Poll Shows Strong Support for Chemical Control of Milfoil

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.

Board Concerns
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.


  1. Don 14 years ago September 14, 2010

    Given enough time I am sure Ossipee town officials can dream up a few more reasons to oppose the chemical treatment plan. If they wait long enough there will be no reason to make the decision. By default they will have decided to let the lake fill up with milfoil. I don’t know Kathleen Mahoney, or what credentials she brings to the subject. I hope she has an educated reason to say what she is saying. Comparing 2,4-D to agent orange brings up the question “so what does that have to do with the price of onions?” In the face of overwhelming evidence of 2,4-D’s safety record, being presented by qualified experts, her opposition seems a bit weird. Harry Merrows concerns about liability is also weird. Does he have hundreds (or even one) example of where 2,4-D became a subject of a law suit where the deciding officials or government was found liable for damages?
    If the alliance does another pole (or even if they can analyse the one just completed) it would be interesting to know what percentage of the respondants that oppose the chemical treatment are at ground zero right now (in or within say 500 yards of an infected area), and what percentage that opposed it are so far away from the action that they think they will never be affected. Kudo’s to the town officials in Freedom and in Wolfboro that decided that a full front assault was necessary, but even they waited until the Back Bay in Wolfboro and Upper Danforth were hopelessly infested. Doing nothing is not going to result in no damage.

  2. atony 14 years ago September 15, 2010

    In the face of scientific data and evidence these folks still can’t pull the trigger. what are you gonna do….the monkeys are “in charge” the real solution is to flush out the current selectmen and bring in a bit more educated if not at least logical crew….but in reality the people who have a real vested interest in what happens to the lake are the property owners and most of us don’t live in the state…so the locals who don’t live on the lake seem to be content with the level of competence they currently get with this Board of Selelctman…my guess is the locals are very happy with the current board because they have been denying tax abatements and over taxing lakefront owners for 5 years now…they must know not to “bite the hand that feeds you”.

  3. River Man 14 years ago September 16, 2010

    While all the focus on Milfoil is on the lake side of the dam, what about the folks like me who have places on the river downstream. I have been a visitor to the area for over thirty years, and for the past three a homeowner on the river. This summer has been awful for boating on the river. The amount of weeds and milfoil in the river is incredible. From the Maine border to the Rt. 153 bridge is divided into sections that are impassable to motorboats. Milfoil control needs to be done in the lake, no question. I’m wondering if there are plans to control weed growth in the river.

  4. Ossipee Lake 14 years ago September 16, 2010

    River Man: Thanks for your comment and question. There is a small patch of variable milfoil near the Effingham Falls bridge but we’re not aware of non-native weeds elsewhere in the river. There are a lot of weeds for sure, including native milfoil. If you think you’ve found invasive non-native weeds like variable milfoil, please send an email to info@www.ossipeelake.org with details on where they are, including whether the location is in Freedom or Effingham. We’ll ask someone to take a look and report back. Thanks again.

  5. Fred 14 years ago September 24, 2010

    2-4-D has given us Danforth Bay back as it use to be with no ill effects


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