We were dismayed to learn the New York State Department of Transportation considers the use of a glysophate-based herbicide on unwanted plants on the Route 80 right-of-way along the western shore of Otsego Lake to be an “acceptable risk.” We believe it poses an unacceptable risk.
Mayor Jeff Katz has written twice to the state agency to express the village’s concerns about the use of the herbicide in such close proximity to the lake, which is the source of Cooperstown’s drinking water. In the most recent letter, Katz explained how the use of weed killers violated the watershed rules and regulations. He explained that under Public Health Law Section 1100, the village was authorized to create the watershed rules and regulations, which state “no herbicides, pesticides, or toxic chemicals shall be discharged, applied, or allowed to enter any reservoir or watercourse.”
“This is clear authority to prohibit the use of herbicides close to the lake, as along the DOT right-of-way on State Highway 80,” Katz’s letter stated.
But that did little to convince DOT Regional Director Jack Williams.
“We recognize the concerns expressed by the Otsego Lake Watershed Supervisory Committee in your letter. The department maintains that the use of herbicides, in general, and Accord XRT II in particular along this corridor, is an acceptable risk based on the application method and best practices,” Williams responded.
We can understand the DOT’s point of view. No doubt it is cheaper and faster to spray the plants than it would be to send out a crew to mow them down.
Williams also said there is noxious wild parsnip growing in the area that poses a threat to DOT workers, but certainly there is protective clothing that could be employed. There are tractors with mowers mounted on hydraulic arms that can reach out and over guardrails to mow weeds and brush.
Following a meeting last week with village attorney Martin Tillapaugh, local officials decided to continue to pursue a ban on the DOT’s spraying.
We support that decision because the health of the lake is far too important. No matter what the cost savings the DOT realizes from using chemical weed control, it is not worth risking the lake and its ecosystem or the village’s drinking water source.