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Taking a whack at weeds

By Jennifer Kavanaugh Metrowest Daily News Staff
Thursday, October 19, 2006

NATICK -- The latest weed fighter has come to Lake Cochituate, and it looks more like a lunar landing module than it does an environmental weapon.

Yesterday morning, officials from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation came to the lake to show off a SolarBee water circulator, one of two solar-powered devices that have been installed as part of a larger effort to restore the lake’s environmental equilibrium.

The state has been looking for ways to rid Lake Cochituate of invasive plants, which clog water bodies and disrupt the habitat for native plants and animals. According to officials who visited Natick yesterday, more than 100 of the lake’s 625 acres has invasive species including water chestnut, curly leaf pondweed and forms of milfoil.

"Invasive plants are such a widespread and serious problem across the state, and we need everything in our toolbox to deal with them," said Stephen Burrington, the state’s conservation and recreation commissioner. "This is promising green technology."

Increasingly, the state and local communities have been fighting the spread of invasive plants. Environmental officials said the problem is worsened by boats that transfer one pond’s problem plant to the next. The state has a boat-spotter program to check for signs of unwanted plants on boats before they enter the water, Burrington said, but the situation at Cochituate is so bad that the boats need to be checked more after they leave the lake.

The SolarBee devices will float out in the lake, drawing up water through a hose and circulating it through rotating blades, to increase oxygen levels. One device can circulate water to up to 45 acres, said Dave Winegar, an employee for the North Dakota manufacturer of the SolarBee circulators.

The installation of the two devices also marks the beginning of a yearlong study by Tufts University, the first study of its kind nationwide, to test the effectiveness of the circulators. State officials yesterday said they believe the machines may prove to be an effective tool, but they need more information on how exactly the devices fight the plant growth.

The general idea is that the devices help fight plant growth by circulating oxygen through the water, altering the chemistry of the lake’s sediment and altering the availability of nitrogen that helps feed the plant growth.

"That’s one of the hypotheses," said Mike Gildesgame, director of the state Office of Water Resources.

But while many communities seek plant removal, debates have arisen over the use of herbicides. Earlier this year, the Natick Conservation Commission shot down a state proposal to use herbicides in the lake. State Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, who was at the lake yesterday with state Rep. Susan Pope, R-Wayland, said he hopes the circulators work.

"I’m very happy that the DCR is going ahead with the nonchemical options," Linsky said. He said he supports a combination of efforts, including the circulators, hand pulling of weeds and use of weevils, bugs that eat milfoil. "Clearly, we need to aggressively attack the milfoil problem in Lake Cochituate."

The issue has also prompted some local residents to enter the debate. On Tuesday night, Natick’s Town Meeting backed a resolution supporting town officials in their efforts to keep herbicides out of the lake, especially as the town gets much of its drinking water from Lake Cochituate ground water and nearby wells.

"It was just basically to give the larger community a chance to support the town boards," said Carole Berkowitz, a supporter of the Town Meeting resolution, and a spokeswoman for the group Protect Our Water Resources. "We’re committed to trying nonchemical approaches."

Yesterday at Cochituate, Burrington acknowledged the controversy over the use of chemical options, but said the state needs herbicides in its fight against invasive plants. In many cases, he said, the herbicides break down quickly, and the environmental problems caused by the plants are worse than the herbicides.

"There’s no silver bullet," Burrington said. On loan to the state for a year, the two SolarBee devices would cost $40,000 each, officials said, but they cover a relatively small portion of the lake’s acreage. Circulating the entire lake would cost several times that amount, they said.

The circulators were designed originally to combat odors and improve water clarity, and only later were seen as a possible weed fighter. Lanoie Wieland, another SolarBee employee, said the company has about 1,000 of the machines operating in lakes, lagoons and drinking-water supplies across the country. Lakes like this present some of the biggest challenges, he said.

"There’s nothing more complicated than freshwater lakes," Wieland said. "They’re all different. They’re just like people."

What is the right fix for this lake?

Natick Bulletin & Tab
By Charlie Breitrose/ Staff Writer
Friday, July 28, 2006

Four years ago, the first evidence of an invasive pond weed known as milfoil was discovered in Lake Cochituate, a state-owned lake that is located in parts of Natick, Framingham, and Wayland. This fall, the state will start trying to eradicate the pesky plants, as well as some other non-native species.

A few methods will be tested, but the most visible will be the SolarBee lake circulators which will be tested in the middle and south ponds of Lake Cochituate beginning in September.

Other methods to be tested include using weevils that eat the plants, putting in netting and had pulling the weeds.

The SolarBees will be donated for a year by the North Dakota-based maker of the devices, but the state will pay $60,000 to a yet-to-be named university to study how well they work.

Four solar panels and a frame attaching them to floats stick up above water, and a long tube can be attached to direct the circulation of the water.

A. Richard "Dick" Miller has waited for years to see some sort of solution for the milfoil brought to Lake Cochituate, which his house borders.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has been charged with removing the plants because the lake is part of the Lake Cochituate State Park. Their first suggestion had been using aquatic herbicides to rid the lake of the plants, but that suggestion does not sit well with Miller.

"Natick drinks water which comes from water that comes from water in the south pond of Lake Cochituate," Miller said. "As a result the Natick Health Department and the Natick Conservation Commission said no to putting pesticide in when are other alternatives can be used."

The Natick Conservation Commission also told the state that they oppose the use of chemicals to fight milfoil, said Matt Gardner, chairman of the commission.

"Chemicals are not an option at this point and time, but there are other options on the table," Gardner said. "The message from the Conservation Commission vote is we want all the non-chemical options explored."

Miller has been pushing for the circulators since he found out about them, but has run up against resistance from the state. One of the problems, he said, is showing scientifically that they will work. When asked if he can explain how the SolarBees remove the milfoil, Miller said, "yes and no," but compared it to aspirin.

"Do you know if aspirin works? Hell yes," Miller said. "But as to how it is working, that is something different."

The circulators were not even designed to rid ponds of weeds. The SolarBee Web site focuses on the removal of odor from ponds and reservoirs and improving the clarity of the water.

Little research has been done in the United States about the usefulness of the water circulators, but in Quebec, Canada, they have been used since 1997 to remove milfoil. Some research has been done, and the results show the devices help eradicate the plants.

Monday night, DCR officials outlined a plan to start the eradication of the milfoil from Natick’s ponds. There actually are two kinds of milfoil in the lake - Eurasian and variable - along with two other invasive plants: curly-leaf pondweed and water chestnut.

The South Pond of Lake Cochituate has the largest infestation, according to DCR officials. They found 44 acres of Eurasian milfoil, 1.4 acres of variable milfoil, 3.9 acres of curly-leaf pondweed and a few water chestnut plants.

The Middle Pond has 19 acres of Eurasian milfoil and 5 acres of curly-leaf pondweed. In the North Pond, 1.2 acres of Eurasian milfoil has been found.

Fiske Pond also has significant amounts of the invading plants, with 35 acres of Eurasian milfoil and 30 acres of water chestnuts.

Because the ponds are owned by the state, Gardner said, the removal of the weeds will be paid for by the state.

The most money - $80,000 - will be spent on the Middle Pond, including the $60,000 solar-powered water circulator study, with the rest to be spent on a weevil pilot program and matting.

In the South Pond, a water circulator will be used and a study of water chestnut will be performed, costing $12,500. The state plans for $8,000 of work on the North Pond, where hand pulling and possible use of netting will be used to remove the weeds.

Netting will be used in Fiske Pond on a tunnel connecting that pond with South Pond to prevent more plants from moving in. Also, a study of the dam may be conducted. The state will spend $7,500 on Fiske.

Gardner said he is happy to hear that progress is being made, and that state officials are exploring the options available to them.

"It sounds like this fall the circulators will be introduced - in the end of September," Gardner said. "And then the weevil tests will really depend on the feedback that the biologists gives to the people from the state."

None of the options, including chemicals, have been proven 100 percent effective, Gardner said. The weevils, for instance, only eat the Eurasian milfoil.

"There is no silver bullet," Gardner said. "What we need to do is develop a management system, keep weeds in check."

The decision for which method, or methods, to use will not be solely based on effectiveness, Garnder said. The cost and how long a period the strategy will be used also come into play.

"The program will be paid by the state," Gardner said. "One of the challenges, in order to design a long-term management strategy, is some thought needs to be made how to pay for it. That seems to work against the way the state works."

Letter: Weevils are headed to Dudley Pond

Wayland Town Crier
Thursday, July 27, 2006

To the editor:

Dudley Pond soon will be hosting about 15,000 tiny residents. Our new neighbors, middfoil weevils, are native insects that feed exclusively on Eurasian water milfoil, the highly invasive weed that, if untreated, threatens to turn Dudley Pond into a swamp. With the introduction of these tiny bugs, it is hoped that Dudley Pond will be among the 50 percent of threatened lakes and ponds that have had success with this method.

The weevils are raised in Ohio by EnviroScience Inc. The adult weevils, still attached to two-inch long sprigs of milfoil, are boxed up and sent by overnight delivery to GeoSyntec Consultants for stocking in their new home. Once attached, they relocate to the fuller and fatter fronds of the host milfoil and lay eggs. The eggs take their nourishment from the inside of the plants. The adults feed on the plant surface, so the milfoil is simultaneously damaged inside and out.

The eggs hatch and the cycle repeats. From spring to early fall there typically are two or three generations working to consume as much milfoil as they can eat. In the fall when the milfoil becomes dormant, the weevils fly to shore and bury themselves in the banks where they spend the winter. In springtime, when the milfoil revives, so do the insects. They fly back to the pond weeds and continue their life cycle.

Ideally, as the insects destroy more and more of the milfoil and deplete their own food supply, they lay fewer and fewer eggs. When the milfoil density increases again due to the smaller number of predators, the adults react by laying more eggs. The ebb and flow continues.

EnviroScience Inc., working with Middlebury College in Vermont, has conducted eight years of intensive field application and more than 12 years of university research. Their scientists believe that weevil introduction has been proven to be the only long-term, environmentally friendly alternative to herbicides and mechanical harvesting for large scale infestations. Weevils, in fact, are indigenous to Canada and northern New England.

Dudley Pond has had serious milfoil infestations since 1991. Until 2003 it had been treated with an herbicide known as sonar. The sonar "knocked down" the milfoil plants. They seemed to disappear for a year or two but, by the third year, would return with another serious infestation.

The weevil project will not have the immediate dramatic effect of the herbicide. Rather, it is intended to be a long-term control method that should keep the serious infestations under control.

The Dudley Pond weevil project is only one component of The Dudley Pond Comprehensive Water Quality Improvement Project under an S319 grant funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The purpose of the grant is to improve the overall quality of the water entering Dudley Pond.

Other portions of this project include the construction of a bio-retention cell (an engineered garden that functions as a filter) at the Middle School that will lessen the amount of runoff contaminants flowing into the pond, watershed catch basin stenciling warning against spilling pollutants down storm drains, the reconstruction of an eroded inlet pipe area across from the Highway Department, and education of the public to raise awareness about environmental measures we all need to take to keep our lakes and ponds healthy.

For more information on the Dudley Pond project visit "www.dudleypond.org/S319_Grant.htm"

Marilyn Darack
Lake Shore Drive

State takes new role in simmering clash on Cochituate weeds

The Boston Globe
By Jennifer Fenn Lefferts, Globe Correspondent
July 20, 2006

A state environmental official toured Lake Cochituate by boat last week and spoke to local residents and town officials, gathering information on whether chemicals should be used to kill invasive weeds in the lake, the centerpiece of a popular state park.

The Natick Conservation Commission, concerned about the possible health threat posed by the chemical treatment, had denied a proposal by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to attack the weeds with herbicides.

A group of residents from Natick, Framingham, and Wayland, the lake's bordering communities, then appealed the commission's decision to the state Department of Environmental Protection, saying the chemical treatment is the best way to unclog Cochituate for its recreational users and nearby residents.

``It's a management tool," said Wayland resident Sandra Brennan, a member of the group supporting the use of herbicides. ``From a public safety and environmental standpoint, this is necessary. The lake is a jewel, and we need to preserve this jewel for future generations."

The Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing the appeal, said Joe Ferson, an agency spokesman. The DEP analyst's visit on July 12 is a key part of the review, he said.

``The analyst had all the parties at the site, heard both sides, and collected information," Ferson said. ``If needed, he'll ask for additional information and then issue a decision." He said he could not predict how long the review would take.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation, which is responsible for maintaining Natick-based Cochituate State Park, proposed in January that the lake be treated with the herbicide fluridone (also known by its trade name Sonar), saying it is effective and safe.

After months of hearings, the Conservation Commission denied the request and directed the agency to consider alternative methods, such as hand-pulling and suctioning the invasive weeds, or introducing weed-eating weevils to the lake.

Natick officials and a group of residents called Protect Our Water Resources say the chemicals could contaminate the town's drinking water supplies, since the lake water mingles with the ground water that supplies Natick's wells.

Ferson said whatever decision is reached by his agency, it could be appealed to an administrative law judge, who would hold a hearing and listen to evidence from all sides.

Bob Bois, the town's environmental compliance officer, represented Natick during the analyst's visit. He said the town will aggressively defend the commission's decision.

``We're not going to sit back and wait for things to happen," Bois said.

Even though an appeal is pending that could allow it to use herbicide, the DCR is moving forward with plans to use mechanical methods to remove the weeds, which include Eurasian milfoil, said Vanessa Gulati, an agency spokeswoman.

Gulati said officials recently completed two surveys of the lake's vegetation. She said the DCR plans to hold a meeting in Natick at the end of the month to discuss the results.

She said the survey will help determine which methods are used where in the lake.

The weevils, for example, should be used only in sections of the lake where the Eurasian milfoil is extremely dense, Gulati said, because they're not effective when the plants are spread out.

Officials have said that one of DCR's top priorities is to carry out a scientific study of SolarBee pond circulators, two of which have been donated to the agency for the study. The circulators are designed to keep the water moving, which discourages milfoil growth.

The weed proliferation problem was noticed as early as 2002, when three species of invasive aquatic plants were discovered in Lake Cochituate's South Pond.

Group says lake needs chemicals to control weeds

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Friday, May 19, 2006

NATICK -- As the state gets ready to yank weeds from Lake Cochituate, a group of residnets has filed an appeal urging the state to use chemicals to keep the growth at bay.

Fifteen Natick, Framingham and Wayland residents signed the appeal, which has been received by the town and the Department of Environmental Protection.

In the document, the residents explain how the town's denial of using herbicides in the lake will degrade the ecosystem, ruin recreation activities and undercut public safety and health.

"Because the state can't use the herbicides, the milfoil will be allowed to grow," said Michael Tilton, one of the appellants. "But herbicides are known to be the quickest methods of control of large amounts of milfoil."

Tilton is a member of the Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee.

There are three species of invasive weed in Lake Cochituate, one of them being Eurasian milfoil, a plant that clogs and damages the habitat. At least 150 acres have been taken over by milfoil, which grows aggressively year after year.

The residents group supports using the herbicide fluridone in the lake's South and Middle Pond. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation proposed the use of the herbicide, saying it is the most effective way to control weeds.

"(The state) demonstrated all that is necessary under the Wetlands Protection Act and wetland regulations to use (federally approved) herbicides as part of a plan to manage invasive weeds," the appeal says.

The document also says not allowing herbicides in the lake is contradictory to the state Wetlands Protection Act and inconsistent with state regulations.

The group wants the state to issue to overrule the local Conservation Commission to allow the state to use chemicals.

While the state's herbicide plan was denied by Conservation Commission three weeks ago, another state plan proposing mechanical methods to control the weeds was approved.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation will try two devices that circulate the water between the surface and chosen depth, the state said yesterday.

The floating circulators -- donated temporarily by a North Dakota company -- are designed to kill milfoil after the water is drawn up and spread across the lake, accelerating the biological and chemical process that cleans it up.

The state will conduct a plant survey of the lake -- including Fiske Pond -- in June. Based on that data, the state will analyze which type of mechanical methods to use, said state spokeswoman Vanessa Gulati.

Scuba divers with suction lines connected to a boat to pull out the weeds and simple hand-pulling methods are also considered by the department. After the survey is complete, the state will bring a contractor specialized in weevils, bugs that feast exclusively on Eurasian milfoil.

The contractor will evaluate if weevils should also be used as a control method, said Gulati.

"But all these mechanical methods will only reduce the milfoil by 15 percent," she said.

In Natick, a large group of residents called Protect Our Water Resources strongly opposes using herbicides. The group says chemicals pose a threat to human health because the lake is a source of drinking water.

The town also said that putting fluridone in the lake puts the public at risk. That's part of the reason why the state's plan was denied, town officials have said.

