Letter: ‘No’ to roadside herbicide spraying

Graphic by Lori Deaton

One of the most scenic drives in Buncombe County extends out of urban Asheville, north from Broadway through Woodfin and along the French Broad River into Madison County. In fact, N.C. 251 is designated as a state Scenic Byway. All along its length, people use the numerous parks and river accesses to enjoy the river and partake of the beautiful open vistas that exemplify the natural splendor of our mountains. Folks come to picnic, canoe, kayak, tube, bird-watch, walk their dogs, have family picnics or merely find inspiration.

Periodically, the Department of Transportation mechanically cuts the brush and trees that tend to encroach the roadway. Recently, DOT followed the mechanical cutting with broadcast herbicides all the way from Woodfin up through Alexander. The swath sprayed by the DOT lies within 50 to 100 feet of the river! With the extremely heavy rains we have been getting, there is no doubt that the poisoned runoff from this chemical goes right into the French Broad.

The use of this herbicide is absolutely appalling in light of fact that the glyphosate in the weed-killing Roundup has been implicated in causing cancers in farmworkers, landscapers, foresters and other agricultural workers. Lab studies have also established links between glyphosate to miscarriages, other reproductive toxicities, liver and cell toxicities, DNA damage and lethality to amphibians and other life forms. …

What puzzles me about this widespread, hazardous herbicidal spraying all along the length of N.C. 251 in the French Broad River basin is why? I do not believe I have ever seen such a massive use of this dangerous chemical in such a populated and heavily used thoroughfare. Was it to protect the large truck traffic on the way to the landfill? Was it to kill the beautiful wildflowers along this road? Was it to kill the vegetation that is helping to hold the mountainside in place? Was it to harass the cyclists and tourists that enjoy this river byway?

The fact remains that in the French Broad River watershed, an area so heavily used by locals and tourists alike for recreation and water use, to spray this dangerous chemical is beyond the realm of understanding. Manual and mechanical cutting of roadsides should be sufficient to keep this corridor clear. The DOT should stop future use of this herbicide along waterways!

— Jay S. Gertz and Charmaine Strong

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the DOT and received the following response from Jeff Wait, roadside environmental engineer for NCDOT Division 13, who said in part: “Officials with the Roadside Environmental unit of NCDOT [addressed] concerns with the reader and assuaged fears because NCDOT uses other herbicides than the chemical mentioned. We encourage anyone with maintenance concerns to first contact either their respective county maintenance office or the Roadside Environmental office.

“On N.C. 251, overgrown, unwanted and invasive woody and broadleaf vegetation near signs, along guardrails and in traditional mowing patterns needed to be eradicated. Well-maintained areas along the road, and areas near homes maintained by the owner, were not sprayed. In time, the areas will grow back as easily maintained natural and native grasses.

“NCDOT uses extreme care when applying herbicides and are applied under supervision of individuals who are licensed by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. All treatments used by NCDOT are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions.”

The Citizen Times’ John Boyle wrote about similar concerns in a recent column, which can be found here: avl.mx/5bn.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

4 thoughts on “Letter: ‘No’ to roadside herbicide spraying

  1. jason

    Science disputes the idea that “roundup” causes cancer if applied correctly. But you know, science, what good is that right?

  2. WVL Dude

    I was heading up towards Max Patch 2 months ago. A truck carrying a large container of liquid with the word POISON written on the side was spraying the roadside. After I passed I wondered why. The letter highlights the dangers. But I also thought if the wrong shift in wind had blown, the poison would of covered my vehicle, or came inside if the windows were down. What’s this obsession with the perfect roadside appeal? If the vegetation blocks signs like the DOT claims then just dig that area out, not the entire roadside.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.