To The Editor:

The Grand County Noxious Weed Spraying Program: (1) Is it safe, and, is it being done responsibly? (2) Is it effective? (3) Is it needed?

Many of our neighbors, and we, are very upset with the accidental herbicide spill onto County Roads 509 and 507, in Ice Box Estates subdivision, that happened on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017.

However, we all greatly appreciate Grand County Commissioner Richard Cimino’s quick response to the 5 other upset locals who contacted him that same day about the herbicide spill.
And, we also thank Chris Baer and Grand County Road and Bridge Department for their quick actions of bringing in heavy equipment to scrape off the top layer of the contaminated dirt county roads, and carrying away the herbicide-laden dirt. We wonder what happened to that herbicide-contaminated dirt…

Also, we want to thank this newest local newspaper, the Winter Park Times, for printing an excellent article on Aug. 11, called “Weedgate 2017”, all about this herbicide spill.

(1) Is Grand County’s noxious weed spraying program safe and being done responsibly?

The Winter Park Times’ “Weedgate  2017” article says, on page 2, that “[Road & Bridge] Employee Chris Baer assured the caller that the chemical utilized was nontoxic…”

And, on page 4 of same article, it says that [Amy] Sidener also stated that “all products used are approved for use as a weed killer, and, they are not harmful to native plants, wildlife or humans.”

But, after reading the manufacturers’ lengthy labels for the 2 herbicides (Milestone & Chlorsulfuron 75),“spilled” near us, and used along all our County roads, and coming soon to a neighborhood near you, these 2 herbicides seem to us, to be quite toxic (poisonous) to both plants, animals, and humans: Here are links to the 2 herbicides’ labels:

For examples: On page 1 of the Chlorsulfuron 75 label, it says, “Harmful if swallowed.” “If swallowed: Call a poison control center or doctor immediately for treatment advice.”

It also says on page 1, of that label, that in “Directions for Use”: “Do not apply this product in a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift.”

And, both herbicide labels say, “Do not enter or allow entry into treated areas until sprays have dried.”  An employee at Dow AgroSciences, (owners of Milestone herbicide) said by phone that it may take somewhere between 2 and 12 hours for Milestone herbicide spray to dry!

But, in our area, people who spray (sprayers) have done nothing to warn people or animals to stay out of the area until sprays have dried. The areas to be sprayed need to be clearly marked in advance, with signs stating the day, date and time of spraying. Put photos of plants to be sprayed on the warning signs.

On page 4 of the Milestone label, it says, “Grazing Poisonous Plants: Herbicide application may increase palatability of certain poisonous plants. [making the poisonous plants a lot tastier to animals]  Do not graze treated areas until poisonous plants are dry and no longer palatable [tasty] to livestock.”

We worry about how small children, pets, and wildlife can be poisoned by still wet sprays, on both poisonous and non-poisonous plants, because of no immediate warnings in advance of spraying activities.

After we found out about the herbicide spill on Thursday, August 3, in Ice Box Estates, we contacted the sprayer by phone, to find out her take on what had occurred. She told us that “it was not a spill.”  She said she was not required to report her forgetting to turn off the herbicide boom sprayer, and she said there was no herbicide involved, because the green color on the roads was merely a dye.

She also said that she was not required to get a clean-up done, because she was allowed to put as much herbicide on any county road as she wanted to. She said she didn’t know when she had started to leak the green colored material onto the road, which resulted in puddles, wherever she stopped driving, with green streaks all along 2 county roads in our subdivision. See photo on page 2 of the newspaper article.

The irony here, is that many folks in Ice Box Estates have spent countless hours pulling noxious weeds, in order to prevent the need for any spraying to be done in our subdivision.

(2) Is Grand County’s weed spraying program effective?

We don’t think so, because spraying often happens after noxious weeds’ seeds have matured and have been carried by winds, cars, shoes, etc., all over the place. A lady at Dow AgroSciences confirmed that because it takes 14 days for Milestone herbicide to get absorbed into a noxious weed’s roots, and to actually kill the weed plant, that sprayed plants that already were in flower &/or had gone to seed, could send seeds by way of the air, etc. to non-sprayed areas, and then the still viable seeds could start new noxious weed plants.

We see the very same “noxious weed” plants coming back year after year, and yet, they were sprayed every year. This sure doesn’t seem like an effective way to stop noxious weeds, does it? Plus, on page 2 of the herbicide label for Chlorsulfuron 75, it says that sprayed plants can cause “naturally-occurring resistant biotypes”, which “may survive a correctly applied herbicide treatment, propagate, and become dominant in that field. Adequate control of these resistant weed biotypes cannot be expected…” This sounds like “survival of the fittest” weeds. Like the problem of over-use of antibiotics, we wonder whether spraying might produce “super-weeds” that are resistant to all herbicides.

(3) Is Grand County’s weed spraying program needed?  Some alternatives to spraying, include herding goats to eat roadside weeds. And, many folks who owe community service could volunteer to pick weeds on county roadside rights of way. CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) used to “broadcast” (spray) grass seeds (certified weed-free) so that grasses would crowd out the weeds. Then, CDOT would mow the grass from time to time. It was a very successful program that posed no risk to animals or humans.

Because noxious weeds tend to infest recently disturbed soil, it would be extremely helpful if Grand County were to require all construction sites to immediately re-plant certified weed-free grass seeds and other native plant species, to prevent growth/infestation of noxious weed plants.

Last but not least, we agree with our neighbors that it could greatly help to eliminate the need for spraying noxious weeds, if everyone would pull noxious weeds that are located in front of their houses, and as far along the county roads’ rights of ways, as they can.

~ Carol Sidofsky &  Dave Hazelrigg
Ice Box Estates