HAGUE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Tuesday morning, the Lake George Park Commission approved the use of an herbicide in Lake George in order to eliminate invasive plant species. The choice comes in spite of pushback from lake protection groups, as well as the town where the herbicide will be deployed.
In a conference call on Tuesday, the commission voted 6-2 in favor of using ProcellaCOR EC, an herbicide previously used elsewhere in the Adirondack Park but never on Lake George, to treat an infestation of Eurasian watermilfoil. The herbicide will be used at Blairs Bay and Sheep Meadow Bay, both located midway up the lake in the town of Hague.
The town has vocally spoken against the use of the herbicide, recently passing a resolution objecting to its use. The town cites impact on drinking water and even private wells around Hague and the lake as a point of primary concern. In Tuesday’s meeting members of the Lake George Park Commission acknowledged and discussed those concerns, but ultimately said it comes down to the science.
“If the science was negative, we wouldn’t be here today. The science is not negative; we are here today,” said LGPC Commissioner Ken Parker, following a presentation at the meeting. “I recall sitting in one meeting that the DEC’s highest representative was a part of, and somebody brought up the subject of drinking water with ProcellaCOR, and (the DEC representative)’s first response was ‘The DEC and the DOH do not recommend anyone – anywhere – drinking water out of any open body of water that’s not treated, either at your own personal treatment or a municipal treatment plant.”
In a public comment section in Tuesday’s presentation, the commission characterized the majority of public concerns as stemming from “inaccurate or incomplete information they received via email from other sources.” The commission further said that those concerns, by and large, were “not supported by the considerable science on this product.” Hague Deputy Supervisor Steve Ramant told NEWS10 he had hoped the herbicide would be treated as an option on the table, but would not immediately replace the traditional method, where divers pull the invasive plant up by the root.
ProcellaCOR EC will be used across 7.6 acres, between the two bays. The contract at hand is going to take four steps: Application, herbicide residue testing, a post-treatment survey of the bays, and the creation of reports of how well the approach worked. The project is set to cost a total of $39,330, split between those steps. Herbicide treatment breaks down to roughly $3,000 per acre.
ProcellaCOR EC was approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2018, followed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2019. Although new to Lake George, it has been used effectively at Minerva Lake, located northwest into the Adirondacks from Lake George.
That work was cited in Tuesday’s presentation. According to the report, the use of the herbicide at Minerva Lake cleared watermilfoil from the lake’s full 79 acres, despite only being intended to affect 41 acres. 18 months later, only one watermilfoil plant was found. Data was also collected from nearly 50 treatments around New Hampshire, where no significant impact on plants was reported, and milfoil came under control within 3-4 weeks on average.
Lake George Association counters
Not everyone around Lake George believes that a convenient removal method can come without a cost. The Lake George Association, a prominent stewardship and conservation group on the lake, wrote in strong disagreement with the LGPC’s decision on Tuesday.
“The Commission’s decision not only ignores the absence of sound science but disregards the voices of the more than 1,300 concerned citizens who spoke out in opposition to the plan,” wrote the association, along with Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky. “We commend Commissioners Bill Mason and Dean Cook for stepping up for Lake George and voting no on this plan, urging a more thorough scientific review of the potential impacts.”
The LGA said that they, along with the Waterkeeper and the Jefferson Project, had submitted multiple offers to study and address unanswered questions related to the relatively new herbicide’s usage in the lake. The LGA cited a lack of scientific data on negative impacts to human health; peer-reviewed data on the adverse impact to plants; herbicide contribution to harmful algal growth; the possibility that herbicide could spread far from the two upper bays where it will be used; the duration which it will remain in the lake; and the likelihood that the herbicide will not be effective in a body of water with currents as strong as Lake George.
“We are disappointed that the Park Commission would choose the allure of a possible quick-fix solution to milfoil management rather than taking the time to properly study the potential long-term harm to the lake, human health and our region’s Lake-based economy,” the LGA continued. “We look forward to working closely with the many concerned citizens and groups who stood up in opposition to the herbicide plan as we consider any and all options available to put this premature plan on pause for the protection of Lake George.”
In Tuesday’s presentation, the New Hampshire examples listed no harmful algal blooms as among the results of ProcellaCOR EC usage. The commission also reported that many water bodies have seen significantly reduced herbicide use following treatment.
ProcellaCOR EC will be applied this summer at Blairs Bay and Sheep Meadow Bay. The herbicide was approved for use by the Adirondack Park Agency earlier in April. The full Lake George Park Commission presentation can be found on YouTube.