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Groups Join NJ State Senator to Stop Spraying
(Beyond Pesticides, August 13, 2004)
Environmentalists are joining together with Senator Nicholas Asselta (R. District 1, Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties) to urge the New Jersey Department of Transportation to adopt "green" practices along state roadways and to end the use of toxic herbicides to control vegetation. Pointing to the Cape May County commitment to a pesticide reduction policy (Integrated Pest Management) adopted in 1992, and a long established "mow only" policy along 200 miles of county roadways, activists and Sen. Asselta are requesting the NJDOT to do likewise.

"I am proud of Cape May County's integrated pest management policy, which reduces pesticide use, and I hope other government agencies such as the state Department of Transportation will follow their example," said Senator Asselta, the sponsor of legislation to be introduced shortly that would ban all herbicide use along state-owned roadsides. Senator Barbara Buono (D. District 18, Middlesex County) is the co-prime sponsor, thus ensuring bi-partisan support.

According to Jane Nogaki, pesticide program coordinator for the NJ Environmental Federation, about 4 million pounds of pesticides are applied in NJ every year for lawn care, agricultural purposes, golf courses, mosquito control and roadside vegetation control. "These chemicals have a nasty way of finding their way into our waterways, and our drinking water. The US Geological Survey has found over 50 different pesticides in NJ rivers and groundwater wells. Who knows what effects on our children, our pets and wildlife this toxic cocktail of pesticides and other chemicals have," said Nogaki.

Pointing to the herbicide killed vegetation along Rte 47 near the border of Goshen and South Dennis, Ruth Fisher, President of C.A.P.E., said, "It is reckless and unnecessary for the NJ Department of Transportation to use powerful herbicides without consideration for the side effects of these poisons. Cape May County maintains its roadsides without chemicals, now the State of NJ must follow suit. If the public were aware of the harmful consequences of "weed killers," especially for aesthetic use, there would be a rebellion. It should begin here.”

"On numerous occasions I have become extremely sick from reactions to herbicide treatments along New Jersey highways," said Mary Lamielle, Executive Director of the National Center for Environmental Health Strategies, a Voorhees-based environmental health organization. "In addition to the devastating environmental and ecological impact, the application of weedkillers along our roadways, which occurs without warning, is a hazard to everyone's health."

Noting that the potential health effects of herbiciding are well documented, Jean Fuschillo, Vice President of Harmony with our Planet, thanked Senator Asselta for taking the initiative to introduce legislation to ban roadside herbicide use. "By taking this action, Senator Asselta is contributing to the health of NJ residents," said Fuschillo.

Manual vegetation control using weed whips and mowers are the method of choice for the Road Department of Cape May County.

A resolution passed by the Freeholders on July 24, 2001 and directed to the NJ Dept. of Transportation, states that the county’s Integrated Pest Management Plan has reduced the use of chemical pesticides throughout all the county facilities and grounds and has also resulted in significant savings by reducing chemical usage. The resolutions encourages the NJ Department of Transportation to adopt a formal herbicide management plan to better monitor chemical usage, identify weed problems before spraying of herbicides, and manage some areas without the use of chemicals. The resolution concludes with the statement, "The Board believes that the ultimate outcome of a formal plan would be in the best interest of public health as well as strengthening the protection of the environment."

TAKE ACTION: Find out more about road-side herbicide spraying, and safer alternatives, by reading Beyond Pesticides' The Right Way to Vegetation Management: A review of selected pest management policies and programs on rights-of-way. Take action for safer management of rights-of-way in your area by contacting your state representatives and urging them to introduce similar legislation.