The state Senate environmental committee has approved a bi-partisan bill that would ban the Connecticut. Department of Transportation (DOT) from spraying toxic herbicides on state highways and roads. The bill, approved by a vote of 24-6, will soon head to the Senate floor.
As the committee’s business drew to an end, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr., (D-Branford), co-chair of the committee, led the passage of the bill, which is designed to stop the practice.
Kennedy said, “Year after year, DOT sprays our roadsides with thousands of gallons of glyphosate, defoliants and other toxic herbicides, poisoning our water and threatening our health, all in the name of ‘weed and vegetation control.’”
The issue of routine roadside spraying has gained more traction recently as newly unsealed court documents reveal how Monsanto, the maker of the most widely used herbicide, glyphosate, repeatedly tried to hide evidence of the herbicide’s toxicity. The World Health Organization deemed glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015 and many countries have already banned or restricted the chemical’s use.
“The Environment Committee has called for DOT to stop this practice and asks the agency to consider safer, and oftentimes less expensive options, such as mowing, planting pollinator-friendly flowers, and using non-poisonous herbicide alternatives. Connecticut’s environment is one of our state’s strategic economic assets that must be protected and preserved for future generations.”
One of the reasons DOT sprays herbicides along roadsides and under guardrails is to control unwanted vegetation and maintain sightlines on curves and intersections. DOT, agrichemical companies and other herbicide proponents point to the need to control invasive plant species and poison ivy. “They also justify the widespread use of herbicides as the cheapest way of controlling weeds,” Kennedy said.
Other states, such as Massachusetts, have banned spraying in sensitive areas and public drinking water supply drainage districts. Some state and local governments have also required that the public be notified at least 24 hours before spraying occurs.
Several states, such as Alaska and Iowa, and county governments from Florida to California, have already called for their respective transportation departments to either halt roadside spraying completely or to direct that herbicides be used sparingly in localized areas where no other alternative exists.
Environmental advocates have long voiced concern about persistence of toxic chemicals in the soil and waterways.