State says it won’t use chemicals in Lake Cochituate

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

NATICK -- The state said yesterday it will soon start hand-pulling and suction-harvesting the invasive weeds that have taken over at least 150 acres of Lake Cochituate.

In a surprising move, the Department of Conservation and Recreation said it won’t appeal the town’s decision to deny the use of herbicides in the lake. Instead, the state will use the mechanical methods Natick favors.

"We decided to accept their orders and move forward with those methods," said Vanessa Gulati, a spokeswoman for the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

One group of residents, though, promises to carry on its fight for herbicides.

Three weeks ago, the Natick Conservation Commission rejected the state’s plan to use chemical fluridone at the lake because it said it raised health concerns.

Word that the state would not try to overturn the town’s decision was welcomed yesterday by residents who have long battled the use of chemicals. The residents, many of them members of a group called Protect Our Water Resources, say herbicides pose a risk to human health because the lake is a source of drinking water.

"We are very pleased that the DCR is following the instructions of our responsible Natick boards," said Carole Berkowitz, a spokeswoman for the residents group.

Matthew Gardner, chairman of Natick’s Conservation Commission, cheered the state’s decision.

"I’m delighted to hear that DCR plans to move ahead with mechanical or biological methods. It is important to take steps now to contain this problem," said Gardner.

With suction-harvesting, scuba divers use suction lines connected to a boat to pull out the weeds. Hand-pulling involves volunteers pulling out the plants.

The state had repeatedly said herbicides are the best solution to control milfoil, the invasive weeds that damage and clog the habitat for native plants and fish in the lake.

Other residents of Natick, Wayland and Framingham agree that herbicides provide the best answer to the weed problem, and they have filed a formal appeal of the town’s decision.

Sandra Brennan, a Wayland resident who is one of the appellants, said their appeal has been sent by certified mail to various state and town offices.

Joseph Ferson, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, could not confirm yesterday afternoon if that appeal had been received. Flooding problems across the state this week were keeping staff busy, he said.

Even with an appeal pending, Gulati said the state plans to move ahead with its plans to use mechanical methods in the lake.

"We would like to start instead of waiting for the appeal process to be over," she said. "An appeal like this could take up to three years."

Three weeks ago, the Natick Conservation Commission rejected the state’s plan to use chemical fluridone at the lake because it said it raised health concerns. The town also said the state did not submit an adequate description of the work it plans to do.

Natick residents' appeal supports herbicides in Lake Cochituate

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Saturday, May 13, 2006

NATICK -- Two weeks after the town decided not to allow the state to put herbicides in Lake Cochituate, a citizens group is preparing an appeal of that decision.

"The appeal is being prepared and is expected to be filed by Monday," said Sandra Brennan, a member of the Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee.

Brennan said yesterday she is fighting the decision of the Conservation Commission with a group of people who feel the same way about the lake. Bill Frantzen, a member of the group Save Our Shores, is also one of the appellants.

Putting herbicides in Lake Cochituate to control the aggressive spread of invasive weeds has been divisive in Natick for years. At least 150 acres of the lake are affected by milfoil, an aquatic weed that damages and clogs the habitat for native plants and fish.

Some residents support using herbicides, saying chemicals have been used safely in lakes for a long time.

Opponents to herbicides say they pose a risk to human health because the lake is a source of drinking water.

The deadline to file an appeal of the town's decision with the Department of Environmental Protection is Tuesday, May 16, said Joseph Ferson, a DEP spokesman. No appeal had been received by the department as of yesterday afternoon, he said.

On April 26, the Conservation Commission rejected the state's proposal to use the chemical fluridone in the lake's South and Middle Pond. The plan -- proposed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation - was filed with the town along with a second plan proposing mechanical methods to control the weeds.

The commission OK'd hand-pulling and suction-harvesting, but said no to herbicides.

The DCR could also appeal the commission's denial of its herbicide plan. Last week, the department said it is considering whether to do that.

When Brennan was asked why the citizens group appealed, she said the document will speak for itself.

"We assert that the Massachusetts DCR demonstrated what is necessary under the Wetlands Protection Act," said Brennan.

The town has a different opinion.

The Conservation Commission argued the plan raises health concerns and the state did a poor job developing it. According to the decision, the DCR did not submit an adequate description of the work it plans to do and did not thoroughly evaluate options not involving herbicides.

The town's document warned that herbicides would likely get into wells serving the Springvale Treatment Plant. The state did not show that the drinking water supply would be protected, the town said.

"Our decision was made properly and for the right reasons," said Matthew Gardner, Chairman of the Conservation Commission. "But people have the right to appeal."

Gardner said he wants to avoid a situation in which nothing happens. He said the summer is coming and hopes the state moves forward with mechanical methods to control the weeds.

If the DCR does not take action, the commission will be "disappointed" and it would let the state know that, said Gardner.

A spokeswoman of a group that opposes herbicides said yesterday the town came to its conclusion after extensive research.

"The town studied this issue for two and half years," said Carole Berkowitz, spokeswoman of Protect Our Water Resources.

The Board of Health hired an independent expert who said the chemicals would get into the water wells and stay there for a long time, said Berkowitz.

She said Brennan lives in Wayland and is not concerned with the health of people who live in Natick.

Brennan replied that there are people in her group who live in Natick, Framingham and Wayland.

Town sends lake ruling to state

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Saturday, May 6, 2006 - Updated: 02:30 AM EST

NATICK -- The Conservation Commission this week sent the state a comprehensive list of reasons why they did not approve its plan to put herbicides in Lake Cochituate, arguing the plan raises health concerns and the state did a poor job developing it.

According to the document, the Department of Conservation and Recreation did not submit an adequate description of the work it plans to do and did not completely evaluate options not involving herbicides.

The state’s goal is to control the aggressive spread of invasive weeds that clog the habitat for native plants and wildlife and have taken over 150 acres of the lake.

"The state relied on the Generic Environmental Impact Report. They fell short on citing specific information about the lake," said Bob Bois, Natick’s environmental compliance officer.

The town’s document warned that herbicides would likely get into wells serving the Springvale Treatment Plant. The state did not show that the drinking water supply would be protected.

Lake Cochituate is one source of drinking water for Natick residents, as it provides about 85 percent of the water in the Springvale Wells field.

"Hearing testimony convinced the Conservation Commission that fluridone could end up in the wells and we have no treatment to remove it," said Bois. "DCR did not offer that."

The document also mentions that the Board of Health and the Board of Selectmen also opposed the use of herbicides.

In addition, the Conservation Commission says the state should consider treating Fiske Pond with mechanical methods, like the proposed hand-pulling of weeds or matting. Water circulators, which can be used to control the spread of weeds, should also be considered, the town said.

The order of conditions also says any work done near the Natick Labs should be discussed first with the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center because of concerns about pollution in the lake sediment. The commission asks the state to submit quarterly reports on the activities, testing and sampling done during that period on the lake.

The town approved the DCR’s plan to use other methods to control weeds.

The state has 10 days to consider whether to appeal the commission’s decision, Vanessa Gulati, a DCR spokeswoman, said this week.

Editorial: The planning can't end here

Natick Bulletin & TAB
Friday, May 5, 2006

In the plan it filed with the Natick Conservation Commission in January to treat the spread of aquatic weeds in Lake Cochitutate, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the state-owned lake, argued for the need "of a flexible management plan ... to control this 'moving target,'" yet the DCR's stewardship of the lake since the most troublesome of the invasive weeds - Eurasian milfoil - was first spotted, in the spring of 2002, has been alarmingly inflexible.

Right up until last week, when the Natick Conservation Commission voted unanimously against DCR's plan to use herbicides in the lake, largely out of concern that a town drinking water aquifer near the Lake Cochituate shoreline could become contaminated by one of the herbicides, Mike Gildesgame, director of water resources for the Department of Conservation and Recreation, continued to insist that fluridone, "if in fact it gets into the wells, does not constitute a public health problem."

That declaration seemed to dismiss the concerns voiced by Roger Wade, Natick's director of public health, and gloss over the conclusions outlined in a report by an independent consultant, whom the DCR agreed to hire at the request of the Natick Board of Health.

In his report, the consultant, Warren Lyman Ph.D., wrote, "There is a high potential for fluridone to migrate through soils between the lake water column and the public drinking water supply. In my opinion, it is almost a certainty that fluridone would appear in measurable concentrations in the supply wells if the whole of South Pond is treated with the target application rate suggested by the DCR (8-12 parts per billion of fluridone)."

And Wade said although the level of fluridone the state proposed and wanted to maintain for a three-month stretch - 10 parts per billion -is below what the federal Environmental Protection Agency considers safe, the risks are more substantial if fluridone is used more than once. He also felt that residual amounts of the herbicide might stay in the groundwater of the lake.

The DCR's response? Its department experts don't agree with some conclusions of the report and they feel the proposed use of fluridone is safe.

This is hardly a ringing endorsement for the flexible management plan the DCR said everyone needed to commit to, and the department's performance in keeping up with the "moving target" has to this point been even more dismal.

The DCR was painfully slow in reacting to the milfoil problem. Back in 2002, when it was operating under its previous name, the Department of Environmental Management, the organization waited until September, months after the presence of milfoil in the lake had been confirmed, before even so much as setting up barrier nets at different locations in the lake. And it waited until the following spring before getting a plan before the Natick Conservation Commission.

The DCR has also been slow to embrace new ideas. Most of the new proposals for treating the weed infestation in the lake, such as weevils and floating circulators, have been introduced by others.

This may explain why the organization seemed to be the last one in the room to realize that public opinion had shifted to a more cautious approach to the use of herbicides, even after Natick's Board of Health, selectmen, a state representative and a state senator had all formally voiced their opposition to using herbicides in the lake.

The DCR appears ready to move forward with non-chemical treatment alternatives. But is the organization ready now to move backward as well, to retrace the missteps in the early going that helped escalate a much more manageable invasive weed problem to the scale of battle it is now confronting, some four years after the milfoil was first identified?

The real planning has only begun - at least so we hope.

The DCR, to be sure, has a difficult job, one that it is trying to manage with too little money and too few people. But without better preventive measures to protect against the transfer of more milfoil into the lake from boats, it won't matter what treatment plan is used at Lake Cochituate.

Natick rejects chemical use on weeds in Lake Cochituate

Boston Globe/West
By Jennifer Fenn Lefferts, Globe Correspondent
May 4, 2006

The town of Natick has told the state that it's open to any technique to kill the weeds that are taking over parts of Lake Cochituate -- as long as chemicals are not used.

The Natick Conservation Commission voted unanimously last week to deny the state's request to use herbicides to treat the fast-growing Eurasian milfoil that is clogging the lake.

Instead, town officials gave the go-ahead to use biological methods such as introducing weed-eating weevils, or other methods such as pulling the weeds out by hand. The commission has asked the state to report quarterly on its progress.

''It's our responsibility to look into all options before we resort to chemicals," said commission chairman Matthew Gardner. ''What the state needs to do now is develop a broad-based program that has a variety of techniques and realize there is no magic bullet. Milfoil is not going away, but it can be managed."

Vanessa Gulati, a Department of Conservation and Recreation spokeswoman, said the agency would review orders approved by the Framingham, Wayland, and Natick conservation commissions before developing a plan. The lake is in those three communities.

The state sought to use chemicals in Wayland and Natick, but not in Framingham. Wayland directed the state to try all other options first, while Natick rejected any use of chemicals.

''Within the next few weeks, we should have a plan developed based on those orders," Gulati said.

She said the state will be conducting a full vegetation survey to determine the extent of the problem. Milfoil has spread rapidly in some areas, making it difficult to boat and swim.

The state also has the option of appealing the rulings; Gulati said the agency hasn't decided whether to do so. The agency has 10 days after the orders have been signed by the town boards to appeal.

The state wanted to use herbicides because officials felt chemicals would be the most effective way to kill the milfoil. The state proposed using Sonar, whose active ingredient is fluridone.

Gulati said the state stands by US Environmental Protection Agency studies that have shown that fluridone is safe in drinking water. However, Natick health officials raised concerns about the safety of chemicals, pointing out that the lake is connected to ground water that feeds nearby town wells.

Given the uncertainty, Gardner said it made sense to explore other alternatives first.

It was also clear, Gardner said, that the community opposed the use of herbicides. The advocacy group Protect Our Water Resources packed each commission meeting and provided expert testimony and research opposing chemicals. Other than state officials, there were few in Natick who spoke out in favor of chemical use, Gardner said.

Gardner said the state could consider pulling the weeds by hand or using circulators, machines that stir up the water, which he said have proven to kill the milfoil. Another option is introducing weevils, aquatic insects that feed on the weed.

''We saw intriguing, not compelling or convincing evidence, that they can be effective," Gardner said.

Gardner said the town is eager to work with the state.

''They will find us to be very willing partners to devise solutions that work," Gardner said.

''We're very open. These are our lakes and we're all in this together."

Carole Berkowitz, chairwoman of Protect Our Water Resources, said she also hopes the group can have a positive working relationship with the state. She said many members of the group would be willing to volunteer to help. ''We will certainly try to support them in any way possible," she said.

Berkowitz said the group hopes the state considers the use of weevils in Pegan Cove. She said it would be unwise to use circulators there because pollution from Natick Labs has settled on the bottom of the lake in that area.

State to decide whether to appeal town's decision on Lake Cochituate

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Thursday, May 4, 2006 - Updated: 07:35 AM EST

NATICK -- State officials said yesterday they soon will decide whether to appeal the town’s decision to not allow the use of herbicides in Lake Cochituate.

If the Department of Conservation and Recreation decides to appeal to the Department of Environmental Protection, a decision from the DEP could take from 70 to 90 days, a spokeswoman said.

The DCR’s priority continues to be the use of herbicides on the lake to control the aggressive spread of invasive weeds, said Vanessa Gulati, spokeswoman for the DCR. Milfoil is an aquatic weed at the lake that damages and clogs the habitat for native plants and fish.

"According to our latest survey, the lake has 150 acres of milfoil in its three basins," Gulati said. "We are conducting a new vegetation survey to determine how much milfoil the lake now has."

The department has not yet received the orders of conditions issued by the Natick Conservation Commission last week when the town body voted on the state’s plan. Once the state receives them, it has 10 days to appeal, said Gulati.

The town’s Conservation Commission last week unanimously rejected the DCR’s proposal to use chemicals Fluridone and Diquat in the lake, preferring instead to explore all nonchemical alternatives.

The five-member commission cited compelling scientific evidence and testimony, in addition to a fear of drinking water contamination, as reasons for voting down the state’s plan.

Matthew Gardner, chairman of the commission, said yesterday a second plan from the state to use mechanical methods to control weeds was approved.

"The only thing we ruled against was the herbicides," said Gardner. "We encourage the state to explore all other available means and methods out there to control the weeds."

If the DCR decides to appeal the town’s decision, it could start using methods like hand-pulling or matting in the meantime to control the milfoil, said Gulati, but at this time, she said she did not know if that was the case.

"There are so many uncertainties because we have not received the orders of conditions yet," she said.

The Conservation Commission prepared two documents: one stating the reasons of the denial of herbicides and an order of conditions for the mechanical methods’ plan. Those conditions include to consider the use of weevils -- bugs that feast exclusively on Eurasian milfoil -- and to require quarterly reports from the state informing about the progress done in weeds control.

If there is an appeal and the DEP rules in favor of the state’s plan, it would issue a superseding order of conditions that would allow the state to move forward with the chemicals. The town, however, could appeal the DEP’s decision.

The chemical Fluridone had been proposed for Natick’s South Pond, one of three ponds comprising Lake Cochituate. The state proposed similar plans in Wayland’s Middle Pond, but not the North Pond in Framingham because it has fewer invasive weeds.

Lake Cochituate is one source of drinking water for Natick residents, as it provides about 85 percent of the water in the Springvale Wells field.

The state needs the town’s approval to put herbicides in Lake Cochituate because of the Wetlands Protection Act, said Gulati.

Letter: Weevils for Pegan Cove

Metrowest Daily News
Sunday, April 30, 2006

In light of the complexities for lake management
presented by the presence of the superfund site in
Pegan Cove, the DCR must look at all available weed
control alternatives that will neither add to, nor
spread contamination in the Lake.

These should include, for example, the use of
biological controls such as weevils and mechanical
harvesting, as well as mechanical harvesting a la the
town of Wellesley, to help prevent further spread of
the weeds as a result of boat traffic and water
skiing.

The rejection of the use of the circulators by the
board overseeing the cleanup of the superfund site
makes the use of weevils in Pegan Cove an attractive,
cost-effective, and self-sustaining alternative.
JONI SCHNEIDERMAN,
Natick

Commission says no to lake chemicals

Metrowest Daily News
By Timothy R. Homan/ Daily News Correspondent
Thursday, April 27, 2006

NATICK -- The town's Conservation Commission last night unanimously rejected a state proposal to use herbicides in Lake Cochituate, preferring instead to explore all nonchemical alternatives.

