Complaints about weeds lead to complaints about methods of eradication

The Enterprise — Sean Mulkerrin
Signs, signs, everywhere a sign: On Tuesday, small yellow signs appeared along parts of Main Street and Maple Avenue in Altamont and in Orsini Park, warning passersby that the area had recently been sprayed with chemicals. 

ALTAMONT — After multiple attempts with an all-natural mixture of vinegar and epsom salt to kill weeds that had sprouted between the cobblestones that separate the sidewalks from the roadway along parts of Main Street and Maple Avenue, the village of Altamont on Tuesday had those areas sprayed with the herbicide Ranger Pro. 

Herbicides like Ranger Pro, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, are “chemicals used to manipulate or control undesirable vegetation.” They are a type of pesticide

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the village was not required to notify residents that the spraying would take place. 

Jeffrey Moller, the village’s Superintendent of Public Works, told The Enterprise that Ranger Pro is approved for use by New York State. Moller said that, as part of shared services between the village of Altamont and the town of Guilderland, a licensed employee from the town did the spraying on Tuesday. 

Years ago, the village did the spraying in-house, Moller said; however, regulations have become more restrictive, and the one village worker who had been certified to spray let his license lapse.

The weeds along those parts of Main Street and Maple Avenue have been an ongoing problem, Moller said. The village board, he said, has been receiving complaints about weeds for some time, especially about cleaning up the area around the village’s business district. 

Between this year and last year, he said, the village has sprayed the weeds three times with a vinegar-and-epsom-salt mix. “Some places have had good luck with it,” Moller said of the all-natural mixture. 

The first application last year seemed to work pretty well, he said, but then it appeared that the weeds had become resistant to the spray. Moller’s next move was sending out workers armed with weed wackers “to scalp” the plants. Unfortunately, one worker “caught a rock,” Moller said, sending it sailing through a car window; the replacement cost the village $400.  

Finally, as a last resort, the village reached out to the town to come and spray the weeds. Moller said that he didn’t know the cost of spraying; it was a shared service. “Quite often, money doesn’t change hands — it’s just trading things, which works out great [for the village],” he said.

Moller is hoping that the application of Ranger Pro will be a one-time thing; at least, he was told that should be the case. Going forward, he said, it’s likely that the village will just have to spray vinegar-and-epsom-salt mix more frequently to combat the weeds. 

The active ingredient

Ranger Pro is 41 percent glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide in the United States. It is found in over 750 products. High exposure to the chemical has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. However, the federal Environmental Protection Agency says that “glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

Monsanto, the agrochemical giant, was ordered by a federal jury in March to pay $80 million to a man because, the jury said, the company’s weedkiller Roundup — specifically, exposure to glyphosate — had been a “substantial factor” in causing the man’s cancer. 

Last week, a judge in California awarded a couple $86.7 million for a similar reason (the jury had awarded the couple $2 billion). And, in August 2018, Monsanto was found liable for causing a California groundskeeper’s cancer and was ordered to pay the man $289 million in damages.

Monsanto is also the maker of Ranger Pro. 

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