Residents object to weed spraying

Township protects water supply while county sprays herbicide

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"I believe chemical spraying should be, at the very least, subject to local residents' opinions on the matter."
Luke Slott, member of the Environmental Commission and Sustainable West Milford

The township is reaching out to environmental groups to get scientific-based comments regarding the spraying of weeds alongside county roads.

This comes as the township and residents objected to Passaic County using the same chemical herbicide that is used in Round-Up along the county-owned roadways last month.

Luke Slott, a member of the Environmental Commission and Sustainable West Milford, asked the council to use its influence with the county to have the practice stopped.

"I believe chemical spraying should be, at the very least, subject to local residents' opinions on the matter," said Slott.

He said the herbicide used is extremely toxic to bees and other insects, as well as amphibians and birds. Butterflies are often dependent on the milkweed that grows in these sunny areas.

Slott also offered an economic argument for coming up with an alternative weed strategy - getting kids to work.

"Spending $11 to $14 an hour on roadside plant maintenance would cost the county taxpayers much less than purchasing these chemicals and having the applied by full-time employees," he said.

Priscilla Toye, who lives on Union Valley Road, was emotional as she spoke.

"I'm so upset with what's going on with our roadsides," said Toye. "My well is directly in front of my home. I know this all washes down into it. I feel like our hands are tied. I don't know whether we can do anything about it."

Mayor Bettina Bieri asked that the township attorney Fred Semrau look into whether the county would have to abide by a township ordinance that would not allow the spraying. Semrau said he would look into it but believes if it is a county road, county rules would apply. It would be county law versus township law.

IronyThe irony for most who spoke about the spraying is that West Milford is a watershed community, wholly in the Highlands Preservation Area and subject to very restrictive regulations in an effort to keep the water supply pure.

Councilwoman Ada Erik said the county also sprayed in Ringwood, another watershed town.

"We're allowing hundreds of thousands of gallons of killer be sprayed there and we're a watershed community," said Councilwoman Ada Erik.

Gathering information

Township Administrator Antoinette Battaglia commended the governing body for its actions. She said the township is asking for individuals and environmental groups to send scientific data to the township so they can help to better understand what exactly is being sprayed and what the long-term effects are. The township requested information from 10 environmental groups and will share the comments with the county and residents. Battaglia said individuals are also welcome to provide information.

"We're not looking for to create any drama or any hype," said Battaglia. "We want to try and reach out and get any facts so that we can either support an appeal to the county to either cease this practice or at least tell our residents why this is safe. We don't know what the result is."

What do you think about spraying chemicals to kill the weeds alongside the roads? Would you rather they be mowed? Go to and tell us.

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West Milford, NJ