The five-member commission cited compelling scientific evidence and testimony, in addition to a fear of drinking-water contamination, as reasons for voting down the state's plan to control aquatic weed overgrowth.

"There are technologies out there that may work," said Conservation Commission Chairman Matthew Gardner before casting his vote. "Chemicals are a last resort. This is particularly true when we're talking about drinking water."

The state argued the use of herbicides is the best method for neutralizing the spread of milfoil, an aquatic weed that destroys habitat for native plants and fish.

The chemical fluridone would have been applied to Natick's South Pond, one of three ponds comprising Lake Cochituate. The state proposed similar plans in Wayland's Middle Pond, but not the North Pond in Framingham because it has fewer invasive weeds.

Mike Gildesgame, director of water resources for the Department of Conservation and Recreation who attended the meeting, said he was "disappointed" with the commission's decision.

"We have an immediate problem to the ecological integrity of this lake," he said, adding the worst weed infestation is in Natick. "Unless you stop it where it's starting, you're not really going to bring it under control."

In a previous statement, Gildesgame disputed the water contamination fears, saying, "fluridone, if in fact it gets into the wells, does not constitute a public health problem."

Lake Cochituate is one source of drinking water for Natick residents, as it provides about 85 percent of the water in the Springvale Wells field.

"We do have to err on the side of safety here with regard to water supply," said Bob Bois, Natick's environmental compliance officer.

One of the natural alternatives to herbicides supported by the commission is the use of weevils, which are known to feed on Eurasian milfoil. But Gildesgame pointed out that weevils would only solve one-third of the problem since Lake Cochituate is afflicted with three types of milfoil. For that reason, the state is not interested in funding this method.

Myriam Laura Beaulne, a biologist with Clean Water Action, an environmental advocacy group, said, "Even if they were to apply fluridone this year...the problem's going to recur" unless other preventive measures are taken.

She said creating a buffer zone around the lake would help, in addition to inspecting boats to ensure more milfoils aren't imported.

The state has the right to appeal the commission's ruling to the Department of Environmental Protection. Gildesgame would not comment on that possibility.

About 15 Natick residents attended the meeting at Town Hall. Most wore stickers showing support for Protect Our Water Resources (POWR), a citizens action group formed in summer 2005 to defeat the state's proposal.

"We're very proud of our Conservation Commission," said Carole Berkowitz, chairwoman of POWR.

Commission member Douglas Shepard encouraged community members to remain active by putting pressure on the state to explore other nonchemical options for cleaning up the lake.

He said while many may feel like they've won the battle, the reality is that "the lake is being lost."

Berkowitz said her group is committed to action at the state level if necessary.

Three years ago the state submitted a similar application to use herbicides in the lake and the matter was approved by the Conservation Commission, according to Martin Levin, the attorney for POWR.

But he said that a group of 25 residents appealed and eventually helped reverse the decision.

Speaking after last night's meeting he said the commission's vote "was a great victory for commonsense stewardship of the lake."

Conservation Commission still debates state’s plan for Lake Cochituate

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Friday, April 21, 2006

NATICK -- The Conservation Commission needs more time to decide whether to approve a state plan proposing herbicides in Lake Cochituate because it wants to study, among other issues, exactly where it has jurisdiction in the lake.

Commission members wondered last night what will happen if Wayland or Framingham approve the use of herbicides in the lake and Natick does not. The lake runs through all three towns and the chemicals could travel from one pond to another.

"Where is the jurisdiction? That is an issue we need to clarify," said Conservation Commission Chairman Matthew Gardner after a nearly three-hour meeting at Town Hall.

The state’s plan has been presented to the three towns, although it is different in each. North Pond, which is in Framingham, is the only part of the lake where herbicides have not been proposed because it has fewer invasive weeds.

Herbicides would control the aggressive growth of milfoil, an aquatic weed that damages and clogs the habitat for native plants and fish.

If milfoil grows in North Pond, however, the chemicals could be proposed in the future, some commission members said.

The discussion took place in a room packed with opponents to the use herbicides, who wore blue stickers with the logo of the group Protect Our Water Resources (POWR). After hearing representatives from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and opponents to chemicals, the commission decided to close the hearing last night and meet again next week to decide on the plan.

As part of its plan, the DCR is proposing to use the herbicide fluridone in South Pond, which is in Natick and is the lake area most affected by milfoil.

Lake Cochituate is a source of drinking water for Natick residents. About 65 percent of the water in the Springvale Wells field comes from the lake.

The state’s plan has been presented in the form of two notices of intent: one proposing herbicides and another proposing nonchemical methods.

Both notices should be considered together because if herbicides are denied, the state would try to move ahead with the plan proposing other methods, the state has said.

Mike Gildesgame, director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation Lakes and Ponds program, defended the state’s plan last night.

"Fluridone, if it in fact, gets into the wells, does not constitute a public health problem," he told the public. "The Board of Health characterizing fluridone as a contaminant is incorrect."

Gildesgame said the herbicide has been approved to be in water supplies and has been used for decades in lakes adjacent to water supplies.

"Mechanical methods can’t control all the areas of the lake affected by milfoil," he said. "This is a very significant problem for the environment, for recreational purposes, for aesthetics."

Natick’s Environmental Compliance Officer Bob Bois criticized the state’s plan. "We have asked for more specific environmental reports. It is a disappointment not to have them," he said.

Those at the meeting, including Bois, complained about the state not considering the use of weevils to take care of the problem. Weevils are bugs that belong to the beetle family and feast exclusively on Eurasian milfoil.

Gildesgame replied that while Lake Cochituate has three kinds of milfoils, weevils eat only one -- Eurasian milfoil.

Opponents to the use of chemicals said the state should use chemicals as a last resort and start using mechanical or biological methods like harvesting, hand-pulling, floating circulators or weevils.

The Conservation Commission will meet again Wednesday to deliberate on the state’s plan.

Companies offer free help with lake weeds

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NATICK -- Two companies have offered Lake Cochituate a free one-year lease to use a circulation device they say will control the problem of invasive weeds in the body of water.

This would be the first time floating circulators have been used in Massachusetts, and they represent a big step forward solving the lake's problems, said A. Richard Miller, a member of Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee.

"I'm trying to make them (the state) consider this as a viable alternative," said Miller. "We haven't tried them before in Lake Cochituate, but I think we are overdue for trying."

Miller said the devices, which would be used by the state, make the water circulate between the surface and whatever depth chosen. The invasive Eurasian milfoil at the lake die after the water is drawn up and spread across the lake, accelerating the biological and chemical process that cleans it up.

North Dakota-based Solar Bee is offering two devices, and Canadian Eco-Guide International of Quebec is offering one of its smaller, less expensive units. The floating circulators are powered by solar energy.

Meanwhile, residents from Natick and other towns will be able to discuss the new method and the problems the lake faces in a two-hour session tonight at Morse Institute Library.

Bruce Richards, from Solar Bee, will attend the meeting, which starts at 7, and is sponsored by the Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee and Protect Our Water Resources, a group also known as POWR.

Tomorrow, two other meetings will take place on matters involving Lake Cochituate.

The U.S. Soldier Systems Restoration Advisory Board will meet at Natick Labs to continue discussing the cleanup of the Superfund site on the lake. The meeting is at 7 p.m.

At the same time, the town's Conservation Commission will meet in Town Hall to continue to debate whether to approve a state plan to control milfoil in the lake.

Inside Scoop: Board of Health opposes herbicide use

Natick Bulletin & TAB
Friday, April 7, 2006

The Board of Health voted to recommend against the state's plan to use herbicides on Lake Cochituate because of concerns of the chemicals reaching the municipal drinking water supply.

Roger Wade, Natick's public health director, said the town's responsibility is to protect nearby wells and the state's plan could make the herbicides stay in the groundwater for a year.

"What we do know is that it is against public health principles to add them and this is contamination that would deliberately be used," said Wade.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation is coming before the town's Conservation Commission to seek permission to use the herbicide fluridone, commercially known as Sonar, in the lake's South Pond.

The plan is to control the aggressive growth of milfoil, an invasive weed clogs the habitat for native plants and fish.

The Board of Health asked DCR to pay for an independent consultant to take a look at the state's proposal, said Wade. The report from the consultant, Warren Lyman Ph.D., says fluridone is expected to reach the town's Springvale well field.

"There is a high potential for fluridone to migrate through soils between the lake water column and the public drinking water supply," said the report. "In my opinion, it is almost a certainty that fluridone would appear in measurable concentrations in the supply wells if the whole of South Pond is treated with the target application rate suggested by the DCR (8-12 parts per billion of fluridone)."

Wade said the state wants to introduce 10 parts per billion of fluridone and maintain that level for three months. The level is below what the federal Environmental Protection Agency considers safe, he said. However, the risks are more substantial if fluridone is used more than once, he added.

At the same time, residual amounts of the herbicide could stay in the groundwater of the lake for a year because there is no sun at that level and therefore, no photosynthesis to break the chemical down, he said.

"We pump a considerable amount of our drinking water from the groundwater," said Wade.

Mike Gildesgame, director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation Lakes and Ponds program, told the Conservation Commission two weeks ago that the department's experts don't agree with some conclusions of the report and that the recommended use of fluridone is safe.

The DCR plan is presented in the form of two notices of intent: one proposing herbicides and another proposing nonchemical methods.

Both notices should be considered together because if herbicides are denied, the state would try to move ahead with the plan proposing other methods, the state has said.

The Conservation Commission will hold another hearing to discuss the state's plan on April 20. The commission is the town body to approve or deny the state's application.

Committee wants to sink Lake Cochituate herbicide use

Metrowest Daily News
By Katie Liesener/ Daily News Staff
Sunday, April 2, 2006

WAYLAND -- A local group says the state’s plan to use herbicides to kill weeds in Lake Cochituate is all wet.

The Surface Water Quality Committee unanimously opposes that plan and recommended the town work with Framingham and Natick to request alternatives.

"We’re not ruling out herbicides, but we want to see them used as a tool of last resort," said Jackson Madnick, chairman of the committee, which has voted to use herbicides in Dudley Pond and Heard Pond for limited periods.

"If (North Pond) were strictly for boating, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue, but this is where the children of Wayland learn to swim," he said.

The Conservation Commission, which closed its public hearing on the plan Wednesday night, has three weeks to weigh the comments from the committee and the public before deciding whether to reject the plan, accept it, or accept it with conditions.

Though the state’s five-year plan advocates using hand-pulling, suction harvesting and putting heavy mats at the bottom of the lake to crush the weeds, it also calls for using herbicides fluridone, endothall and/or diquat in Middle Pond, and in North Pond only if other options don’t work after the first year.

Middle and North ponds are two basins of the lake that partly lie in Wayland. The plan also includes fluridone and diquat use in the third basin, South Pond. Though located in Natick, the water in South Pond flows northerly into Middle and North ponds.

The state plan indicates the chemicals could have "temporary, minor impacts to fish and wildlife habitat." As federally registered herbicides, they do not pose an "unreasonable risk" to humans, according to the plan.

But the committee is not convinced. In a letter to the Conservation Commission, the committee said it felt the state had not fully considered new mechanical methods, such as floating circulators, which circulate oxygen, creating an inhospitable environment for weeds.

The committee also felt a five-year plan did not show enough foresight.

"As in life and business, it’s a wiser thing to have a longer range outlook, as far as saving the environment and saving money," Madnick said.

The committee was also concerned to have found residual fluridone in the sediment water of Dudley Pond two years after its last application.

In its letter, the committee said it was unsure whether herbicide use could affect the town’s drinking water, because the surface water of the ponds feed aquifers that recharge groundwater supplies.

"We don’t know what the low-level, long-term effects of these herbicides are," Madnick said. "Until the ’50s, they used to think cigarettes were good for you because they increased circulation."

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which issued the plan, said the department is drafting a letter to answer the committee’s concerns, according to department spokeswoman Vanessa Gulati.

The Framingham Conservation Commission has approved the state plan, with certain conditions, such as that endothall not be used, according to Michele Grzenda, the town’s conservation administrator.

The Natick Conservation Commission’s public hearing on the plan is still open, according to Bob Bois, the town’s conservation agent.

Wayland’s commission will meet to deliberate on the state plan April 11, said Megan Lucier, commission chairwoman.

"The weeds are on their way, they’re coming," she said of the weeds that have quickly spread from the south end of Lake Cochituate toward Wayland’s portions of the lake. "It’s easier to address this while it’s still on the way then when it’s an even larger issue."

The weeds crowd out other wildlife, interfere with boating and pose a danger to swimmers.

"The problem is serious," said Selectman Joe Nolan in Monday’s selectmen’s meeting. "You go fishing and there’s a mat of weeds that wasn’t there 20 years ago."

Chemical use in lake rejected

Boston Globe
April 2, 2006

The Natick Board of Health voted last week to oppose the use of chemicals to treat the invasive weed milfoil that is growing in Lake Cochituate.

After reviewing a report prepared by an independent consultant, the board advised against going forward with the state's plan to use chemicals in the lake.

The report by Dr. Warren Lyman, who specializes in the transport of chemicals in the environment, stated that residue from the chemicals would seep into the wells that feed from the lake. Based on that information, members said they could not support the state's plan, said Roger Wade, Natick's health director.

''You'd be deliberately introducing a contaminant into the water supply that has no place to be there," Wade said. ''We agree the weeds are a problem but the public health has to take precedence."

JENNIFER FENN LEFFERTS

Natick's board of health says no to chemicals

MetroWest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens / Daily News Staff
Saturday, April 1, 2006

NATICK -- The Board of Health voted this week to recommend against the state's plan to use herbicides on Lake Cochituate because of concerns of the chemicals reaching the municipal drinking water supply.

Roger Wade, Natick's Public Health director, said the town's responsibility is to protect nearby wells and the state's plan could make the herbicides stay in the groundwater for a year.

"What we do know is that it is against public health principles to add them and this is contamination that would deliberately be used," said Wade.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation is coming before the town's Conservation Commission to seek permission to use the herbicide fluridone, commercially known as Sonar, in the lake's South Pond.

The plan is to control the aggressive growth of milfoil, an invasive weed clogs the habitat for native plants and fish.

The Board of Health asked DCR to pay for an independent consultant
to take a look at the state's proposal, said Wade. The report from the consultant, Warren Lyman Ph.D., says fluridone is expected to reach the town's Springvale well field.

"There is a high potential for fluridone to migrate through soils between the lake water column and the public drinking water supply," said the report. "In my opinion, it is almost a certainty that fluridone
would appear in measurable concentrations in the supply wells if the whole of South Pond is treated with the target application rate suggested by the DCR (8-12 parts per billion of fluridone)."

Wade said the state wants to introduce 10 parts per billion of fluridone and maintain that level for three months. The level is below what the federal Environmental Protection Agency considers safe, he said. However, the risks are more substantial if fluridone is used more than once, he added.

At the same time, residual amounts of the herbicide could stay in the groundwater of the lake for a year because there is no sun at that level and therefore, no photosynthesis to break the chemical down, he said.

"We pump a considerable amount of our drinking water from the groundwater," said Wade.

Mike Gildesgame, director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation Lakes and Ponds program, told the Conservation Commission two weeks ago that the department's experts don't agree with some conclusions of the report and that the recommended use of fluridone is safe.

The DCR plan is presented in the form of two notices of intent: one proposing herbicides and another proposing nonchemical methods.

Both notices should be considered together because if herbicides are denied, the state would try to move ahead with the plan proposing other methods, the state has said.

The Conservation Commission will hold another hearing to discuss the state's plan on April 20. The commission is the town body to approve or deny the state's application.

Towns continue to grapple with herbicide plan

Wayland Town Crier
By Claudia Torrens/ Staff Writer
Thursday, March 23, 2006

The lawyer representing the residents who appealed a
herbicide plan for Lake Cochituate three years ago
said last week there are "ample grounds" to appeal
again.

Attorney Martin Levin said the possibility exists,
but the decision will be made by his clients. The
previous appeal stopped the state from using
herbicides in Lake Cochituate.

The attorney's comments came after nearly two
hours of a public hearing in front of the Natick
Conservation Commission on the state's proposed plan
to use herbicides in Lake Cochituate, which is made up
of three ponds.

The state Department of Conservation and
Recreation (DCR) is coming before the town again to
apply for its new plan, which includes the use of the
herbicide Sonar, also known as Fluridone.

The herbicide would control the aggressive growth
of milfoil, an aquatic invasive weed that damages and
clogs the habitat for native plants and fish.

The Wayland Conservation Commission continues its
hearing on the topic next Wednesday, March 29.

