suffered from acute exposure to poison ivy while using mowers and other mechanic methods to remove weeds.
"To date, there is no environmental, economically feasible and safe (right of way) vegetation management plan which eliminates the use of herbicide altogether," Goulet and Charest said in the memo. "Many of the species growing in the (right of way) thrive under adverse conditions; many are invasive and persistent and cannot be adequately controlled without chemical treatment. Poison ivy in particular is not only invasive and persistent, but poses a potential health hazard to mechanical equipment operators, as well as the general public."
The city received a partial response to its inquiry about the safety of herbicides from Lebelle Hicks, a toxicologist with the state Board of Pesticides Control, in a July 15 letter.
She said she plans to have her findings reviewed by her peers on a committee which will recommend, to the Board of Pesticides Control, whether to take regulatory action regarding glyphosate-based herbicides.
However, she said that, in her review of existing studies and literature on herbicides, she has "not found sufficient negative effects to warrant regulatory action on the part of the board."
Councilors will discuss herbicide spraying at their meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.
Councilors also are scheduled to discuss waste relocation at Hatch Hill landfill and an expression of interest from a man interested in purchasing the Northern Avenue fire station.
Keith Edwards -- 621-5647