May 21, 2004

 

Kevin Broderick

NJ Department of Environmental Protection]

Land Use Regulation  Program

P.O. Box 439

501 East State Street

Trenton, NJ 08625 – o439

 

Re: PSE&G Permit for Aerial Application of Glyphosate in Estuary Enhancement Program, Cohansey River and Alloways Creek

 

Dear Mr. Broderick:

As you know, environmental groups and fishermen have  repeatedly urged NJDEP to require PSE&G, the operators of the Salem Nuclear Plants,  to install cooling towers, which is Best Technology Available, to reduce the Salem Nuclear Plants fish kills by 95%. These nuclear plants are having an adverse impact on the Delaware Estuary because they use over 3 BILLION gallons of water a day for cooling, and slaughter billions of fish and other marine life in the process. These plants, and the permit they operate under, violate the intent of the Clean Water Act, section 316(b).

 

Notwithstanding our concern about the lack of a requirement for cooling towers at the Salem nuclear plants,  we also request that the DEP put an end to PSE&G’s estuary program’s annual spray and burn permit.. Besides the fact that the “Estuary Enhancement Program” does not replace the fish killed by the Salem Nuclear Plants, the  Phragmites eradication program itself has been a failure at most restoration sites. . It appears the only way to control Phragmites at the Cohansey River and Alloway Creek sites  is by repeated ( up to 7-8 times) spraying of poisonous herbicides into the marshes. This is not acceptable, and is not sustainable. While interim goals may have been achieved at some site segments ( no less than 45% marsh plain covered by Spartina and other naturally occurring marsh grasses by 2005-2007),  the 95% Phragmites reduction goal  by 2011-13 will never be achieved and promotes the continued use of herbicides in a fruitless attempt to force the marsh into submission.  With only 46% “favorable vegetation”  ( without Phragmites) at Alloways Creek after 8 years of glyphosate spraying, isn’t it time to end this experiment and prohibit further herbiciding?

 

PSE&G should be required to buy uplands and horseshoe crab breeding grounds instead, replacing the failed wetland restoration acres with upland or shoreline acres on a three for one ratio.  Uplands would protect the Delaware Bay from agricultural runoff, and would do more good than trying to eradicate Phragmites, a plant that does serve some beneficial function in the marsh.

 

Specifically, we are  writing on behalf of the Stop the Salem Fish Slaughter and Unplug Salem Campaign to comment on   PSE&G’s  anticipated request for  a  permit to aerially apply glyphosate to approximately 400 acres  of marshland in the Delaware Bay region ( 300 acres in the Lower Alloways Creek, 100 acres in the Cohansey River). We request that NJDEP deny  the permit to apply glyphosate to marshland restoration sites . The risk of drift of the non selective herbicide glyphosate plus surfactant to non target plants, the ineffectiveness of the spray program to date, new information on glyphosate resistance,  groundwater contamination and human health impacts, and the annual reliance on herbiciding to meet Phragmites reduction criteria despite DEP’s policy against “open-ended, perpetual spray programs” warrant denial of the permit.

 

 PSE&G has been applying herbicides, totaling 22,000 pounds of active ingredient glyphosate, every year since l996 – 8 years, in an attempt to eradicate Phragmites.  It appears that they will continue to apply herbicides every year as part of their “adaptive management” strategy until the final year of the restoration, 2012, unless DEP takes action to stop this annual herbiciding.  We are asking the Department to end the spraying, and require PSE&G to purchase more acres of uplands and wetlands ( at a 3.1 ratio) to replace the acres that have failed to convert to favorable mixed vegetation.

 NJ Department of Environmental Protection  has repeatedly stated that it is not the intention of the Department to permit  “a program of open-ended, perpetual spray program of the herbicide glyphosate” (Comment 66, Response to Comments Document, 6/29/2001 NJPDES permit)

 

Our Campaign members are concerned that this widespread application of herbicides may damage non target vegetation and aquatic organisms and eliminate habitat for a wide range of species on the marsh. Furthermore, it endorses a “spray and pray” paradigm for marsh restoration that is being perpetuated even in the face of failure to regenerate preferred vegetation.  NJDEP may inadvertently be encouraging wider use of herbicides in wetland ecosystems by allowing this program to go forward, despite the likelihood of failure at the sites because of underlying conditions like low salinity( 5-6 parts per thousand) and high elevation. 

 

Aquatic, as well as agricultural and lawn care use of glyphosate is rising, increasing the risk of surface and groundwater contamination and other adverse impacts.