Some 20 opponents of the herbicides packed the
Dlott Meeting room at the Natick Town Hall last week
and criticized the state's proposal, saying it poses
dangers to humans and the wildlife and plants of the
lake.

Two supporters of the use of herbicides, Bill
Frantzen, a member of the group Save Our Shores, and
Mike Tilton, a member of the Lake Cochituate Advisory
Committee, said Sonar is the best option to control
invasive weeds, and it has been proven many times that
herbicides pose no danger.

Some of Natick's drinking water is supplied by
wells that pull from the aquifer near the lake.

If the conservation commissions approve the
proposal, the state will apply Sonar in June, said
Mike Gildesgame, director of the Department of
Conservation and Recreation's Lakes and Ponds program.

For South Pond, the state is proposing to use
Sonar in doses from eight to 10 parts per billion,
when applied in liquid form. When applied in pellet
form, the chemical would range from 20 to 50 parts per
billion per application.

State plans for Middle Pond include using Sonar or
Diquat in certain spots that need to be treated.

The plan is presented in the form of two notices
of intent - one proposing herbicides and another
proposing non-chemical methods.

Both notices should be considered together because
if herbicides are denied, the state would try to move
ahead with the plan proposing non-herbicide methods,
state officials have said.

If appealed, the plan could be stalled again.

Natick Conservation Commission Chairman Matthew
Gardner asked Gildesgame what the state would do if
the commission approved the plan subject to just a
one-time herbicide application.

"We would be grateful for that, and we would do
it," Gildesgame replied.

The state official said the plan is to use Sonar
this year and then follow up with mechanical or
biological methods, like harvesting or introducing
weevils that eat Eurasian milfoil.

"Hopefully there won't be a need to go back to
herbicides," he said.

It could be, however, that chemicals may need to
be applied to patches in years to come. But the DCR is
not committed to applying herbicides in cycles,
Gildesgame said.

Attorney Levin said there are too many
uncertainties when it comes to determining the safety
of Sonar.

"But what is for sure is that you will have it in
your water," he said.

The Natick Board of Health is considering a report
from a chemist evaluating the volume of Sonar that
could reach the Springvale Well Field.

After the town asked him about Fiske Pond,
Gildesgame said the pond will be included in this
spring's vegetation survey because the state wants to
know more about its weed situation.

Natick's environmental compliance officer, Bob
Bois, said the state needs to explain more about the
non-chemical methods proposed to help the town compare
them to the herbicide plan.

The public hearing was scheduled to be continued
April 20.

Appeal to herbicide plan called possible

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Friday, March 17, 2006

NATICK -- The lawyer representing the residents who appealed a herbicide plan for Lake Cochituate three years ago said last night there are "ample grounds" to appeal again.

Attorney Martin Levin said the possibility exists, but the decision will be made by his clients. The previous appeal stopped the state from using herbicides in Lake Cochituate.

The attorney's comments came after nearly two hours of a public hearing in front of the Conservation Commission on the state's proposed plan to use herbicides in Lake Cochituate, which is made up of three ponds.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation is coming before the town again to apply for its new plan, which includes the use of herbicide Sonar, also known as Fluridone.

The herbicide would control the aggressive growth of milfoil, an aquatic invasive weed that damages and clogs the habitat for native plants and fish.

Some 20 opponents of the herbicides packed the Dlott Meeting room in Town Hall and criticized the state's proposal, saying it poses dangers to humans and the wildlife and plants of the lake.

Two supporters of the use of herbicides, Bill Frantzen, a member of the group Save Our Shores, and Mike Tilton, a member of the Lake Cochituate Advisory Committee, said Sonar is the best option to control invasive weeds, and it has been proven many times that herbicides pose no danger.

Some of Natick's drinking water is supplied by wells that pull from the aquifer near the lake.

If the Conservation Commission approves the proposal, the state will apply Sonar in June, said Mike Gildesgame, director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation Lakes and Ponds program.

For South Pond, the state is proposing to use Sonar in doses from eight to 10 parts per billion, when applied in liquid form. When applied in pellet form, the chemical would range on 20 to 50 ppb per application.

State plans for Middle Pond include using Sonar or Diquat in certain spots that need to be treated.

The plan is presented in the form of two notices of intent: one proposing herbicides and another proposing nonchemical methods.

Both notices should be considered together because if herbicides are denied, the state would try to move ahead with the plan proposing nonherbicide methods, the state has said.

If appealed, the plan could be stalled again.

Conservation Commission Chairman Matthew Gardner asked Gildesgame what the state would do if the commission approved the plan subject to just a one-time herbicide application.

"We would be grateful for that, and we would do it," Gildesgame replied.

The state official said the plan is to use Sonar this year and then follow up with mechanical or biological methods, like harvesting or introducing weevils that eat Eurasian milfoil.

"Hopefully there won't be a need to go back to herbicides," he said. It could be, however, that chemicals may need to be applied to patches in years to come. But the DCR is not committed to applying herbicides in cycles, Gildesgame said.

Levin said there are too many uncertainties when it comes to determine the safety of Sonar.

"But what is for sure is that you will have it in your water," he said.

The town's Board of Health is considering a report from a chemist evaluating the volume of Sonar that could reach the Springvale Well Field.

After the town asked him about Fiske Pond, Gildesgame said the pond will be included in this spring's vegetation survey because the state wants to know more about its weeds situation.

The town's environmental compliance officer, Bob Bois, said the state needs to explain more about the nonchemical methods proposed to help the town compare them to the herbicide plan.

The public hearing was scheduled to be continued April 20.

Cleanups vying for attention

The Boston Globe/West
By Alison O'Leary Murray, Globe Correspondent
March 16, 2006

For those who care about Lake Cochituate, there have been two competing sources of worry recently: the cleanup at the Natick Army Labs Superfund site on the lake shore and a proposal to use herbicides to kill weeds proliferating in the water.

Marco Kaltofen, cochairman of Natick's Restoration Advisory Board, a committee overseeing the cleanup of the Superfund site, said it's important for the town to keep a close eye on both issues and not let one eclipse the other.

''Our public officials need to do more," he said.

The challenges involved in doing that will be highlighted tonight when the Army holds a meeting at 6 at the Morse Institute Library to update the public on its progress in the cleanup, while the Conservation Commission meets at 7 at town hall with state officials proposing to use herbicides in the lake.

The effort to clean up contamination by a variety of chemicals is going well at the Superfund site, an Army official said.

''We're focused on getting things cleaned up and understanding the sites completely," said Army environmental scientist Jim Connolly. He said residents who attend tonight's meeting will receive an update on the five-year effort to clean ground water of volatile organic compounds.

In 1989, a site on the 78-acre lakeshore Army campus was found to be polluted with chemicals that had likely been used for developing and testing military equipment and supplies, such as improved protective clothing and long-lasting packaged food.

Studies determined that pollution had seeped into the ground water -- the underground water that feeds town drinking water wells -- and had also made its way into the lake.

In 2001, the Army assisted Natick with $3 million in funding for a treatment plant that could filter pollution from well water drawn from the ground near the facility.

The Army also set up a separate monitoring and cleaning system at the facility in which ground water is pumped to the surface so that contaminants can evaporate.

The Army and members of the Restoration Advisory Board, which was set up by the Environmental Protection Agency, have identified more than a dozen contaminated sites at the facility, including an area of lake sediment polluted by potentially carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. No cleanup plans have been drawn up yet for the pollution in the lake.

At the meeting, Connolly and John McHugh, the Army official in charge of the Superfund site, will unveil a pilot project of ''in situ" treatment, a new process that would pump a chemical into the groundwater to clean it rather than requiring that water be pumped out of the ground.

Kaltofen said it's important for Natick officials to keep a close eye on the project, even as the herbicide debate has intensified. He said key decisions have to be made soon about cleaning up the sediment, which has been poisoning fish and making bass and eel from the lake dangerous to eat.

''It's getting down to crunch time, when decisions are being made. And once the decisions are made, it's hard to move the Army," he said.

He added that it had been difficult to get town officials interested in the cleanup, and they had dragged their feet on things as simple as posting his board's meetings on the town website.

Kaltofen said that issues of weed control in the lake and the Superfund cleanup are related. He said some weed control methods could hamper the cleanup of the PCB contamination.

Bob Bois, Natick's environmental officer and conservation agent, said town officials' focus on the cleanup hasn't wavered.

''The town is still plugged into the process," Bois said, adding that he has frequent discussions and correspondence with all the parties concerned. He said many town officials are concerned about both issues, as residents frequently inquire about the lake.

In 2003, the state asked to use herbicides to control Eurasian milfoil, an aquatic weed that some say is choking the lake.

Some residents appealed the Natick Conservation Commission's approval of the herbicide use, stalling chemical treatment of the weeds for several years. This month the state unveiled an expanded proposal to use herbicides, reigniting the controversial issue. The conservation board is holding hearings on the plan.

State officials and some residents say the herbicides are perfectly safe.

The 614-acre lake is bordered by Natick, Framingham, and Wayland.

Letter: Another view on milfoil issue

Metrowest Daily News
Monday, March 6, 2006

Did the paper make a mistake in their headline on the Views page, on Feb. 28? A letter, opposing the use of pesticides on Lake Cochituate was title, "Herbicides a better option." I do not believe herbicides are a better option, and, if I read it right, neither did the writer.

Milfoil, the intrusive weed, when translated verbally means a thousand leaves. Whenever it is cut, it multiplies.

In the Sebago/Long Lake region of Maine, well organized environmental groups have erected boat washes, similar to car washes, where high-pressured hoses spray the outside of the hulls, to remove any clinging contagious plants. Many fishermen and tourists are cooperating. But whether they do or not, the fee to put your boat in the water is $10 for natives and $20 for tourists, and a sticker is placed on your windshield. Everyone seems happy to oblige.

Other regulations in the Long Lake/Bridgton/Naples area include not building your septic tank closer than 200 feet from the lake, and not using lawn fertilizer, so that neither pure rain nor lawn sprinklers wash it into the water.

Last spring, a 1,000 foot tarpaulin was lowered to the bottom of one of the lakes. When it was removed in the fall, there was nothing under it but sand. Apparently, no sunlight -- no foil.

Chemicals in a lake cannot be removed. How do you remove hot tea from a cup of water? Maybe we should let the weeds grow, and plant rice.

HELEN K. RICHARDSON,
Framingham

Weeds strategy at issue
On clearing lake, state faces foes

The Boston Globe
By Jennifer Fenn Lefferts, Globe Correspondent
March 2, 2006

State officials will make their case tonight to the Natick Conservation Commission for using chemicals to treat fast-growing weeds that are threatening to clog Lake Cochituate. But they're likely to face plenty of opposition from residents.

''There are a number of unknowns, and this is a very big step to put chemicals in because once you put them in, you can't take them out," said Carole Berkowitz, the chairwoman of Protect our Water Resources, a group that is fighting to prevent the use of herbicides in the lake.

''The risk is too great. We have other alternatives, and we need to try them first," she said.

Berkowitz said her group is concerned about what the chemicals could do to the lake water and worried that chemicals will seep into the ground and contaminate town drinking water wells located nearby.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is seeking approval from the conservation commissions in Natick, Framingham, and Wayland, communities that border the lake, to combat invasive aquatic species.

The state wants to use herbicides in the areas most heavily impacted by the milfoil weed.

After the use of chemicals, the state would follow up with nonchemical methods, such as pulling the weeds by hand; releasing milfoil weevils, aquatic insects that feed on milfoil; and suction harvesting -- essentially vacuuming up the weeds -- with the help of divers.
The state will present its plan to the Natick conservation board at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

The commission could approve both plans.

It could also just approve the use of nonchemical methods.

Vanessa Gulati, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, said the agency would prefer to avoid using chemicals, but the area taken over by milfoil is too large.

''It's such an extensive area," Gulati said. ''There is just no physical way to go up and pull out all the milfoil. It's several acres. The whole lake cannot be handpicked."

Eurasian water milfoil is a green weed whose roots grow in the sediment at the bottom of the lake and spreads rapidly, getting caught in boat motors, making it difficult to swim, and killing off other aquatic life.

Gulati said the chemicals being used are safe, posing no threat to humans' health, and having no significant impact on wildlife.

''The [federal Environmental Protection Agency] has done extensive testing on these chemicals and says it's safe for drinking water, which is the highest standard," Gulati said. ''We're trusting the research of the EPA."

All herbicides used in Massachusetts must be approved by the EPA after a multiyear process involving 120 separate studies of the potential environmental and public health impact.

Once the EPA has registered a herbicide for a particular use, the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Research and Standards carries out its own review, along with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Pesticide Board.

Three invasive species of aquatic plants were discovered in Lake Cochituate's South Pond in the summer of 2002. The milfoil requires the most attention because it is the most aggressive.

The state sought to treat the lake with chemicals then but the Conservation Commission's approval was appealed by citizens.

The state is now coming back with a modified plan, using different chemicals.

Gulati said it's critical for the state to use the chemicals.

''The future of the lake is that it will be completely taken over by the milfoil," Gulati said.

''The people on the lake won't be able to swim because the milfoil will take over. It will also be difficult to use a boat because it gets caught in the motors."

But opponents say there are too many unknowns when it comes to using chemicals.

Instead, Berkowitz's group would like the state to try the other methods first. And the group is pleased that the state is presenting two options for the Conservation Commission to consider.

''The community finally has a choice and can exercise its voice," said Paul Schramski, a community organizer with the Toxics Action Center, which has been working with Protect Our Water Resources.

''We want to be given the option of some other approved methods."

Although the Conservation Commission approved the use of herbicides in the past, chairman Matthew Gardner said members will not take that into consideration.

''We're going into this to be as objective as possible," Gardner said. ''The fact that the previous commission approved it is irrelevant. We're looking at this with fresh eyes."

Gardner said it is clear something needs to be done to save the lake.

''Our job is going to be to take a close look and see what the options are to make the best decision for the lake and the water supply," he said.

Letter: Get it right the first time

Metrowest Daily News
Saturday, February 25, 2006

Two years ago in an effort to curtail the growth of the invasive plant milfoil, the Natick Conservation Commission voted to allow the state to use herbicides in Lake Cochituate. Based largely on testimony from a number of experts who advised against a chemical approach to the problem, a group of concerned Natick residents appealed the decision.

After the appeal was nullified, the state agreed to draw up new plans to attack the milfoil and just recently it has done so. The plans have been submitted to the Natick, Wayland and Framingham Conservation Commissions. One plan entails the use of chemicals and the other involves non-chemical approaches.

In the time since the first plans were drawn up, residents who filed the appeal have compiled a significant body of research on herbicides as well as alternative methods to control milfoil. The group has consulted experts and sponsored a community meeting with speakers who presented methods other than the use of chemicals in what is essentially the source of Natick’s drinking water supply.

An important part of this research was derived from communities across the country, which have voted against the use of herbicides and successfully used non-chemical means of weed control. In the past two years this group has used the Internet to assemble a large library of data written by doctors, environmentalists and experts knowledgeable in the use of pesticides, who have confronted calls for chemical applications in water supplies and concluded that’s not the way to go.

Through this work, and with genuine concern for the well-being of Natick residents, particularly for our children who are the most vulnerable to pesticides, we feel we have become fairly well educated on the subject of alternatives to the quick fix of herbicides in our water supply. By no means do we claim to know it all.

We do, however, listen carefully when Physicians for Social Responsibility tell us diquat -- one chemical the state wants to use in our lake -- is toxic to human beings. We are willing to seek out other avenues of approach when we found that in 2003 the European Commission was taking over 300 chemicals off the market and one was fluridone -- the chemical the state wants to use in the south pond.

Lake Cochituate belongs to us all. We are making a conscientious effort to research and apply the best approach to treating the milfoil problem. We believe chemicals that don’t eradicate the problem and have to be applied repeatedly are not the answer. If we don’t get it right the first time, there may be no opportunity to erase our error. We could cause irrevocable harm, not only to our lake, but to ourselves. Is it worth the risk to us all when non-chemical alternatives are possible?

ELIZABETH COATES,
Natick

Controversy over chemicals is common throughout state: Milford to seek funding to get rid of weeds

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens / Daily News Staff
Monday, February 20, 2006

The Milford and MetroWest regions are not alone when it comes to a debate over dumping chemicals in lakes.

The state Department of Environmental Protection granted 240 licenses in 2005 to towns across Massachusetts to apply herbicides in lakes and ponds to control different invasive weeds.

Of those, 47 included the use of Sonar or Fluridone, the same chemical the state is getting ready to dump in Lake Cochituate to control a non-native weed called Eurasian milfoil.

According to the EPA, Sonar is a white crystalline solid used to control nuisance plants including pond weed and milfoil. It is considered safe for drinking water supplies in low doses, according to the EPA.

