Passaic County not spraying herbicides on roads in 2020

West Milford. Passaic County has agreed to a one-year pilot program that will let the county mow the roadsides instead of spraying them with herbicides. The move comes after several resident complaints about the contaminating health effects of using the chemicals, Mayor Michele Dale announced Wednesday.

22 Jan 2020 | 01:40

In a letter from Passaic County Wednesday, Administrator Anthony DeNova III said it would not spray herbicides on township roads in 2020, but rather mow instead.

According to the letter, released by Mayor Michele Dale, the county is agreeing to a pilot program where it will mow the areas in 2020 and Passaic County and township will monitor the results.

Both sides will meet after the end of the year to see if the mowing is successful, according to the letter.

Dale said she met with DeNova in Paterson on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

"I'm happy we were able to engage the county and come up with a collaborative effort towards meeting the goal of not spraying the roadsides, and evaluating a go forward plan that we can both find acceptable," Dale said Wednesday.

The move comes after residents complained that the spraying was causing contamination of ground water and negative health effects.

The township first asked the county to stop spraying three years ago, and return to mowing instead.

With that request apparently falling on deaf ears, the pressure for a change revved up on the local level in September.

Officials and residents said during a Township Council meeting in late September that they would make written requests and also speak to freeholders at county meetings in an all-out effort to ensure that spraying of chemicals that have been used will not be continued in 2020 on West Milford roadsides.

The county response to the concerns expressed three years ago was that it determined that spraying was a cost-effective and efficient way to handle the roadside high grass and weed issue.

Councilwoman Ada Erik said in September that the county can have one less worker on the job when spraying rather than sending out a crew to cut weeds, therefore saving money.

Officials and residents during that meeting were in agreement that unsightly roadsides are a blemish to the township and are not what the community is all about.

Concerns that chemicals from spraying herbicides may possibly be leaching into groundwater and into the reservoir water supply that provides water for thousands of residents in north Jersey and the contamination of local wells were expressed.

Councilwoman Marilyn Lichtenberg, liaison to the West Milford Lakes committee, saw possible health dangers to volunteers who clean up roadsides where herbicides are sprayed.

In Wednesday's letter, DeNova said "while no such evidence is founded to support these claims, the Board of Chosen Freeholders have heard the complaints and are willing to try a different approach."

The county and township will meet again following this year's growing season to evaluate the program, according to the letter.

(Ann Genader contributed to this report)