Not only is herbicide use in aquatic areas  increasing at PSE&G sites, it is increasing all over the state, as evidenced by the number  and size of aquatic use permits authorized by NJDEP.  A concurrent rise in the use of glyphosate in agriculture for genetically engineered, herbicide resistant soybean and corn crops prompts concern for ground and surface water contamination by this herbicide, which is regulated as a drinking water contaminant and has been found in groundwater at 1ug/l in Europe and in US Midwestern states. The use of glyphosate is rising in NJ in the lawn care industry as well, and will most probably rise even more with the advent of herbicide resistand bentgrass being promoted for golf courses.  USGS has conducted surveys in the US, including NJ, detecting up to 33 different pesticides in groundwater and surface water, only 27% of which are regulated/tested for  in drinking water. For the pesticides that do have aquatic life toxicity values, those values are usually a fraction of the drinking water standard, indicating the higher sensitivity of aquatic organisms to pesticides.  In 2002, the USGS collected water samples during two post herbicide application runoff events and one harvest season runoff event from sites on 51 midwestern streams. All samples were analysed for glyphosate and 20 other herbicides, and AMPA(a glyphosate metabolite, aminomethylphosphonic acid) and other herbicide transformation products.  Glyphosate was detected at a concentration of 0.1 ug/L or greater in 38% of post application runoff samples and 31% of  harvest season runoff samples.  AMPA was detected at a concentration of 0.1 ug/L or greater in 68% of post application runoff samples and 73% of harvest season runoff samples.  The concentrations of glyphosate or AMPA rarely exceeded 1 ug/L in any sample. (Note: The European Drinking Water Directive limits the maximum allowable concentration of any single pesticide, regardless of toxicity, to 0.1 ug/L. By contrast, the US EPA Maximum Contaminant Level is 700ug/L for glyphosate.)

 

With increasing use in agriculture, lawn care, and aquatic settings, the likelihood of glyphosate contaminating ground and surface water increases. Since l985, use of glyphosate has increased in NJ agriculture ten fold, from 6000 pounds in l985 to 60,000 pounds in 2000. ( Figures cited are from the NJDEP pesticide control program agricultural use surveys). For commercial lawn care, the use of glyphosate went from 15,000 pounds statewide in l990 to 27,000 pounds in 2001, almost doubling in ten years.

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·        In l995, prior to any PSE&G herbicide activity in wetlands,  the entire statewide use of glyphosate for aquatic use was 155 treated acres , each site being on average less than one acre.

·        In l996, the entire statewide use of glyphosate for aquatic use was 370 acres, and PSE&G use was 2,364 acres. PSE&G’s project was the state’s first ever  permitted large scale aerial application of glyphosate.

·        In l999, the entire statewide use of glyphosate increased to 568 acres, and PSE&G use was 330 acres..

·        In 2000, PSE&G  applied glyphosate to approximately 850 acres, using 600 gallons of glyphosate (3,240 pounds active ingredient) The statewide aquatic use that year was 1169 acres.

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·        In 2001, PSE&G eliminated 1200 acres in the Mill Creek area from herbicide applications, based on an inability to convert Phragmites to spartina and other “favorable vegetation” after 5 years of spraying.

·        They applied glyphosate to 419 acres in Lower Alloways Creek and the Cohansey River site, using 1271 pounds of glyphosate. The statewide aquatic use of glyphosate was 1486 acres.

·        In 2002, PSE&G  applied glyphosate on 402 acres, 1233 pounds.  Statewide aquatic use was 1169 acres.

 

·        To date, PSE&G has applied cumulatively 22,000 pounds of glyphosate on approximately 2500 acres of wetlands in the Delaware Bay region, with only 300 acres of “new” spartina generated. We oppose perpetuating this failed use of herbicides, it is not controlling Phragmites and unduly exposes the estuary to toxic pesticides. The aquatic use of glyphosate has increased statewide, exclusive of PSE&G’s use, eight fold.  There is no doubt that PSE&G’s restoration project, and NJDEP’s continued permitting of it, has increased statewide use of glyphosate as the method of choice for controlling Phragmites, despite its lack of efficacy and the as yet unknown effects  on non target organisms.

Local residents who live along the Cohansey River have not sanctioned spraying.A Fairfield resident said “You can’t spray herbicides on the marsh year after year and not cause harm. All the spraying is doing nothing to control phragmites, and it never will.”

 

 

 The aerial permit exception request  is a  violation of  the prior  permit conditions , which specify ground application equipment be used both at Lower Alloways Creek and Cohansey River sites. When NJDEP issued an amended permit on August 14, 2000, the permit limited the modification to a “one time aerial application”. We ask that the Department honor this “one time” modification and not permit further aerial application in Alloways Creek or the Cohansey River sites

 

 

NJDEP specified ground application methods because  ground application is  more target specific and less prone to drift of pesticide off the target site.  If NJDEP chooses to approve this large scale spray program for the year 2004 over our objections,  NJDEP should require  the method of application  to be by ground equipment..