In Milford, the town is working with different groups to obtain federal funding and dredge 45 acres of Milford Pond to get rid of invasive weeds. The project, which calls for dredging 400,000 cubic feet of material, will cost $8 million, said Dino DeBartolomeis, the chairman of the Pond Restoration Committee.

"What we know for sure is that we won’t use anything detrimental for the water," he said.

Approximately 162 of the herbicide licenses included the use of diquat or Reward, another chemical proposed for possible use at the lake.

According to the EPA, diquat is an organic solid used to control both crop and aquatic weeds. It is not considered harmful to wildlife in low doses.

For years, the use of herbicides has pitted residents who believe the chemicals will poison drinking water and kill animals at the lake against those who think herbicides are the only way to control a growing weed problem.

Many lakes in the state are under assault from weeds like milfoil, which damages and clogs habitat for native plants and fish.

In Harwich and Brewster, for example, residents have gathered more than 225 signatures opposing the use of a chemical called alum or aluminum sulfate at the 740-acre Long Pond.

"Our case is not as dramatic as Natick but what the town proposes does not seem a good approach to us," said Karen Malkus, the president of Friends of Long Pond.

The lake has been taken over by phosphorus, a nutrient for plants that makes the weeds grow.

In the town of Harvard, Bare Hill Pond is succumbing to variable milfoil and other aggressive weeds.

After years of debate over herbicides, the town finally opted for manual weed pulling and mechanical weed harvesting as short-term solutions. Harvard is also trying a deep drawdown pumping project to lower the water levels in the winter, exposing the milfoil so it freezes and dies.

Bruce Leicher, chairman of the Bare Hill Pond Watershed Management Commission, said the lake was in such critical condition that in 1999, the DEP put it on its list of endangered ponds. The pumping system has proven effective so far and although weeds are multiplying in very deep areas, the system will soon lower the lake temporarily by eight feet.

"We have made a lot of progress," said Leicher.
In other cases, however, herbicides have proven effective, quick and have not triggered opposition.

In Taunton and East Taunton, for example, the Department of Conservation and Recreation dumped Sonar to control invasive weeds at Massasoit State Park in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Alan DeCastro, former chairman of the Bristol County Mosquito Control project, said he does not recall hearing any opposition to the plan. The chemical was used twice on Middle Pond and once on Watson Pond State Park and Big Bearhole Pond, according to the state.

"Vegetation was getting kind of bad," said DeCastro. "But the ponds are not sources of drinking water. People just come to fish."

According to state spokeswoman Vanessa Gulati, that was the last time the DCR applied Sonar before coming to Lake Cochituate.

The department, however, gave matching grants ranging from $3,000 to $25,000 to towns to apply herbicides in lakes and ponds and make other improvements. From 1999 to 2002, the state gave 70 grants to towns throughout Massachusetts to control invasive weeds.

For Sarah Little, the former Wellesley pesticide awareness coordinator, the problem is not a question of being in favor or against herbicides.

"Every lake is different. There is not a single solution to control this problem," said Little. "Each lake reacts differently to pesticides, each needs a different management plan."

Wellesley said no to Sonar last year to cure ailing Morse’s Pond.

For years, it used a harvesting method to control its eurasian and variable milfoil problem. Last November, the pond’s management plan was approved and it includes harvesting and dredging the pond’s northern basin.

"Part of the adversarial side of this is that many people feel their health is being threatened. On the other hand, people feel strong about weeds being removed," said Janet Bowser, director of the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission. "I think it comes down to the town setting priorities. Our number one was the protection of our water supply. That is what guided us."

The towns of Wayland, Hudson, Sandwich, Newton, Lincoln and Andover have debated herbicide use for years.

Lake George in New York, Lake Tahoe in Nevada and Lake Amston in Connecticut are other examples of out-of-state victims of milfoil.

The problem is not cheap to solve.

Town resists weed plan: Residents speak out against herbicides at Lake Cochituate

Metrowest Daily News
By Katie Liesener / Daily News Staff
Sunday, February 19, 2006

WAYLAND -- A state plan to use herbicides to curb invasive aquatic weeds in Lake Cochituate met with initial resistance at its first public hearing in Wayland, one of three towns affected by the plan and one that has moved away from herbicide use in recent years.

"Even though these herbicides are being introduced at very low levels, it behooves us to err on the side of caution," said Jackson Madnick, chairman of Wayland’s Surface Water Quality Committee. "We don’t know what the long-term effects are."

The five-year plan, submitted by the state Office of Water Resources, advocates the use of physical means to remove curlyleaf pondweed and milfoil from Middle Pond and North Pond -- two basins of Lake Cochituate that partly lie in Wayland.

Those physical approaches include hand-pulling, suction harvesting and laying heavy mats at the bottom of the lake to crush the weeds. In North Pond, the state also plans to introduce the milfoil weevil, an insect that eats the plant.

But the plan also calls for the use of herbicides fluridone, endothall and/or diquat in Middle Pond, and in North Pond only if physical means are not successful after the first year.

The state plan indicates the chemicals could have "temporary, minor impacts to fish and wildlife habitat." As federally registered herbicides, they do not pose an "unreasonable risk" to humans, according to the plan.

Some Wayland residents are not so sure, questioning both the long-term effects of herbicide exposure and the possibility of groundwater contamination.

Madnick is particularly concerned about the herbicides’ potential effects on children who swim at the town beach on North Pond.

He considers herbicides "a useful tool of last resort." The state set that precedent for cities and towns, he said, in a law that requires schools and day care centers to try alternative methods of pest control before turning to chemicals.

"If we don’t allow even drops of it at schools without considerable oversight, why would we allow our children to bask in it for hours" at the beach?

Madnick said that of about 20 calls he received in the week leading up to the hearing, all but one discouraged herbicide use.

Last year the town chose to discontinue herbicide use at the Town Beach, opting for hand-pulling instead. At Dudley Pond, the same transition to hand-pulling was made two years ago.

"The state will try to use chemicals first because chemicals are cheap," said Lili Griffin, a member of the Dudley Pond Association and the Surface Water Quality Committee.

But chemicals are not a magic bullet, said Griffin, who has worked as an environmental engineer for the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy. She pointed out that Dudley Pond had been treated with fluridone five times, every three years, and weeds continue to be a problem.

Though human efforts alone will not eradicate the weed, she said, "the goal (of hand-pulling) is to let the natural species take back over."

Milfoil, a non-native plant, first appeared in New England in the 1960s and was documented in Lake Cochituate in 2002. In 2003, the weed spread from Middle Pond to North Pond despite a barrier constructed the year prior to catch milfoil fragments, which allow the weed to regenerate.

The feathery weed forms thick underwater forests that crowd out other wildlife, interfere with boating and pose a danger to swimmers.

"The EPA has done extensive research on these herbicides. We would not use them if there was any question about their safety," said Vanessa Gulati, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Water Resources.

One person who did question their safety at the Wayland hearing was Dr. Elizabeth Newton of the Silent Spring Institute, a nonprofit organization examining the links between the environment and women’s health. She said short-term effects of chemicals can be assessed to some extent in animal experiments, though the applicability to humans is never certain. Long-term effects are even more difficult to assess, she said.

Megan Lucier, chairwoman of the Conservation Commission, said residents’ views were as conflicting as the evidence.

"It’s a very emotional issue. I’m just relieved it didn’t get out of hand," she said.

The commission will meet again on March 1, which Lucier said will likely be the last public hearing. The commission has 21 days from the close of the hearing to decide whether to accept the state’s proposal, reject it, or request modifications.

Letter: Using chemicals on lake's weeds is health risk

Boston Globe
February 19, 2006

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts wrote about the Department of Conservation and Recreation's clarification of a "typo" in one of two proposals for "eliminating weeds" in Lake Cochituate (Natick Community Briefing item, Feb. 12 Globe West). We can only hope to manage or control invasive species in this case, not eliminate them. What this change does is eliminate the use of toxins for weed control in one of the two proposals. For those of us who question the wisdom of using dangerous chemicals in the aquifer that recharges our well fields, this is a heartening turn of events. Chemicals are not the answer.

It is time for a comprehensive management plan for the entire lake and watershed that begins to restore the natural protective system of checks and balances.

The use of fluridone and other chemicals to try to kill the invading milfoil might appear to work for one or two seasons, but we are taking an unacceptable risk. We are endangering the health of our children, our drinking-water supply, our native lake weeds, fish and waterfowl, and the future health of this entire system.

Join us at the Natick Conservation Commission hearing on March 2 when these proposals will be discussed, and advocate for nonchemical solutions.

Joni Schneiderman
Natick

Town wants more information on lake herbicide

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Wednesday, February 1, 2006

NATICK -- The state will wait one more month to present its herbicide plan for Lake Cochituate after the Board of Health asked for more information on how the chemicals will affect Natick’s water supply.

Roger Wade, the town’s director of public health, said the board wants to know what happens after the proposed chemical Sonar -- also known as fluridone -- is applied to the lake.

"We need to know they won’t affect the water supply," said Wade. "We neither oppose nor support the plan. We just need additional information."

Wade said the town wants to hear an independent expert on herbicides explain the chemical’s effects. The Department of Conservation and Recreation is suggesting some names to the town.

State officials will appear in front of the Conservation Commission tomorrow night to open the hearing on the two notices of intent filed with the town in which the department proposes the use of herbicides and other non-chemicals methods.

The state, however, will ask to continue the hearing until March 2 to have time to come up with the information the Board of Health wants, said Bob Bois, the town’s environmental compliance officer.

Vanessa Gulati, spokeswoman for the DCR, said yesterday the board has requested to know the "fate and transport" of the herbicides. Some of Natick’s drinking water is supplied by wells that pull from the aquifer near the lake.

"The NOI’s won’t change," said Gulati. "We are only working on providing that additional information."

The state has proposed the use of herbicides at the lake to control milfoil, an invasive, non-native weed that damages and clogs habitat for native plants and fish.

The DCR proposes to treat South Pond with Sonar for the first year of treatment and then with nonchemical methods the following four years. Middle Pond should also be treated with Sonar, as well as herbicides Diquat and/or Aquathol on 2.5 acres near the State Park beach and swim areas, the state says.

North Pond should not be treated with chemicals now, but the state is seeking approval to use them in the future if necessary.

Matthew Gardner, chairman of the Conservation Commission, said the commission needs to study the plan carefully before making any decision.
"We are going to look at all the data and make a decision accordingly," said Gardner.

The state proposed the use of herbicides three years ago but the plan was scrapped after some residents appealed to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The Board of Health also opposed it.

"The situation was different then," said Wade. "The state came to us with less time ahead and we did not have time to review it. Now, we have more time and the DCR is being helpful in providing what we need."

Wade said the next meeting between the Board of Health and the DCR has been scheduled for the end of February but it could happen before that.

Letter: Chemicals aren’t the answer

Metrowest Daily News
Saturday, January 28, 2006

As the MetroWest Daily News recently reported, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has filed notices of intent with the Natick, Wayland and Framingham Conservation Commissions proposing the use of herbicides to control invasive milfoil weed growth in Lake Cochituate.

We share two goals: to rid Lake Cochituate of the invasive milfoil and to safeguard the public health and the public drinking water supply. The spread of milfoil is more than an eyesore; it endangers the survival of the lake and threatens an important economic and recreational resource. We must take aggressive steps to control the spread of milfoil.

While there is still much scientific analysis to be done, we cannot help but be filled with trepidation toward any plan that relies on chemical options first and non-chemical options second.

DCR’s proposal also includes the non-chemical options of hand-pulling, suction harvesting, barrier placements, and the introduction of milfoil weevils, beetles that eat milfoil. However, these exist in the proposal as complimentary to the primary chemical option.

We feel that a commitment should be made to the non-chemical options first, for a period of at least two years, so that we can fully realize those options’ effectiveness, before introducing chemicals into the local ecosystem and water supply. Only after giving the non-herbicide options a chance to succeed should the use of herbicides be considered, as a last resort.

The primary concern in any plan should be the public health. Considering the recreational use of Lake Cochituate and its proximity to a public aquifer, we should use chemicals extremely judiciously, if at all, as a last option after exhausting safer alternatives. We cannot take chances with our health and our public drinking water supply.

SEN. KAREN E. SPILKA, Ashland
REP. DAVID P. LINSKY, Natick

Maddocks: ’Illegal’ milfoil must go

Metrowest Daily News
By Philip Maddocks
Friday, January 27, 2006

Saying that "rules are rules, and laws are laws," Joe Rizoli, the founder of Concerned Citizens and Friends Of Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement (CCFIILE), and his brother Jim have demanded that authorities remove all "illegal" Eurasian milfoil from Lake Cochituate and deport it to its waters of origin.

The Rizoli brothers say the state’s plan, which calls for the use of herbicides fluridone and diquat to control invasive, non-native aquatic weeds that have taken root in over 150 acres of Lake Cochituate, doesn’t go far enough.

"Immigration laws were set in place to deal with a situation that if not enforced would get completely out of control, which is exactly what is happening now," said Jim, holding a video camera in one hand and a bullhorn in the other.

"We have hundreds of acres of milfoil in Lake Cochituate, most of it here illegally," added Joe. "My concern and that of others is that a lot of this milfoil is in a public area where people regularly come in contact with it. If this milfoil is illegal, without documents and obviously without health checks, can these weeds be endangering the public’s health?"

Rizoli pointed to allegations that Halliburton knew that a primary water source at a U.S. military base in Iraq had contamination levels roughly two times that of untreated water from the Euphrates River and yet chose not to tell the troops and civilians who used the water to make their coffee and for showers. This is the type of health hazard lurking abroad, he said, that is trying to make its way into this country.

Halliburton immediately disputed the allegations, issuing a statement saying the company had no prior knowledge of a Euphrates River, but now that its existence has been brought to the company’s attention, Halliburton will do everything in its power to learn about the body of water and the Rizolis.

Hal Lindsey, host of the "International Intelligence Briefing," which is aired on the Trinity Broadcast Network, the world’s largest Christian television network, offered a more apocalyptic take on the milfoil infestation at Lake Cochituate.

Citing last week’s "freaky" storm that passed through the region, toppling trees, downing power lines, and setting transformers on fire, Lindsey, who is also the author of several books on biblical prophesy, including "The Late Great Planet Earth," said: "It seems clear that the prophetic times I have been expecting for decades have finally arrived. And even worse, it appears that the judgment of America has begun. I warn continually that the last days lineup of world powers does not include anything resembling the United States of America. Instead, a revived Roman Empire in Europe is to rule the West, and then the world."

On a recent edition of Christian Broadcasting Network’s (CBN) The 700 Club, host Pat Robertson suggested that Lake Cochituate’s recent milfoil problem was the result of the lake’s path, which takes it through parts of Natick, Framingham, and Wayland and which Robertson claims is "dividing God’s land in the MetroWest."

Robertson admonished: "I would say woe unto any lake in the MetroWest that takes a similar course "
In the meantime, Mike Gildesgame, director of the Department of Conservation and Recreation Lakes and Ponds program, was doing his best to appease God, the Rizoli brothers, and the aquatic herbicide businesses.

"We are looking at a wide range of options for the lake, but my knowledge is that herbicides are the best way to start," he said.

After a first approach with herbicides, Gildesgame said the state would also use other non-herbicide methods like hand-pulling, netting, and possibly weevils - bugs that belong to the beetle family and feast on Eurasian milfoil - which would be introduced into the lake water.

That approach wasn’t satisfying CCFIILE, however. By only "controlling" the milfoil that came to the lake illegally rather than enforcing the current laws, which would result in its removal from the country, the group contends that the state is not only "wasting taxpayer money" but encouraging more illegal immigration to this community by other non-native species all too willing to flaunt the rules.

"Instead of doing the right thing, which is to obey the existing laws, the lawbreakers and their supporters want the laws to change to make it easier for them to carry on, in their lawless course," noted Jim Rizoli. "Course of wisdom would be to enforce the laws already in place, and the rest would take care of itself."

That very little has been done to address the milfoil problem in Lake Cochituate since it was first discovered just before the summer of 2002 has led some to suggest that the state has only "pretended to investigate" the solution to the problem, a charge the state denies.

In a statement approved by Halliburton’s KBR subsidiary, a spokesman for the state said, "I think there was a lot of misunderstanding between headquarters and field offices as to what totally constituted investigations. We’ll gladly leave the rest up to God, Pat Robertson, and the Rizolis."

Letter: Herbicides not the answer

Metrowest Daily News
Thursday, January 26, 2006

This is regarding Claudia Torrens' article on the proposed use of chemicals in Lake Cochituate ("State files herbicide plan with Natick, Framingham, and Wayland," Jan. 20).

