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Letters: Roadside Herbicide Questioned
Concern About Pamlico Waters
September 18, 2015

riving in Pamlico County these days you may think that a very early fall has come. A very site-specific autumn, judging by the long bands of roadside trees no longer green. But those trees and underbrush and grasses have not merely changed color to that coppery, homogenous brown. They are dead – after being sprayed with herbicide a few weeks ago.

Here are two shots this week taken on the Janerio Road less than a mile from Oriental:

TownDock has received queries from readers asking about the spraying and its impact beyond the roadside. Oriental resident and Creekkeeper Bill Hines put his concerns in a Letter to the Editor. Marge Dales and Carol Small write as does Kim Yearick.

To the Editor:

As a follow-up on our problem with the Krenite sprayed throughout Pamlico County, I drove several of the roads in Craven, Carteret and Beaufort Counties looking to see if they were also using Krenite to kill the weeds along their roads, but could find no evidence of its use in those counties. I was able to find out from our county DOT that the chemicals were applied by NCDOT Roadside Environmental Unit (REU) whose Mission Statement is – “To provide roadside elements for a statewide highway system that are safe, environmentally sound, attractive and responsive to the public’s needs.”

Since Krenite is not supposed to turn foliage brown I asked what other chemicals were used and it turns out it was a mixture of Krenite, Triclopyr 3, and Element 4. We know that Krenite is designed to keep plants from growing leaves in the next growing season. The worry with Krenite is not that it will kill the aquatic life but that it will impact on our spring bloom of grasses in our creeks which is an important source of food and habitat for each years crop of fish, crabs and shrimp.

The two other chemical are even more worrisome. Element 4 “Do not apply directly to open water, highly toxic to aquatic organisms.“ (source: Penn State College of Agriculture). Triclopyr 3 “Due to the high chemical properties of this product, it is not recommended for use on permeable soil, as it can seep in and contaminate the ground. This product is also effective in treating water weeds, however users should be aware that it may harm pond fish and other aquatic life.” (source: Phoenix Environmental Design, Inc. product vendor). “Triclopyr can move through soil and has the potential to contaminate groundwater.” “Triclopyr ranges from practically non-toxic to highly toxic to fish, depending on the fish species and the triclopyr formulation “ (source: National Pesticide Information Center).

What the scientific data seem to suggest is that what was sprayed on our roadside ditches can contaminate ground water, be harmful to fish and aquatic life and will impact our aquatic grasses that support our young fish, shrimp and crabs.

As a county that supports its main livelihoods of Farming, Forestry and Fishing, the use of a product designed to kill weeds, that will go from the ditches into our creeks and ground water is endangering many a commercial fisherman’s livelihood. The state office of NCDOT Roadside Environmental Unit needs to consider what impact they can have on one of our major sources of income for a lot of hard working people in Pamlico County.

Bill Hines – Creek Keeper

To the Editor,

I read the letters to the editor concerning the spraying of roadsides with Krenite recently. While I support minimum use of herbicides some uses of herbicide may be necessary. If the type and amount of herbicide is kept to a minimum level and used according to manufacturers application rates and instructions there should be no concern.

As happens many times most of the individuals writing the letters complaining about the use of the herbicide are misinformed or basing their assumptions on emotions. Krenite is not even close to Agent Orange as Carol Small states. I was in the military during Vietnam and am quite familiar with Agent Orange. Krenite is a very safe herbicide and if you Google it and look at it’s effects it states that it will not harm aquatic animals (when used properly). It was formulated for the specific job that it was used for, brush reduction along roads.

While Bill Hines quoted some of the Protective Measures (he did state that in his letter), he only stated the ones which paint a bad picture of the herbicide and ignored the others. Go to the website to see all the effects, most of which show that this is a low toxity herbicide which is safe for fish and aquatic life.(Click here for the unabridged PDF from that site. Ed.)

While we do not live in Oriental yet, My wife and I own a house in Oriental on Mildred Street as well as one near Bayboro. The reason we purchased property in Pamlico County is because of the beauty and great things to do. We would not want to see it destroyed, but I doubt that a little herbicide along the road will accomplish that. PA-DOT has been spraying for years with no noticeable detrimental effects. The salt spread on the road in winter probably causes more trouble to Aquatic life than any herbicide.

Farmers spray tons of herbicides on their properties, some possibly worse than Krenite, but most people do not see the results of that spraying so it doesn’t concern them. NC-DOT has a responsibility to keep the roads safe for the general public. My guess is if the people complaining had a wreck due to not being able to see around a turn they would be the first to sue NC-DOT. Let NC-DOT do their job.

