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.