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Adirondack town urged to avoid herbicide

ALBANY -- An environmental group called on a state agency yesterday to hold a formal public hearing before deciding whether an Adirondack town can use a chemical herbicide to kill aquatic weeds that have formed choking masses in a popular lake despite intensive efforts to control it with divers handpicking plants and smothering them with plastic mats.

The Adirondack Council wants the Adirondack Park Agency to hold a hearing on the Warren County town of Chester's request to use the chemical triclopyr, with the trade name Renovate. It would be used to kill Eurasian watermilfoil in Loon Lake. The agency is scheduled to consider the permit request at its monthly meeting Thursday. Its staff has recommended approval of the plan, which was subjected to a public comment period.

The Adirondack Council argues in a statement released Tuesday that the chemical would harm other plants, including a threatened species, and has killed large numbers of snails in another Adirondack lake, Lake Luzerne.

"The APA should not grant another permit to use chemical herbicides in any Adirondack lake until it figures out what went wrong at Lake Luzerne in 2011," Diane Fish, Adirondack Council's acting executive director, said in a statement.

"This chemical killed alarming numbers of snails and suppressed dissolved oxygen to dangerous levels, putting other organisms at risk." Fish said chemical herbicides "should be used only as a last resort, when all other methods have failed."

Eurasian watermilfoil is a highly invasive aquatic plant that can form dense mats in lakes, choking out other vegetation and making swimming and boating difficult.

Fred Monroe, town supervisor of Chester, said the town, with a population of 3,500, has been using volunteer divers for several years to pull watermilfoil in Loon Lake, a popular summer vacation destination ringed with camps and cottages.

Despite the efforts, the weed kept spreading, so the town hired divers to help harvest the plants and spread plastic mats to smother them. Last year, 60,000 plants were harvested, he said.

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