Kim Yearick
Bellefonte, PA

To the Editor,

I am mailing the following letter to as many senators and representatives in Raleigh as I can find the email addresses for. I urge anyone else who is concerned to do the same. I’m sure I haven’t addressed all of the issues with this disaster.


Dear Representative/Senator,

The State of North Carolina has sprayed an herbicide similar to Agent Orange all over our used-to-be-beautiful-green Pamlico County. Now we have dead trees and vegetation along all of our roads and if you look closely it is mostly sprayed on private property.

Not only has this transformed our once beautiful county to a brown dead eyesore, but apparently no one in the state government realizes that we live in a delicate ecosystem. Every poison sprayed here goes to both our ground water from which we draw our drinking water and right into our Neuse River ecosystem.

And now the deed is done. We have dead trees which will not grow back and dead vegetation which may probably eventually re-grow. However, as in the chemical spill of more than three million gallons of waste water into the Animas River in Colorado, how to rectify this disaster?

I would like some real answers about this and not political nice talk. One, why and how did this happen? Two, what is the plan for cleaning this up? Three, how will the dead trees be replanted? Four, how will property owners be compensated for this damage? Five, how will we receive ongoing test results of our drinking water to make sure there is no herbicide in it? Six, who will be monitoring and testing the Neuse water for herbicide? There are probably more questions about which others would like to know.

Please keep me informed. I expect to hear from you ASAP as I am drinking this water now.

Carol Small

To the Editor:

Beautiful Pamlico County? What has happened here? I cannot believe that in order to save money in the county, DOT has chosen to spray an herbicide as potent as Krenite. In this day and age, surely there is another option. I totally agree with the letter that Mr. Hines has written.

Apparently this is not a safe product and does affect wildlife. What happens when the ditches fill up with water and this product is carried even further? What happens to the deer, the fox, otters, etc? What about our domestic animals? We walk our dogs along the sides of the roads which brings them in contact with the sprayed areas. Very worrisome!

DOT has chosen to spray every bit of the areas abutting their state roads which means they have come into our housing developments. Is it such a problem to prune the sides of the roads with the cutters that DOT has invested in? I have not seen so much devastation in the 18 years I have lived here.

I would like to point out the increase in cancer in North Carolina. What are the affects on all of us? Not only are fields being sprayed from the air, we are now being bombarded from land. I thought this was the time of “clean air” promotion? Certainly DOT is aware of the fallout of such a product. What will it take to open the eyes of the “powers that be?”

I am very saddened each time I drive through the roads of Pamlico County. Not only has all the beauty been taken away from us, but you have increased the dangers that affect our health daily. I certainly hope you will think twice before prevailing such nastiness upon us again.

Marge Dales

What has killed all of the roadside vegetation in Pamlico County?

The sides of our roads look dead and very prone to catching fire. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) has sprayed Krenite herbicide into our drainage ditches and woods along the roads, many leading directly to our creeks and marshes. They did this to save money so they wouldn’t need to use the boom mowers that trim the trees, but at what cost to Pamlico County?

Not everyone is aware of the fact that Pamlico County is the most productive estuary area on the East Coast of the US for fish, shrimp and crabs. With 2 rivers, over 70 creeks and countless bays and marshes, Pamlico County is the nursery for over 90% of the seafood that is harvested in the Pamlico Sound and much of the Atlantic Ocean.

Each spring we have a bloom of aquatic grass in our creeks. Power boaters will complain that these grasses are fouling their props but what the grasses are really doing is sheltering and feeding the latest generation of fish, shrimp and crabs. This year we had a very health growth of these grasses, which resulted in a good year for our commercial and recreational fishermen.

The Krenite is an herbicide that kills plants.*

What will it do in our creeks and marshes, and how will that impact on our aquatic wildlife and our fishing industry? If the DOT needs to save money can’t they do that in areas that are not fragile estuaries?

Bill Hines,

*Part of the usage instructions for Krenite (profile 2/85) under Protective Measures:
“Keep out of reach of children. Do not contaminate water, food, or feed by storage. Keep from contact with fertilizer, insecticides, fungicides, and seed. May irritate eyes, nose, throat, and skin. Avoid breathing spray or mist. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, and clothing. Do not use on food crops. Do not allow drift or spray mist to contact desirable trees, shrubs, or other plants, as injury may result. Do not apply directly to water. Do not contaminate water by cleaning of equipment or disposal of wastes (31v).”

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