Guest Editorial

By Robert Brakenridge – Lyons Resident 
Here is a listing of the chemicals that Town of Lyon’s Toxic Weeds Management Policy states are used in its public spaces: “Quinstar 4L, Glyphosate 4 Plus, Panoramic 2SL, Esplanade 200SC, Curtail, Milestone, Redeem, Tordon, Transline, and Telar”.

Unlike some other towns and cities nearby, Lyons policy at present allows the use of these poisons in public areas, including near our rivers and soon near our ponds. It does so by stating in its Weed Management Policy that these chemicals may be used and are being used.

This is outdated and unsafe public policy, in my opinion. In recent years, other towns and cities across the country and also nearby have implemented much more restrictive policy. These weed poisons are not without risk to people, including children; also to pets, to our water supply, and to our local ecosystems. How “safe” these

toxins are is changing as new studies are performed: 30-50 new journal research articles this year alone, for each of the chemicals listed. Science marches on, town policy stays the same. We, the public, are the guinea pigs.

If you are a resident of the Town, you are paying for the application of these chemicals. It is not something that is being done to you. You are approving of their use, when you know the situation and do not make your voice heard. Why not reach out to those elected to supervise these matters? There is no legal requirement whatsoever that these chemicals must be used by Town of Lyons to control its weeds. And there are no implications for private use, on private property, in changing town policy regarding public spaces. Our Toxic Weed Management Plan needs to be changed so that, like some other nearby municipalities, it discourages rather than encourages use of poison by the town itself. These chemicals ought to be the very last resort, not the go-to choice for any problem faced by a municipality.

What are the specific hazards? Are they relatively small, and easily avoided? There are 10 chemicals listed. I describe here the issues with just the first (by no means the most hazardous of the list).

Quinstar 4L (synthetic auxin-type herbicide). Active ingredient: 75% Quinclorac.

Seventeen years ago the Drive®75 DF Herbicide, containing 75.0% Quinclorac, was denied for use anywhere in New York State (2001). “When used as labeled, Drive®75 DF Herbicide has the potential to adversely impact ground and surface water resources in New York State.” Later, New York relaxed restrictions, but just a little.

Thus, 2018: “Quinclorac: Homeowner Use. Label must state: For spot treatment only in New York State. Ready-to-Use formulation. Container sizes less than or equal to 1.33 gallons. Commercial Use. Dilutable formulations are Restricted Use in NYS. Label must state/have: “For spot treatment only in New York State. Use Directions for spot treatment applications.”

For Quinstar 4L, same active ingredient, there are no such (spot treatment only) restrictions in Colorado! Spraying is allowed. Yet this herbicide is persistent, does not degrade quickly in the environment, leaches into ground water and then into surface waters. It is used for weeds such as crabgrass and bindweed.Should the Lyons public have any concerns about its use?

Quinclorac Is a great weed killer: it is highly selective; it imitates plant hormones called auxins. The chemical is not known to be carcinogenic. So far. It is now being used widely, around the world, for rice agriculture, for growing cranberries, etc. Our local, mainly cosmetic weed issues are just a minor side market. But there are two clear and well-known problems with this relatively new synthetic poison: its persistence in the environment and its mobility, once sprayed onto the soil. It enters ground and surface water after rainfall.

If, instead of rain there is hot weather, the chemical volatilizes (evaporates) and can drift, even with only light wind, onto neighboring properties (should not be applied in hot weather). Drift can also happen when there is a temperature inversion. This herbicide is lethal to most garden plants. And to some tree seedlings (e.g., Cottonwood).

It should not be used anywhere near areas with such plants.

If sprayed onto park turf or buyout property, mowing can also bring the poison to unintended destinations. Thus, if you pick up mulch from the Town public works depot, and it comes from mowing of grass treated with Quinclorac, you have mulch that may make your garden into a desert (and you may never understand why). Happens fairly often: sometimes bagged commercial compost has been found to include substantial quantities of herbicide such as this one. Also, even though it is a plant auxin, it does affect animals: negative effects on American Bullfrog organs, for example, were published last year. The long and short of it is that Quinclorac is a poison, not harmless, does not rapidly degrade, is not to be treated with anything less than much respect and caution.

The label advises that clippings from the first three mowings should be left on the treated area. Because they carry this toxin, and should not be composted yet. Can we reasonably expect our small town staff to all know these details? Have you ever seen a Lyons mowing team leave the clippings on mowed areas of our parks? Where are the clippings now being placed? Does the contractor who uses the herbicide pass on to the town mowing staff this information?

The product labeling bears the following text under the "Environmental Hazards" heading: "The use of this chemical where soils are permeable, particularly where the water table is shallow, may result in groundwater contamination." That information is right there in the product label, but can we realistically expect over coming years that Town of Lyons and its contractors will, without fail, avoid spraying this chemical on our park lands, next to our rivers, or by the ponds? And where are the containers carrying the herbicide being cleaned and rinsed?

Finally, does it make sense for town staff to continually state that “there are no resources, they have no time, they are understaffed” etc. as a justification for continuing to use this and other, even more hazardous, chemicals, year after year? It seems, instead, that this same staffing and expertise constraint is actually a good reason not to use the stuff at all. And to not allow contractors (who come, spray, and then leave) to use it either.

Unless: staff can be hired to carefully monitor the treatments and afterwards: so that the known hazards can be avoided or at least mitigated.

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