 

The proposed method of application by aircraft is the method of application most subject  to drift of pesticide off the target site,  possibly contaminating the Delaware River, killing submerged aquatic vegetation and other non-target plants and benthic organisms. According the noted entomologist David Pimentel from Cornell University, 50-75% of aerially applied pesticide never reaches the target site.( Pimentel et al, “Assessment of environmental and economic impacts of pesticide use” in D. Pimentel and H. Lehman(eds.) The Pesticide Question:  Environment, Economics and Ethics.  New York: Chapman and Hall, pp.47-84 l993) Since the proposed herbicide, glyphosate, is a broad spectrum herbicide toxic to any plant material, as well as beneficial fungi and aquatic organisms, drift off the target site  has the potential for adverse effects.  It is highly unusual for herbicides to be applied by aircraft in NJ, whether it be for agricultural, forest management, or aquatic vegetation control, because of the danger of drift into a waterway.  NDEP should not be encouraging aerial application of herbicides nor the application  by any method of herbicides in wetlands.

 

Aerial application is also less effective at delivering pesticide to  the targeted plant, Phragmites,  than ground application by boat, Argo, or “weed wiping” would be,  where the pesticide is delivered in close proximity to the plant and is more likely to achieve “top to bottom” coverage.  Because PSE&G is targeting sites with “Mixed vegetation” ,more than  30% “desirable” vegetation and less than 50% Phragmites, the risk of  glyphosate killing non-target species is increased.

 

Human health hazards, ecosystem impacts, and evidence of resistance is growing.

The use of glyphosate has increased eight fold since l996, with PSE&G being the highest volume user. Glyphosate containing products are hazardous to beneficial insects, invertebrates, and fish. Glyphosate impacts small mammals and birds by killing the vegetation they use for food or shelter. 

Glyphosate has an average half life of 47 – 174 days and has been found in streams after agricultural, urban and forestry applications.   A case-Control Study of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides (American Cancer Society, 1999) found that people exposed to glyphosate are 2.7 times more likely to contract non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  It is regulated as a drinking water contaminant  because of potential  adverse health effects to the kidneys and reproductive system.  It has been detected in the urine of farmer applicators, their children and spouses following application.(“Glyphosate Contamination Detected in Humans”, Environmental Health Perspectives, March 2004) Glyphosate has also been linked to attention deficit disorder in children of farmers who applied it. (Garry, V.F. “Birth defects, season of conception, and sex of children born to pesticide applicators living in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, Environmental Health Perspectives 110 (Suppl. 3) 441-449, 2002.)  Glyphosate resistance is beginning to be reported in farm fields in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia as well as the midwest where certain  agriculturally important  weeds are tolerating glyphosate.(“Glyphosate resistance dominates weed science meeting”, Mike Holmberg, Farm Chemicals Editor, Successful Farming, Dec. 6, 2002)

 

If the Department does not make the decision to end the herbiciding now, there is a potential for an additional 300-400 acres per year of spraying for the next 8 years. The total additional glyphosate active ingredient would amount to 10,776 pounds, bringing the total applied to the two sites  to 33,000 pounds.. While the runoff has not been calculated, it should be, especially in light of DuPont’s proposal to process VX nerve agent hydrolisate( with the key byproduct being AMPA and MPA, the same breakdown product as glyphosate) through its wastewater treatment plant upstream of the Salem Generating Station.  The Department has expressed concern about the VX nerve agent byproduct adding to the phosphorus load in the Delaware River, and it should be equally concerned about the loading from glyphosate spraying over marshlands.

 

For the reasons stated above, we oppose the further application of glyphosate in the wetlands, and particularly the aerial method of application. 

 

Changing the  permit to eliminate herbiciding and instead require purchase of additional marshland to place in conservation  would have positive benefits to the ecosystem that would be permanent, and buffer the Department and PSE&G from criticism related to annual herbiciding.

 

 

Please send your response to Jane Nogaki, NJ Environmental Federation, 223 Park Aveneue, Marlton, NJ 08053. (email janogaki@eticomm.net)  Thank you for your consideration.




Sincerely,



Jane Nogaki

NJ Environmental Federation

 

Maya Von Rossum,

Delaware Riverkeeper

 

Tony  Totah,

Clean Ocean Action

 

Norm Cohen,

Coalition for Peace and Justice

 

Hank Egerton

EAGLE

 

Cc        Bradley Campbell, Commissioner,  NJDEP

            Narinder K. Ahuja, Director, Div. Of Water Quality, NJDEP

            Lee Widjeskog, Fish, Game and Wildlife, NJDEP

            Holly Iezzi, Pesticide Control Program, Aquatic Permits