Ossipee – September 14, 2010 – An online poll conducted by Ossipee Lake Alliance last week shows lake residents want Ossipee officials to approve the milfoil control plan recommended in March by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services – a plan that includes an initial treatment of the destructive weed with the chemical 2,4-D.
Sixty-eight people responded to the poll with 91% favoring a chemical treatment as part of a long-term plan that also includes non-chemical control methods. Six percent said they oppose chemical treatments and 3% said they weren’t sure.
Alliance Executive Director David Smith said that while the poll’s sample size is small, the lopsided result is consistent with previous polls and the lake organization’s anecdotal research on the topic.
“This isn’t a surprise,” Smith said. “The lake community wants strong action on this issue.”
The Alliance initiated the poll after a Carroll County Independent editorial took the Ossipee Select Board to task for its lack of action on milfoil control this year, especially its indecision about chemical treatments. The editorial called on the Board to “make up its mind one way or the other.”
The editorial noted that town officials had been briefed in the spring by DES limnologist Amy Smagula and said they should have asked her or other state officials to address their concerns about the chemical treatment rather than taking no action.
The DES-backed plan, which is supported by Ossipee Conservation Commission and Ossipee Lake Alliance, was presented to the Select Board on March 15. Board meeting minutes show the plan was discussed repeatedly in April, May, June and July without the Selectmen approving the recommended chemical treatment or approving an alternate method.
Residents in the Pickerel Cove area of the lake say Ossipee’s lack of milfoil control this summer allowed the invasive weeds to grow thicker and be spread by boats, whose props chop it into fragments that are then spread by lake currents.
After being approached about the lack of action by members of the Ossipee Conservation Commission, Ossipee Lake Alliance and State Representative Susan Wiley, the Selectmen voted on August 23 to approve funding for suction harvesting in Phillips Brook and Pickerel Cove. Minutes of the August 23rd meeting state “It was decided that to do something was better than doing nothing” regarding the town’s milfoil.
Suction harvesting, which literally sucks the weeds from the lake bottom, costs $1,200 per day. After the Board approved it, the work was accomplished in a matter of days under the supervision of Ossipee Conservation Commission. It is one of the methods recommended in the DES milfoil control plan – after an initial treatment by 2,4-D.
In Board meeting minutes from this summer, Selectman Harry Merrow several times expressed his concern about liability issues if the town were to sign a contract with Aquatic Control Technology (ACT), the company DES has licensed to implement chemical treatments in the state’s infested lakes.
With a different set of concerns, Selectman Kathleen Maloney has repeatedly said the chemical 2,4-D is unsafe. At the May 17 Select Board meeting she called 2,4-D a “poison” and has previously compared it to the toxic Vietnam War-era chemical Agent Orange.
DES officials say 2,4-D is safe and is the chemical of choice in New Hampshire for management plans that balance chemical and non-chemical control methods. In regard to liability issues with the ACT contract, DES says it signs the same agreement as towns are asked to sign when it contracts with ACT for 2,4-D treatments the state is paying for. It also points out that all abutting property owners are asked to sign release documents as part of the standardized process.
2,4-D is a phenoxy herbicide that has been in use for 60 years. It was developed as an analog of indole acetic acid, a naturally occurring component of all fruits and vegetables, and has been credited by the Ford Foundation as being one of the most influential developments responsible for increasing food production world-wide, according to Ossipee resident Perry Fine, a physician who is on the Ossipee Lake Alliance Board of Directors.
Fine says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently allowed re-registration of 2,4-D after a 17-year review that incorporated more than 300 studies evaluating potential toxicity and risks. EPA concluded that exposure after conventional use and routine precautions does not present concerns to human health.
2,4-D has been used in Freedom’s Danforth Pond for a number of years, including a treatment this spring, according to a town official. The treatment was made after the town signed a contract with ACT as part of its long-term milfoil management plan.