The speakers at the recent presentation favoring pesticide applications in Lake Cochituate were quite professional, but clearly not independent, objective experts. Mr. Layne's organization, Aquatic Ecosystem Research Foundation is funded primarily by chemical companies. Dr. Netherland's group is a big supporter of the chemical industry's efforts to develop more effective herbicides.

They told us that chemical manufacturers may spend $60-$80 million to register a pesticide. Subsequent widespread use of these chemicals is necessary to recoup this huge investment. I question a process where test laboratories are working for the chemical's manufacturer.

Using fluridone will not be a one-time thing. We can learn from fluridone applications in other states and other lakes. One of many examples is Lac Lavon in Minnesota. There, they learned "that long-term control of milfoil will require repeated whole-lake treatments." They also found that some treated lakes"had higher water clarity and more native plants before treatment." Our neighbors in Wayland used herbicides in 1992, 1996, 1997, and 1999. Herbicides didn't solve the problem. They're now turning to other methods, including weevils, to battle milfoil.

Let's use alternative, non-toxic methods to deal with aquatic weeds. Tell the Natick Conservation Commission that drinking weed killers is unacceptable.

JONI SCHNEIDERMAN,
Natick

State seeking OK to treat invasive plants in Cochituate

The Boston Globe
By Emily Shartin, Globe Staff
January 22, 2006

The state is asking the towns of Natick, Framingham, and Wayland for permission to use a combination of chemicals and other methods to clear invasive plants from Lake Cochituate.

In the latest step in an ongoing battle over how best to combat Eurasian milfoil, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation has submitted notices of intent to Natick and Framingham, and is slated to submit one to Wayland next week.

Each town's conservation commission will decide whether to allow the state to move forward with plans to attack the plants.

Natick, where several residents have strongly opposed the use of herbicides, will hold a public hearing Feb. 2, said conservation agent Bob Bois. He said the board is ready for the discussion.

Framingham will open its public hearing Feb. 1, said conservation agent Michele Grzenda.

The state is filing two separate notices in each town, one that authorizes the use of chemicals, and one that authorizes nonchemical methods such as hand pulling or the use of weevils, beetles that feed on milfoil.

Vanessa Gulati, a spokeswoman for the state's Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, said the state wants to use the herbicide Sonar in Natick, where milfoil has been a particular problem, and would use the nonchemical methods to maintain the lake afterward. The state is not yet sure whether it would use chemicals in the parts of the lake that border Framingham and Wayland, Gulati said.

Although the state's plan is to use the herbicides in tandem with nonchemical methods, Gulati said it is possible that towns could approve one part and not the other since the plans are split into two pieces.

Environmental officials have insisted that herbicides are safe when used properly, but many residents are still concerned about their possible impact on drinking water.

Carole Berkowitz, who lives on the lake and chairs a group called Protect Our Water Resources, said last week she had not had a chance to review the state notices and could not comment on them.

State files herbicide plan with Natick, Framingham and Wayland

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
Friday, January 20, 2006

Opponents of the use of chemicals in Lake Cochituate said they haven’t decided whether they will appeal a state plan that proposes the use of the herbicide Sonar on the South Pond and Middle Pond sections of the lake.

The state this week filed two notices of intent with the towns of Natick and Framingham proposing the use of herbicides as well as other nonchemical methods to control different types of milfoil.

The aquatic plant is a non-native weed that can choke off plants and fish and make use of the lake difficult for people.

"Until our group has a chance to take a look at them, we don’t know what we will do," said Carole Berkowitz, spokeswoman for the group Protect Our Water Resources. "But we are still looking for nonchemical approaches to deal with the milfoil problem. We still feel we need to try other alternatives."

If opponents of herbicides appeal the plan, they could halt the proposed use of chemicals. A first herbicide plan approved by the Conservation Commission more than two years ago was scrapped after some residents appealed to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Now, milfoil has taken over 58 of the 246 acres of South Pond in Natick. The problem also affects Middle Pond, which is in Natick and Wayland, where milfoil covers 39 acres of the 168-acre basin. In North Pond -- with parts located in Natick, Wayland and Framingham -- the problem is less severe, with less than one acre affected by the weeds.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation will file the same two notices of intent with Wayland on Feb. 1, according to a press release. The state’s plan will need the review and approval of each conservation commission, which could also place new conditions.

One of the notices of intent proposes herbicides as the control method and a second one proposes nonchemical uses like hand-pulling, suction harvesting and barrier placements.

Both notices will be presented to the three towns, although the plan says that "herbicides will likely be required in specific locations where aquatic weed growth is too dense."

Vanessa Gulati, spokeswoman for the DCR, said if the plan is approved by the towns, herbicides will be used on the lake by late May or early June.

According to the state, South Pond should be treated with Sonar for the first year of treatment and then with nonchemical methods the following four years. Middle Pond should also be treated with Sonar, as well as herbicides Diquat and/or Aquathol on 2.5 acres near the State Park beach and swim areas.

North Pond should not be treated with chemicals now, but the state is seeking approval to use them in the future if necessary.
The nonchemical option of the plan says a milfoil weevil study should be conducted on North Pond to target Eurasian milfoil. Weevils are bugs that belong to the beetle family and feast exclusively on Eurasian milfoil.

Hand-pulling the weeds is recommended on South Pond during the first year of treatment only if plants are not completely controlled by Sonar.

Some of Natick’s drinking water is supplied by wells that pull from the aquifer near the lake. According to the plan, the herbicides proposed are state and federally registered herbicides and do not pose a risk to human health.

Bill Frantzen, member of the group Save our Shores, said he was happy about the state’s proposal.

"Anybody who attended that last meeting would clearly see that using chemicals poses absolutely no risk to the public," said Frantzen. "But there is risk to the public if we don’t treat. People get entangled in the weeds; it will continue to cost taxpayers money if we don’t treat."

Frantzen was referring to a meeting organized by the Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee this month in which two experts defended the use of chemicals at the lake. Both experts said there is no data showing that reasonable amounts of Sonar -- also known as Fluridone -- and Diquat, have negative effects on human health.
"Anything that is nonchemical is a waste of taxpayers money and it is a waste of time," said Frantzen.

Bob Bois, Natick’s environmental compliance officer, said the town’s Conservation Commission will hold a hearing on the state’s plan Feb. 2.

Michele Grzenda, Framingham’s conservation administrator, said Framingham will hold the hearing Feb. 1.

Group rallies against herbicides

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens / Daily News Staff
Saturday, December 3, 2005

BOSTON -- A group that opposes the use of herbicides in Lake Cochituate told a state council yesterday the state is wrong in proposing to use chemicals to control milfoil, an invasive aquatic plant.

Ann Karnofsky, a member of Protect Our Water Resources, told the Stewardship Council of the Department of Conservation and Recreation that using herbicides poses dangers to the lake's animals and plants and threatens the town's drinking water.

"It does not make sense to risk the health of the citizens of Natick," Karnofsky said. "This is an extremely serious situation."

The members of the group made their case during the public comment portion of the meeting at the Community Boatho the Boston Esplanade. The Stewardship Council of the DCR is a 13-member advisory council appointed by the governor to work with the secretary of environmental affairs, the commissioner of the DCR and agency staff.

The state plans to file a plan with the Natick Conservation Commission in approximately two weeks proposing a way to control Lake Cochituate's aggressive spread of milfoil. The plan could include the use of the herbicides fluridone and diquat.

Two years ago, a group of residents appealed the state's first plan, which included the use of herbicides. The appeal, however, was set aside because of the strong spread of milfoil, and now the state plans to control the invasive weeds with perhaps even more powerful herbicides.

Some of Natick's drinking water is supplied by wells that pull from the aquifer near the lake.

Karnofsky gave the members of the council an information packet called "The threat posed by the use of herbicides in our lakes and ponds."

"Herbicides have been around long enough. I am here today to ask you to make a change," she told the council in a 10-minute speech.

The group said there are other economically efficient, non-chemical and long-term methods that could control milfoil. Karnofsky proposed yesterday the use of a suction harvester or the use of weevils, bugs that belong to the beetle family and feast exclusively on milfoil.

The chairman of the Stewardship Council, Dick Cross, told the group at the end of the meeting that the council would research herbicides and their use and would talk again during their January meeting.

Another large group of Natick residents in Natick, called Save Our Shores, defends the use of herbicides as the most effective way to control milfoil.

Anti-chemical group gets grant

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens/ Daily News Staff
November 21, 2005

NATICK -- A group of residents concerned with the use of chemicals at Lake Cochituate has received a grant from a regional nonprofit to continue its fight against plans to use herbicides in the lake.

The chemicals have been proposed by the state to control the spread of Eurasian milfoil, an invasive aquatic weed.

The New England Grassroots Environment Fund has given Protect Our Water Resources $1,500 to educate citizens and town boards about the potential harm from applying chemicals, said Ginny Callan, program officer for the fund.

"We felt this group was raising good questions about herbicide use," said Callan. "There are better options than chemicals, less invasive methods. This group is bringing up a point that needs to be raised."

New England Grassroots Environment Fund has given grants to other groups fighting the same cause, said Callan.

"We are excited. We are thrilled," said Carole Berkowitz, treasurer of Protect Our Water Resources. "Part of the forum we did in October at Town Hall will be paid by this money. We are also doing educational projects in town to give people information about why chemicals are not a good idea."

Last month, Protect Our Water Resources organized a forum in Natick during which milfoil experts talked about the weed and explained different methods for controlling the invasive plants.

At the forum, the experts talked about the use of weevils, bugs that belong to the beetle family and feast exclusively on milfoil. The weevil is native to Canada and the northern United States.

The state is preparing a new plan to use herbicides at the lake as a way of controlling the spreading milfoil. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has been seeking permission to use herbicides for two years, but it has encountered strong opposition.

A group of residents appealed an initial plan to use the chemicals, claiming they pose risks to the lake's animals and plants and threaten the town's drinking water.

Joseph Ferson, a spokesman for the state, said the plan is being prepared and could be filed with the town in about three weeks. Ferson said he could not comment on whether the plan proposes the use of chemicals.

"It is likely, but not final yet," Ferson said.

As part of the new plan, the state said months ago, it is considering using fluridone, a white crystalline solid with no odor to treat the entire lake and not just certain spots. The use of weevils has also been considered by the state, said Ferson.

Weevils may be used on weeds

The Boston Globe
By Alison O'Leary Murray, Globe Correspondent
October 9, 2005

State environmental officials are considering using weevils to help rid Lake Cochituate of invasive aquatic weeds, a welcome development for residents concerned about the possible use of herbicides in the water.

''Weevils are being considered as part of the plan, possibly as a pilot project," Department of Conservation and Recreation spokesman Joseph Ferson said last week.

David Linsky, the Democratic state representative from Natick, said he had pushed state officials in a recent meeting to consider alternatives to herbicides.

He was joined by aides from the offices of Senator Karen Spilka, Representative Deborah Blumer and Representative Susan Pope, whose districts are all affected by the lake.

''I urged them to develop a plan for the lake that would be a combination of mechanical harvesting and weevils, not herbicides," he said.

He emphasized that his primary concern is to protect Natick's drinking water supply. Natick's water is drawn from wells that some residents are concerned could be tainted by chemicals in the lake.

The costs of herbicide and weevil treatments are similar, but the insects' progress won't be as quickly apparent as an herbicide application, he said.

''I wanted to ensure that something was done, and this seems to be the most realistic alternative," Linsky said.

The lake has been clogged with Eurasian milfoil, an aquatic weed. Weevils are a type of beetle that eats milfoil.

Protect Our Water Resources, a residents' group that opposes the use of herbicides, held an informational session in Natick recently where Martin Hilovsky, an environmental consultant from Ohio, spoke about the benefits of weevils and displayed a few he had in a vial.

Hilovsky estimated that the right number of beetles could reduce Lake Cochituate's milfoil problem to a manageable level for about $70,000 per year.

Linsky, who had stayed away from the issue up to that point, was convinced. ''If we have an opportunity to get rid of the milfoil without herbicides, everybody should be happy and I thought it was worth trying to convince DCR."

While some residents had spoken out against herbicides, others have seen it as an effective and harmless way to get rid of the weeds.

In 2003, the DCR was given a permit by Natick's Conservation Commission to use herbicides, but residents who would later form the Protect Our Water Resources group appealed, blocking the state plan.

Weeds proliferated in much of the lake while the appeal was pending, spreading to more than 150 acres of the 600-acre lake.

Catherine Paris, a Cape Cod-based scientist who says weevils have been used successfully there, is pleased with the turn of events.

''Just being against herbicides was backing people up against a wall," she said. ''I encouraged [the Protect Our Water Resources group] to do something else, to give them an alternative."

Could weevils be the answer?

Natick Bulletin & TAB
By Mary Kate Dubuss
September 23, 2005

More than 50 town residents who want a say in Lake Cochituate's future met Monday night to hear about alternatives to herbicides that could effectively manage the Eurasion milfoil, an invasive aquatic plant growing in the lake.

One potential way to manage this persistent plant problem would be to introduce the aquatic weevil, a bug belonging to the beetle family that feasts exclusively on milfoil. It is native to Canada and the northern United States.

Martin Hilovsky, the president of EnviroScience, Inc. flew to Massachusetts from Ohio Monday to discuss the weevils and other lake's success stories.

"This is something you could consider," he said, but acknowledged the introduction of the aquatic weevil is not a immediate solution to the problem. "We're talking two to five years to effect long term control."

On the plus side, this small insect - the size of a sesame seed - does not bite people and only feeds on Eurasian milfoil and one other variety of native milfoil, but prefers the invasive species.

"[They are] very underwhelming."

During his presentation Hivlosky, an internationally recognized authority of Eurasion milfoil, also covered some of the more daunting facts associated with the invasive plant. Eurasian milfoil can grow more than an inch a day and is capable of autofragmentation - whenever a piece breaks of a stem that piece is capable of re-rooting in the soil, fostering the species' ability to spread.

He said he does not recommend cutting and collecting milfoil or herbicides.

Herbicides "require reapplication over and over again."

"Milfoil is never going to be eradicated. The best you'll be able to do is control it."

Lakes like Cochituate are experiencing "the monoculture of milfoil," since this weed grows so densely and shades out other plant varieties that die without adequate sunlight.

Hilovsky and his Ohio-based team have been working with Middlebury College in Vermont for eight years to help rid lakes of the weed, which Hilovsky's company literature says is "spreading like wildfire across North America."

While the weevil is in its caterpillar stage, it "tunnels up and down the stem" so the plant subsequently loses its buoyancy.

"Where we put them is largely up to our clients," he said, explaining bundles of 100 are tied onto native plants on a body of water.

Eurasian milfoil is often transported on boats' outboard motors. Until a course of action is decided upon in Natick, Hilovsky recommended a community education campaign at the very least, one that would encourage boaters to completely clean their motors of plant life before heading into Cochituate.

"(Do) anything you can do to educate the community."

He said a weevil project is traditionally a highly visible community project that involves a variety of residents, especially interested college students.

Hilovsky cited a variety of success stories, including Paradise Lake in Emmet County, Michigan. In 1998, the community brought 10,000 weevils to the lake and by the end of the summer milfoil beds that were so dense a canoes could not cross diminishing. The next summer they added 3,000 more bugs. Soon after the beds collapsed and did not return.

Even if a decision is made on milfoil management, outboard motors can transfers much more serious invasive species like Hydrilla Verticilla, which can grow thick mats on any body of water's surface.

"It makes milfoil look like a desirable species," Hivolsky said.

According to the Massachusetts Natural Resource Collaborations, the weed has been found in one pond on Cape Cod and in Stonington, Conn..

"The bad news is others [invasives] are coming," Hilovsky said Monday night. "They are coming from across America and the South."

Forum planned on weed control
Alternatives to herbicides sought

The Boston Globe
By Alison O'Leary Murray, Globe Correspondent
September 18, 2005

Dressed in a traditional plaid kilt and tweed vest, Hamish Blackman attracted attention at the Natick Days fair a week ago. But instead of cradling his bagpipe in his arm, he wielded a clipboard for a group called Lake Cochituate Protect Our Water.

The group says it has gained strength -- and nearly 600 signatures on a petition -- since it began fighting this summer against herbicide treatment of invasive weeds in Lake Cochituate. Organizers plan an informational meeting tomorrow night to discuss alternatives to the herbicides that the state Department of Conservation and Recreation has proposed using.

Blackman is a recent convert. He was supposed to play his bagpipe at the fair but instead ended up discussing the issue with passersby.

''I don't think people know enough about this," said Blackman. ''If our drinking water is drawn from the lake and we put [herbicides] in more than once, what will this do to the lake and our water? We all want the weeds out of there, but can we find alternative ways of doing it?"

