More than 150 people attended a public hearing held at Meeting House Hill School on March 2nd to learn more about the proposed use of chemicals to kill Eurasian Milfoil in portions of Candlewood Lake. Representatives of SOLitude Lake Management, Town of New Fairfield consultants, the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), and the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA) each received time to make a brief presentation.
Marc Bellaud from SOLitude, the firm that would be applying the treatment if approved, presented his firm’s plan. In what he described as a “demonstration program”, Mr. Bellaud proposed that an herbicide called Diquat be deployed over roughly 50 acres of shoreline in the Town Beach cove and Shelter Harbor Cove in mid to late May. While the Diquat would not kill the Eurasian Milfoil roots, it would kill the old-growth plant matter. Grass carp that were released into the lake in 2015 would be more likely to eat the young, tender plants, thereby keeping ahead of the milfoil regrowth.
Mr. Bellaud also proposed using a copper sulfide algaecide to tackle algae blooms as they appear. Blooms usually appear in mid-summer, forcing beaches to close. The algaecide usually takes one to three days to sink the blooms. He indicated that SOLitude has used Diquat in a number of lakes with success, including Lake Zoar and Lake Lillinonah. Diquat has been in use since the 1960s.
Next to speak was Dr. Ken Wagner, Water Resources Manager with Water Resource Services and consultant to the Town of New Fairfield. He equated lake management to a three-legged stool consisting of science, economics and institutions. He also noted that there are risks and rewards to any lake management treatment. In his opinion the risks of Diquat in the amounts proposed to be used was small.
Representatives from DEEP were on hand to outline the agency’s permitting process. Valerie Bodner said that any pesticide product has to go through an extensive registration process with the Environmental Protection Agency. The State relies on that process that there is no risk to public health and the environment. When an application is received, it goes through a rigid review process that takes into account items such as impact on endangered, protected and threatened plant and animal species, if the body of water is in a public water supply watershed, and locations of public and private wells in relation to the treatment area. Ms. Bodner noted that DEEP has not received a permit application yet. She said that if an application is submitted the public will have two weeks from the date of submission to submit comments.
Larry Marsicano, Executive Director of the Candlewood Lake Authority (CLA) spoke next. The CLA opposes the Town of New Fairfield’s proposal. The program outside the scope of the existing program (grass carp). The grass carp program was initiated by the CLA and the five towns it represents; Danbury, Brookfield, New Milford, Sherman, and New Fairfield.
According to Mr. Marsicano, the CLA was not consulted about the proposed treatment and feels that the grass carp program has not been given the opportunity to become established. It generally takes two to four years for results to be seen. In June, 2015 3,816 grass carp were introduced into the lake. DEEP has approved the release of an additional 3,050 carp into the lake this summer, bringing the number of carp closer to the estimated number needed to control the milfoil level.
Presentations were followed by public questions and commentary from more than 50 individuals and organizations. The overwhelming majority of comments were in opposition to the proposed project. Only a handful of comments were from individuals in favor.
The recurring themes of the comments were the perceived lack of transparency on the part of the Board of Selectmen, the fear of the effect of chemicals on children, wildlife and plants, and the sense that New Fairfield is not including its neighboring towns and the CLA in the decision process.
Representatives of several organizations spoke out in opposition to the proposal including the Candlewood Tax District, the Inland Wetlands Commission, the Ball Pond Advisory Committee, and the CLA. According to First Selectman Susan Chapman, the purpose of the hearing was to provide information about the proposed demonstration program and to give the public access to a range of experts on the subject. Ms. Chapman said that if the test project was implemented, the next step would be to reach out to the neighboring towns and CLA to review the results and determine if it was successful. If so she would like to see a discussion of an expansion of the integrated approach take place.
As for immediate next steps, Ms. Chapman acknowledged that the public reaction might lead the Board to reassess the scope of the project. One possibility mentioned might be to eliminate the use of the copper sulfate algaecide on blue green algae blooms.
DEEP has set up a commentary email hotline for public comment if and when it receives a permit application. Comments may be sent to the following email address for two weeks after an application is received: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Greg Slomba