Petersburg challenges state application of herbicides
The Petersburg Borough is seeking legal advice as it considers drafting an ordinance requiring agencies, including the state of Alaska, using broad based spraying methods to deliver herbicides and pesticides to require the approval of the borough assembly.
The state adopted regulations this past spring that would allow agencies to apply herbicides and pesticides on state property without obtaining a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation and without public review.
Petersburg, Skagway and Haines have all written letters to the Alaska Department of Transportation protesting the regulations and of concerns over each municipalities right to have a say in whether or not the chemicals and broad based spray methods can be used.
In the most recent correspondence, Mayor Mark Jensen cited a study published in the scientific journal Entropy and its findings concerning the negative health effects after long-term exposure to glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup.
Michael Coffey, Statewide Maintenance and Operations Chief for ADOT, responded to Jensen in a letter stating, “…most of the issues you expressed in your letter (contamination of aquatic habitats, impact on local fisheries, contamination of drinking water…) were addressed in detail by DEC during the regulation process.”
He directed additional questions to Karin Hendrickson, DEC’s Pesticide Control Program Coordinator.
“Of course there are studies out there that says glyphosate is dangerous but the vast majority of data proves otherwise,” Hendrickson said during an interview.
She said glyphosate has been extensively tested across species and is one of the most benign herbicides available.
But Brian Lynch with the Petersburg Vessel Owner’s Association shares the borough’s toxicity concerns and spoke during last week’s assembly meeting encouraging it to draft an ordinance requiring borough approval of broad based application.
“We would like the borough to pursue something like that so there’s more input from the community and from the fishing industry on the use of these chemicals for pests and plant control,” Lynch said.
Assembly member Cindi Lagoudakis said there are concerns that an ordinance might not legally constrain the state from spraying on their right-of-way.
“I don’t think anybody wants to try and sue the state but that’s almost what it’s stacking up to be,” Lagoudakis said. “The responses that we’ve gotten are pretty unresponsive.”
In the meantime, an ordinance is being considered and the borough, in hopes of better understanding the issue, is requesting an official from the U.S. Forest Service to discuss its public review process for herbicide application.
The state owns and could spray herbicides to manage weed control along Haugen Drive and Mitkof Highway.