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Rogers Lake Weeds Will Live Another Summer

Another summer will pass before any action is taken on whether to use chemicals to control invasive plants in Rogers Lake.

About 70 Lyme and Old Lyme residents showed up at a Rogers Lake Authority public hearing on Saturday to express either support or skepticism for the use of the herbicide diquat to control a non-native weed called variable watermilfoil.

A consultant to the authority, Gerald Smith of Aquatic Control Technology in Sutton, Mass., recommended the use of diquat as a safe and cost-effective way of eliminating milfoil. Smith said at the hearing that diquat is the most commonly used aquatic herbicide in the Northeast.

Authority chairman Fred Holth told the public that though chemical treatment was recommended, the authority could ultimately decide not to do anything to kill the weeds if enough people opposed use of herbicides.

Holth estimated that the use of herbicides would cost the two towns from $46,000 to $78,000 for a three-year treatment. Another option, harvesting, which is the equivalent of mowing a lawn, was not recommended because it would be costly and provide very short relief, said Holth.

“Harvesting is very much a repetitive action,” said Smith, who estimated that each weed-cutting session would cost the towns $30,000 to $35,000. Smith reminded the public that milfoil, which looks like a Christmas tree under water, can grow in excess of an inch a day. Though diquat would also have to be applied continuously, it is much more effective at slowing the spread of the weeds, Smith said.

Brad Robinson, of the state Department of Environmental Protection's pesticide division, was present at the hearing to answer questions. He said that because diquat binds tightly to soil and sediment, it does not stay in the water very long.

“It's not carcinogenic,” Robinson said. “It disappears out of the water fairly quickly.”

Robinson said that diquat has been around for several decades and has not created a problem in other lakes and ponds around the state that have used it to treat similar problems.

At the end of the two-hour hearing in the Rogers Lake Community Center, only one thing was certain: About half the residents living by the lake wanted chemical treatment to control the weeds, and the rest didn't. Holth held two hand votes. In the first, 32 residents opposed the use of diquat while 33 favored it. In the second vote 30 people opposed use of the chemical while 35 were in favor. The disparity may have resulted from a few people leaving the hearing early.

Ralph Young of Lyme spoke strongly against the use of chemicals, stating that Denmark banned the use of diquat several years ago. Young said he was concerned about the use of herbicides in a body of water that supplies some of the towns' drinking water.

While Diana Young, also of Lyme, asked why the authority couldn't wait until it absolutely understood the consequences of chemical use in the lake, Rich Monahan, another Lyme resident, said the weeds were spreading, especially in the northwest corner of the lake, and the authority needs to curb the problem soon.

“It's coming,” Monahan said of the milfoil. “It's coming in all water that's eight foot or less deep.”

Forty-six people said something had to be done to control the weeds, while 21 opposed any treatment.

Maureen Plumleigh, a board member of the Rogers Lake West Shores Association and chairwoman of a newly-formed a committee studying the health of the lake, said residents should not only concern themselves with treatment but also watch out that careless behavior doesn't introduce other invasive species into the lake.

“Any behavior that people do within that 4,800-acre watershed will influence the lake,” Plumleigh said. Something as seemingly harmless as emptying a fish tank into the water can help introduce invasive plants into an otherwise healthy lake, she said.

Plumleigh said there is a need for “public education so that it does not exacerbate the problem that already exists.”

Residents opposing the use of chemicals will have another chance to voice their opinions. The authority will hold a meeting on Sept. 13 to give the opponents time to find and present concrete evidence and experts to back their concerns regarding the safety of diquat in the lake.
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