The group Protect Our Water has invited Ocean Arks, a group led by University of Vermont professor John Todd, to speak at Natick Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. Ocean Arks could not be reached for details on the presentation.

''It's something the town hasn't indulged in," said Shirley Brown, a member of the group. ''We're doing the Conservation Commission a favor. I hope they come."

The town's Conservation Commission gave the state a permit to apply herbicides to the lake in 2003, but that never took place because Brown and others appealed the permit. Earlier this year, a magistrate set aside the appeal when the Department of Conservation and Recreation said it would present a new plan for weed treatment. The new plan, too, is expected to include herbicides. DCR spokesman Joe Ferson said a new permit application will be filed by Thanksgiving.

Conservation Commission chairman Matthew Gardner, a chemist, said he will be at the meeting because his board is open-minded. ''Our job is to balance the various interests at play," he said. ''It's our job to help the state manage an aggressive invasive species, and it's our job to manage the health interests of the community. It will be a challenge to see if we can find that balance."

The situation is getting urgent, Gardner said, and the lake may be hard to save if the weeds get completely out of control.

That sense of urgency is not shared by everyone, although people on both sides of the issue say they have the same goal.

Sandra Brennan is interested in the Ocean Arks presentation. As chairwoman of the Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee, which supports the state's proposal to use herbicides in the lake, she is anxious to get rid of the weeds, mostly Eurasian milfoil, that she says are choking the lake. But she doesn't think it can be done without using an herbicide at least once.

''We need to bat the weeds back with the herbicide, then follow up" with other methods, such as a mechanical weed-harvesting machine, Brennan said. The advisory committee has done its own investigation of alternatives, including training 40 volunteers to pull weeds near the shore and consulting with an expert on using mechanical means such as harvesters. Thus far, they're not convinced that there's a viable alternative to the herbicides.

Opposition to the herbicides ''baffles me," she said. ''[The herbicides] are Environmental Protection Agency-approved material for use."

She believes there's proof that Natick's drinking water is not threatened by substances in the lake water: Runoff from Route 9 and other developed sites on the shore does not show up in tests of drinking water.

But Carol Berkowitz, a lakeside resident for 38 years, doesn't want to take the risk that herbicides approved now will turn out to be harmful in the future. She has been vigilant about substances flowing into the lake since 1969, when she and others were alarmed by paint residue from a Framingham auto plant.

''The [herbicides] are not going to get rid of the milfoil," she said. ''They may retard the plant growth for a year or two, but they'll grow back. And the [herbicides] will have to be put in the lake continuously for years."

Cochituate State Park Supervisor John Dwinell said the park's attendance hasn't suffered as a result of the weeds, and that most swimmers don't know invasive aquatic plants are a problem at this 614-acre lake because the beach area is cleared regularly. But a couple of bass fishing tournaments were canceled as a result of the infestation.

''We're open to all options," Dwinell said. ''We've always said if somebody can come up with a better alternative, let's see it."

Alison O'Leary Murray may be reached at amurray@globe.com.

Event to focus on lake, herbicide use

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens / Daily News Staff
September 8, 2005

NATICK -- A group that opposes herbicide use in Lake Cochituate is organizing a symposium in which two experts in fisheries and oceanography will explain how a lake functions and how chemicals can impact it.

Carole Berkowitz, treasurer of Protect Our Water Resources, said yesterday a professor from the University of Vermont and his son will inform residents about how to deal better with issues like milfoil, an invasive aquatic weed.

The symposium is scheduled for Sept. 19 at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of Town Hall.

"Out intent is education. We are trying to hopefully let people understand that are other ways to deal with the problem of milfoil and that they are nonchemical," said Berkowitz.

John Todd, professor of fisheries and oceanography at the University of Vermont, and his son, Jonathan Todd, owner of John Todd Ecological Design, will give the lecture. Berkowitz said town officials have been invited to the event, as well as residents of Natick, Wellesley and Wayland.

The state is preparing a new plan to use herbicides at the lake as a way of controlling milfoil, which is spreading quickly. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has been seeking permission to use herbicides for two years, but has encountered strong opposition.

A group of residents appealed an initial plan to use the chemicals, claiming they pose risks to the lake's animals and plants and threaten Natick's drinking water. Berkowitz said that some of the appellants are members of Protect Our Water Resources.

The town's environmental compliance officer, Bob Bois, yesterday said more than 100 acres of Lake Cochituate are affected by milfoil, whereas the invasive plant affected only 50 acres two years ago.

Bois said the use of herbicides is one of the few options available at the lake because other options like hand-pulling or matting are not practical in some areas. However, he welcomed the idea of a forum to talk about the issue.

"It's time for us to hear what those other options are," said Bois. "We have only heard bits and pieces about them and nobody has told the entire story. We are encouraging people to participate in the event."

Pond weeds a nuisance, but town remedies differ
Some use herbicides, others refuse

The Boston Globe
By Emily Shartin, Globe Staff
September 1, 2005

The swimmers and boaters may be gone soon from the ponds and lakes of Boston's western suburbs, but the creeping weeds that have choked some bodies of water will remain -- and so will the debate over how to get rid of them.

Many communities have used herbicides. This year alone, the state Department of Environmental Protection has approved 77 permits to unleash herbicide on an invasive plant called milfoil. Locally, permits recently have been approved in Ashland, Dover, Framingham, Lincoln, Marlborough, Medfield, Newton, and Westborough, according to the department.

Other communities, often at the urging of local activists, are trying out nonchemical treatments such as harvesting by machine or sending divers to pull weeds by hand. Despite vows that herbicides are not hazardous when properly used, many residents insist that they are or could be, especially when they are put in lakes and ponds that supply drinking water.

''We feel that viable alternatives do exist," said Joan Gaughan, who chairs Wellesley's Natural Resources Commission. ''Is it worth taking a chance?"

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has stated that invasive species can dominate or significantly alter an area's ecology, crowd out native plants and animals, and be hazardous to boaters and swimmers. Nonnative species that have established themselves in lakes and ponds throughout the state include water chestnut and both Eurasian and variable milfoil.

Wellesley, which has a policy that discourages herbicide use, is planning to buy a new machine to harvest invasive plants at Morses Pond, and also will use it at its other ponds. Next week, the Stow Conservation Commission is expected to consider a plan to test hand-pulling at Lake Boon. Hand-pulling is also being tested on Wayland's town beach on Lake Cochituate, and on Wayland's Dudley Pond, where there are also plans to use weevils, a type of beetle that eats milfoil.

At the other end of the spectrum, Framingham has been treating its ponds with herbicides for 13 years with few complaints, said conservation agent Michele Grzenda. Westborough has treated Lake Chauncy for 20 years, after finding that mechanical raking didn't work, said recreation director Frank DeSiata.

''If we're going to keep that swim area open . . . the only way we can do it is by applying the chemical," DeSiata said. ''We feel very confident that there's been no negative effect."

The most intense debate over herbicides has focused on Lake Cochituate, whose shoreline is in Natick, Wayland, and Framingham. Natick residents appealed a plan to use herbicide there, and this fall the state is expected
to present a new proposal for attacking the invasive plants.

The state has tried to prevent the spread of milfoil by installing nets between the lake's ponds, said Mike Gildesgame, director of the Office of Water Resources for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, and by putting down plastic mats. Volunteers also have been trained to identify the weed and pull it.

Gildesgame said the new proposal, which will require approval from all the towns around the lake, still will involve herbicide because no other treatment is likely to be effective.

''I don't think there is any other technique," he said. Once herbicide has knocked the plants down, he said, other nonchemical methods can be used to keep any recurrent growth under control.

But Carole Berkowitz, who lives on the shore of Lake Cochituate and is involved with a group called Protect Our Water Resources, supports a ''precautionary" approach that does not involve chemicals. She has argued that milfoil can be cleared from swimming areas through pulling and harvesting, and doesn't believe the whole lake necessarily needs to be cleared.

''We understand milfoil can be a problem in some locations," Berkowitz said.
''In other locations, people are willing to live with it."

Lili Griffin, who lives on Dudley Pond, is concerned about the potential effects of herbicides on the health of children and on the drinking water supply. She mentioned a fish called the grass carp that, like the weevils, has been known to eat milfoil but is illegal in Massachusetts.

''For some reason, the state of Massachusetts would rather have us drink pesticides," Griffin said.

David Deegan, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency's New England regional office, emphasized that herbicides undergo regular rigorous reviews.

''We try to do as much of a real-world assessment as possible," he said.

Bob Hartzel, a consultant who is organizing the weevil project in Wayland, said herbicides are effective at killing invasive plants, but he also said communities should consider their treatment plans over the long term.

''Do you want to keep treating with herbicide every year? Or do you want to use a more natural and sustainable approach?"

Most conservation agents acknowledge that they are not happy about having to use chemicals. Priscilla Ryder, Marlborough's conservation officer, said herbicides were not her first choice to control weeds at Fort Meadow Reservoir, but she said other options were not appropriate. She relies on guidance from the state in approaching the problem. ''You have to evaluate what the benefits and the drawbacks are."

Bob Bois, Natick's conservation agent, said looking at different options is healthy, but he is frustrated that there has been no conclusion in the case of Lake Cochituate.

''I'm a proponent of the discussion," Bois said. ''I just wish it would end."

State investigates snail situation at Lake Cochituate

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens / Daily News Staff
Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NATICK -- The state confirmed this week it has hired an expert to look at whether Lake Cochituate is a habitat for an endangered snail species that could change a herbicide plan.

A University of Massachusetts consultant is working on a survey to find the snail or determine whether the lake is a habitat for the creature, said Joe O'Keefe, assistant secretary of environmental affairs at the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The state has proposed using chemicals to treat the entire lake and not just certain spots as a more drastic way of controlling milfoil, which is spreading aggressively, he said. However, if there are boreal turret snails at the lake and the two herbicides proposed harm the mollusk, DCR will have to come up with a new proposal.

"We would have to go back and determine another control plan to deal with milfoil that would not affect the snail or other species," said O'Keefe.

The tiny, brown snail, also know as Valvata sincera, is listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act as endangered. The state's list of snails considers it locally rare and has a record of it in the Sudbury-Assabet-Concord Rivers watershed.

The presence of the snail, however, has not been studied since 1979 when the state hired a private entity to conduct a survey that stated the lake is a habitat for the animal.

"The first herbicide plan we presented took into consideration that survey," said O'Keefe. That plan was presented in 2003 and said herbicides would not harm endangered wildlife.

A group of residents appealed the proposal, claiming chemicals pose risks to the lake's animals and plants and threaten Natick's drinking water.

The appeal, however, recently was set aside because of the alleged spread of milfoil and now the state plans to more aggressively control the invasive weeds with fluridone, a white crystalline solid with no odor, and diquat, a general use herbicide.

O'Keefe said DCR is also conducting a milfoil survey to look at the extent of the invasion of weeds. The milfoil now affects part of the lake in Natick, Wayland and Framingham.

By early to mid-September both the snail and milfoil surveys could be completed and by the end of the month both final reports will be sent to DCR.

The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program will look at both reports and the state's herbicide proposal in October. If all documents are approved, by November the state could submit a notice of intent with the three town's conservation commissions to implement the plan.

"My clients are happy for this search (on the snail) but all this should have been done three years ago, when the state submitted the first plan," said Martin Levin, attorney for the residents who oppose herbicides. "None of this would have been done if my clients had not appealed the plan."

Levin said he hopes the Natick Conservation Commission won't approve the state's proposal.

Mike Gildesgame, the DCR's acting director of water resources, said the survey conducted by the UMass expert will look at different issues.

"I guess he will look at the characteristics of the area habitat, like the water or certain kinds of bottom at the lake," said Gildesgame. "There are survey techniques established by state agencies to conduct these studies."

Lake Cochituate herbicide plan slows to a crawl

Metro West Daily News
By Claudia Torrens / Daily News Staff
August 27, 2005

NATICK -- A tiny and slippery creature at Lake Cochituate could change an upcoming state plan to use herbicides to control milfoil at the lake.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation is studying the impact that chemicals would have on the endangered Boreal Turret Snail before applying the herbicides, said Bob Bois, the town's environmental compliance officer.

"They are looking at this issue before going on," said Bois.

The snail, also known as Valvata sincera, is listed under the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act as endangered. The state's list of snails considers it locally rare and has a record of it in the Sudbury-Assabet-Concord Rivers watershed.

Mike Gildesgame, the DCR's acting director of water resources, could not be reached for comment to confirm the study of the herbicide impact.

The state proposes using chemicals to treat the entire lake and not just certain spots as a more drastic way of controlling milfoil, which is spreading aggressively, said Joe O'Keefe, assistant secretary of environmental affairs. The chemicals are fluridone, a white crystalline solid with no odor, and diquat, a general use herbicide.

A group of residents opposed to herbicides has appealed the state plan, claiming the chemicals will kill the endangered creature.

"They adversely affect the snail," said Martin Levin, the lawyer for the two dozen residents.

Levin said, although he could not confirm it, his understanding is that the state has hired an expert to determine the impact of chemicals on the mollusk. He and his clients counter that herbicides pose risks to the lake's animals and plants and threaten Natick's drinking water.

The residents appealed the first herbicide plan the state put forward in 2003 to control milfoil. That plan said Lake Cochituate was "a habitat for the snail," said Levin. When the appeal was denied last year, the group challenged that decision to the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals.

Now, the DCR has set aside the appeal because the milfoil situation "is much more severe," said O'Keefe. The state is working now on the new plan proposing the use of fluridone and diquat.

In a letter sent to the Natick Conservation Commission in May 2003, the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program said the application of herbicides would not harm rare species.

"It is our opinion that this project, as currently proposed, will not adversely affect the actual habitat of rare wildlife," said the letter.

Levin said, however, that after a public records request, a Natural Heritage official confirmed that no evaluation had been done on whether herbicides would harm the snail.

"He stated that the (Natural Heritage program) does not have the resources to conduct such searches," said Levin, when he allegedly asked the official whether the species still inhabited Lake Cochituate.

O'Keefe said the snail, which has a shell up to 5 millimeters in diameter, "may or may not change the plan."

"We are looking at the entire picture as it stands," said O'Keefe. "We are comparing the situation to last year. We want to make sure herbicides are safe to use."

Levin has cited in the appeal the work of Emily Monosson, a research toxicologist, who says the herbicides will kill the snail.

"Since Valvata sincera lives and breeds in association with aquatic vegetation, killing the vegetation will kill any associated Valvata," Monosson said in a report.

Letter: Think before you spray

Metrowest Daily News
August 27, 2005

To The Editor:

Media coverage of the ongoing controversy regarding herbicide applications to Lake Cochituate seems to be slanted toward protecting recreation on the lake at the expense of other interests.

It seems to me that our first priorities should be:
1) Prompting safety by protecting those who drink water drawn from the lake and those who swim in the lake;
2) Providing for the longterm health of the lake including protection of native plants and animals.

These primary priorities can be satisfied by refraining from pesticide use on the lake and by mechanical removal of milfoil from swimming areas. Swimming should be banned from uncleared areas.

We need to work to control milfoil while protecting native species. Sonar/fluridone will likely do damage to non-target species while providing potential risks to Natick's water supply users. EPA registration is certainly no guarantee of safety.

The Web site, http://lakecpowr.tripod.com/ contains substantial information on this issue.

ANN KARNOFSKY
Natick

Native plants making comeback against milfoil in Bomoseen

Associated Press
August 27, 2005

CASTLETON, Vt. --Native plants are beginning to fight back against the invasive Eurasian milfoil in Lake Bomoseen, a new survey has found.

In five or more sections of the main lake, Eurasian milfoil weeds are healthy and in good supply, while in many other areas near shore, their growth has been either light or nonexistent, according to a recent survey done by the Lake Bomoseen Association.

After the survey, association officials referred to isolated places with good growth as "hot spots." Quite a few native plants have moved in next to the milfoil or even replaced it, the survey showed.

"In some places you do seem to have more native plants," said James Leamy, LBA's executive director. "We saw a lot of broadleaf (native) plants."

A limited number of smaller, healthy milfoil beds are still seen, but they're nowhere near the size they were when the feathery, red-tinged weed reached its peak on the main lake in the 1990s, he said.

In other places, the beds of broadleaf native plants predominated.

"It's good to see that kind of native cover," he said. "You can get that if you get a decrease in milfoil."

The presence of native plants on the main lake this summer was apparent to local resident Robert Garrow, who also participated in the survey.
"There are a lot of native plants taking over we haven't seen before," he said.

Leamy was particularly surprised by how clear the lake has become in the traveled part of the channel from Woodard's Marina to the main lake. Milfoil remains thick in the channel close to shore, the survey showed.

At its worst, milfoil forms a mat on the lake's surface, becoming so thick that it hinders boating and other recreation. That degree of matting generally has not been seen on the lake this year, and Leamy said the huge beds of milfoil that once dominated parts of the lake are no longer there.

Aldo Breda, who coordinates a program where milfoil is harvested out of the northern end of the lake, said the weed seemed much less dominant where it had been harvested.

The weeds have been down 50 percent in those areas compared to the time before harvesting started in 2000.

The cutting that has opened the northern part of the lake has helped bring a return of northern pike in the past year or so, Breda said.

Maddocks: Time for a new treatment

Natick Bulletin & Tab
By Philip Maddocks
August 26, 2005

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation's proposal to check the spread of milfoil in Lake Cochituate with herbicides has been held up so long in appeal that the state agency, known as the Department of Environmental Management back in 2003 when it filed its original plan with the Natick Conservation Commission, has in the interim changed its name as well as its proposal.

But the new plan and the newly-named agency both seemed headed for the same fate as the previous ones.

That's because no one knows for certain what affect the chemical treatment might have on people who use the water in the lake and from the nearby public water supply. And as we've seen its the lack of knowledge more often than understanding that leads to intransigence.

No one seems to know of any documented health problems, but that seems to be as far as it goes. Take your pick, is it the absence of evidence or the evidence of absence.

The DCR, which owns Lake Cochituate, has made theirs. It said last week that further growth of milfoil has rendered its original plan inadequate. Thus it is planning to ask the Natick Conservation Commission for permission to use an expanded herbicide treatment program.

"If we had been allowed to do what we sought to do last year, the problem would have been solved," Joe O'Keefe, spokesman for the DCR, told the MetroWest Daily News last week. "Now we have an even larger scale of (milfoil)."

This is coming from the same agency that said it discovered milfoil in Lake Cochituate in May 2002 but waited until September of that year before installing floating mesh netting, known as vegetation barriers, between the three main ponds of the lake to help slow the spread of the fast-growing milfoil. And it waited until May of the following year to bring a treatment proposal before the town's Conservation Commission.

Now the DCR, whose original proposal called for using the chemicals diquat bromide and endothall, will likely file an application next month with the Conservation Commission that will include a proposal to use the herbicide fluridone, the same chemical that Wellelsey's Natural Resource Committee voted against using in the town's weed-infested Morse's Pond in June because the town's Integrated Pest Management Policy prohibits the use of herbicides and pesticides on public land or public water supplies, unless there is a direct danger to human health or environmental health, and where no other viable alternatives exist.

In Natick the DCR won't have to contend with any Pest Management Policy but it will have to contend with the same pests who appealed the agency's original plan and will likely appeal any new one that calls for the use of herbicides.

"Do we really want to add more chemicals on top of those that already exist? I really doubt it," said Carole Berkowitz, a lakeside resident who is treasurer of POWR (Protect Our Water Resources), a group formed to oppose herbicide use in Cochituate, whose presence at the lake last week seemed to suggest trouble for the DCR on both the political and acronymal fronts.

POWR gathered at Lake Cochituate on Aug. 17 along with Toxics Action Center of Boston and a group of kids from a South Middlesex Opportunity Council program to voice their opposition to the use herbicides that they see to as a threat to Natick's drinking water, much of which is drawn from a wellhead area along the eastern shoreline of the lake's South Pond.

While the children held signs with messages like "keep our lake safe" and "weed killers kill animals too," the adults clung to the idea that unless the state used the chemicals on them first, its new treatment plan would never get off the ground - or at least into the water.

With another treatment stalemate seemingly imminent, and with some estimating that the milfoil has spread to 120 of the lake's 625 acres, it appears that the milfoil is here to stay for the time being.

Most of the experts say that hand-pulling the weed is only effective when its infestation is limited. But Americans can a remarkably industrious people if given a good reason to work.

So I wonder what would happen if the DCR had their own group of kids posted along Rte. 9 holding signs with the message: "Milfoil, the natural Viagra" or "Because you're worth it, the weed that kills any sign of aging."

The possibilities - and the possible harvesters - are endless.

But it might be a question of ridding one invasive species for another. The presence of this species, though, may have the advantage of bringing unanimity of thought on the appropriateness of chemical treatments .

Editorial: State passing the buck on Lake Cochituate

Metrowest Daily News
Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lake Cochituate is in trouble.

The picture on the front page of Sunday's Daily News of a green Snake Brook was a telling portrait of what happens when pollution and storm water run off go unchecked. The brook runs into Lake Cochituate, one the most highly used and largest bodies of water in MetroWest at 625 acres. People fish and swim in its waters and some portions of Natick get their drinking water from wells along the lake's shore.

Last year, the state's Metropolitan Area Planning Council released an improvement plan for the lake which focused on managing storm water run off, particularly near beaches. Framingham's Saxonville Beach and Wayland's town beach are on the lake along with Cochituate State Park in Natick. That report placed a $3 million price tag on protecting the lake.

Problem is, the state placed nearly all of the fiscal responsibly on lake improvement and protection on the local towns by asking them to pay for storm water improvement and toughen local bylaws. As a result, none of the projects have even begun.

The state is passing the buck. It should be the state that enforces or enacts tougher storm water run-off laws that target both commercial and residential pollution. A study already shows that a 17.7 square-mile area around the lake that includes parts of Framingham, Natick, Wayland Ashland and Sherborn is the primary drainage area for the lake. What filters down from this area eventually pollutes the lake. Why not regulate pet waste, lawn fertilizer, garden chemicals, septic systems and other sources of pollution in the Lake Cochituate watershed? And shouldn't those regulations include stiff fines for polluters?

The state should also not pass the buck on paying for projects that protect a state resource. At least half the cost of local storm water projects should come from state coffers, especially if the state is mandating tougher enforcement of run-off.

Ultimately, the major responsibility of cleaning up and preserving the lake falls on those who live nearby. Homeowners and businesses can no longer assume that what washes down storm drains -- things like pet feces and garden chemicals -- are out of sight and out of mind.

And it's not just pollution that threaten the lake. Lake Cochituate is fighting a losing battle against the invasive weed milfoil as residents and the state differ over the use of herbicides. A court battle is brewing over that situation while the weed continues to choke the lake. We hope a resolution on that front can be resolved quickly.

Homeowners and businesses need to exercise caution and restraint while the state needs to step up to the plate to show it's serious about protecting the lake from pollution. Waiting too long to take action could turn Lake Cochituate from a regional jewel to a smelly swamp.

Milfoiled again

Metrowest Daily News
By Jon Brodkin / Daily News Staff
Thursday, August 18, 2005

NATICK -- As state environmental officials prepare a new plan to use herbicides in Lake Cochituate, residents and others opposed to the chemical use are preparing to block what they see as a threat to Natick's drinking water.

The herbicide opposition, consisting of a local residents group and the Toxics Action Center of Boston, gathered by the lake yesterday to demand that the Conservation Commission prevent the use of herbicides to kill milfoil, an invasive aquatic weed.

The lake has already suffered decades of pollution caused by the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, said Carole Berkowitz, a lakeside resident who is treasurer of POWR (Protect Our Water Resources), a group formed to oppose herbicide use in Cochituate.

"Do we really want to add more chemicals on top of those that already exist? I really doubt it," Berkowitz said.

As Berkowitz spoke, a group of kids from a South Middlesex Opportunity Council program held signs with messages like "keep our lake safe" and "weed killers kill animals too."

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has been seeking permission to use herbicides at the lake for two years, but has encountered stiff opposition. Residents appealed the state's initial plan to use the chemicals diquat bromide and endothall in June 2003, effectively delaying any chemical application.

Now the state says further growth of milfoil has made the original plan inadequate and plans to ask the Natick Conservation Commission for permission to use an expanded herbicide treatment program.

"If we had been allowed to do what we sought to do last year, the problem would have been solved," said Joe O'Keefe, spokesman for the DCR. "Now we have an even larger scale of (milfoil)."

Some, including Bob Bois, Natick's conservation agent, say the milfoil has spread to 120 of the lake's 625 acres.

O'Keefe said the state, which believes herbicides are the only viable way to solve the lake's milfoil program, intends to file an application with Natick in the next month seeking permission to use either diquat or fluridone, two types of herbicides

State and federal environmental regulators allow use of certain herbicides to kill invasive plants, but there is much debate over whether the chemicals can harm drinking water and swimmers.

Herbicide opponents say diquat has adverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract, eyes, kidneys, liver and lungs, while fluridone causes similar problems and may be a carcinogen.

Herbicide proponents say diquat would bind to sediment and not contaminate drinking water. However, a Department of Environmental Protection memo in May 2003 said an analysis could not rule out health effects for children who swim three hours a day in a water body containing diquat.

Despite questions about health effects, many people concerned about the growing milfoil problem are disappointed herbicides have not been used.

"It's gotten so out of control in the past couple of years because of the delay that it's just tragic to see it," said Natick resident Eileen Samels, who lives on the lake. "My kids won't swim in the shallow end because their feet get caught in the weeds. It's dangerous."

Natick Conservation Commission member George Bain said yesterday he does not know whether the commission would approve another herbicide plan. If it does, the amount used will likely be much bigger than the state originally proposed.

"There's been significant spread of the materials, so there may have to be a larger treatment area for the herbicides to be effective," Bain said.

A body of filthy evidence?

Metrowest Daily News
By Jon Brodkin / Daily News Staff
Sunday, August 14, 2005

Twenty years ago, Ron Price of Natick could look out onto Snake Brook just steps away from his back yard and see a clear, clean body of water.

Today, after two decades of barely controlled stormwater pollution, he sees a brook with portions so choked by weeds and algae it looks like you could walk on its surface. Price calls it a "marsh in the making."

"When I moved here, it was a clear pond," Price said recently, standing on his dock. "I would put my boat in it, fish the pond, fish the brook. You can't fish this (now)."

Price, a member of the Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee, isn't the only one who has noticed a dramatic change for the worse at Snake Brook and other water bodies within the Lake Cochituate watershed. But a shortage of funding for projects to tackle the lake's problems will likely prevent real progress any time soon.

It's well known the 625-acre lake -- a major source of recreation and drinking water -- has been plagued by pollution from the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick.

The Army pollution seems to be under control because of an ongoing, multi-million dollar federal cleanup. The major challenge, then, may be addressing pollution from seemingly innocuous activities, such as homeowners fertilizing their lawns.

Fertilizers and pet feces drain into the lake, bringing nutrients that cause excessive growth of the invasive weed milfoil and other plants and algae, depriving fish of oxygen and limiting boating and swimming. The lake also absorbs other pollutants through stormwater runoff, including heavy metals, oil, grease and bacteria.

The 17.7-square-mile area that drains into the lake extends through parts of Framingham, Natick, Wayland, Ashland and Sherborn. Drainage from routes 9, 135, 30 and the Massachusetts Turnpike also pollutes Cochituate.

"Everything that goes down the storm drains in this watershed leads to a pipe that goes into the lake," said Martin Pillsbury, regional planning manager of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

One year ago, the council released a water quality management plan detailing the scope of the lake's stormwater runoff problems and recommending 15 projects for the watershed towns and state agencies.

Though many people say Lake Cochituate is in surprisingly good shape given its location in a heavily developed area, the report notes that Cochituate likely does not meet surface water quality standards set by the federal Clean Water Act.

The Planning Council recommended more frequent street sweeping and catch basin cleaning, bylaw changes to control stormwater runoff, as well as the 15 projects, which have a total estimated cost of $3 million. The projects are recommended for the Massachusetts Highway Department, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and the three towns bordering the lake:
Natick, Framingham and Wayland.

They include a $250,000 project to control discharge of highway runoff into Snake Brook; $1.1 million worth of projects at Beaver Dam Brook in Natick and Framingham to limit sediment buildup and divert runoff into catch basins; a $150,000 project to control eroding slopes and parking lot runoff at Framingham's Saxonville Beach; a $500,000 project to create a wetland system at Pegan Cove in Natick; and $240,000 to revamp drainage systems at the Mass. Turnpike plaza in Natick.

Pillsbury said he is pleased by interest town officials have given the report, but says it will take years to actually complete the work.

"Three to five years would probably be optimistic, because of the nature of how long it takes to identify funding and do contracts," he said.

Framingham has earmarked money for the work at Saxonville Beach, located on the lake's North Pond. But there appear to be no firm plans to complete the other projects recommended by the MAPC.

"Unless (town officials) appropriate (money) or we can get a grant, the progress we can make on these projects is going to be painfully slow," said Peter Sellers, director of Framingham Public Works.

Even the regular maintenance that prevents pollution into the lake and other water bodies is daunting. There are 600 outfalls -- "an incredible amount" -- that drain directly into Framingham water bodies and wetlands, Sellers said.

And there are about 12,000 catch basins throughout the town that are supposed to prevent pollution, but are often clogged. It takes three or four years for Framingham to clean all of them, but the town makes sure to clean all those near Cochituate each year, Sellers said.

Without regular maintenance, the catch basin sumps that trap solids become overloaded.

"You want to keep the sump empty, so that the water does not carry the material into the pipe, which eventually gets into the body of water it dumps into," Sellers said.

Natick probably faces the biggest challenge in keeping the lake clean, since most of the lake is within the town's borders. Natick cleans its catch basins, including those near Cochituate, on a three-year cycle, said Bob Bois, the town's environmental compliance officer and conservation agent.

Bois said the town hasn't committed to any of the MAPC-recommended projects. They are difficult to tackle because of limited funding and questions about coordination and the authority to do work on private land, Bois said.

But he said Natick is trying to educate residents about limiting stormwater pollution and has developed a townwide stormwater management plan that will help solve some of the problems identified by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.

"It really is a big challenge, to tell you the truth," Bois said. "Stormwater has always been an issue, and up until now it really has not been regulated that well."

The MAPC report recommended just one project for the town of Wayland: a $50,000 job to control discharges near the town beach on North Pond. Several town officials said they are not aware of plans to complete the work.

There were also two recommendations for the state Highway Department: a $120,009 project to address drainage into Middle Pond, and a general commitment to increase street sweeping and catch basin cleaning. Department spokesman Erik Abell said highway officials are considering the recommendations.

Snake Brook, which is in Wayland near the Natick border and drains into the lake, was supposed to get some much-needed help with a federal grant being implemented by state environmental officials. But the funding was pulled this year after officials determined the project would be delayed by contamination, which Ron Price said came from a nearby gas station.

"We do not know what impact the site contamination would ultimately have on the feasibility" of the project, Department of Environmental Protection official Jane Peirce wrote in an e-mail to a member of the Cochituate advisory committee. "But we do know, at the moment, there is no clear strategy for accomplishing a cleanup in a timely manner that will let us move forward with the work we envision."

In the meantime, sediment buildup and the rapid growth of aquatic plants -- especially milfoil -- will continue. State environmental officials want to control the invasive milfoil with herbicides, but have been unable to because of legal appeals launched by residents opposed to the chemical applications. Bois said the milfoil has probably spread to about 120 acres of the lake.

"They've now held (the herbicides) off for two years, and the milfoil has taken over to where we probably can never get rid of it," said George Dixon, a member of the Cochituate park advisory committee.

Despite the problems, there are enough positives at Lake Cochituate to ensure it remains a popular spot for recreation. Cesar Deossa, a Watertown resident who was at the beach near the Natick boat ramp recently, said after visiting Walden Pond he was impressed with the cleanliness of Lake Cochituate.

"(Walden) Pond was really, really disgusting and smelly," Deossa said. "This is not too bad. It's much better than other ones."

Lake Cochituate milfoil situation worsens

Metrowest Daily News
By Claudia Torrens / Daily News Staff
Friday, June 24, 2005

NATICK -- The state is considering more drastic measures, including use of an herbicide, in an attempt to get rid of milfoil that is spreading across Lake Cochituate.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has set aside an appeal from residents who oppose the use of herbicides to kill invasive milfoil at the lake because the situation "is much more severe," and different steps need to be taken.

Joe O'Keefe, assistant secretary of environmental affairs at the department, said yesterday that since the initial herbicides proposed by the state are insufficient now to control the milfoil, officials are looking at a new plan.

"We are back at square one," said O'Keefe. "The increase in milfoil has forced us to come up with a new proposal."

O'Keefe said under the new plan -- which will have to be presented to the town's Conservation Commission -- the state is considering using fluridone, a white crystalline solid with no odor to treat the entire lake and not just certain spots.

O'Keefe said he did not know when the plan would be filed.

Bob Bois, the town's environmental compliance officer, said he has not seen the state's proposal yet.

Martin Levin, the lawyer for a group of residents, said yesterday the new plan could be "even worse" than the one that was first presented in 2003 which his clients decided to appeal.

"There is no assurance that these chemicals applications are going to get the problem under control," said Levin. "The state is failing to implement non-chemical alternatives."

The lawyer said yesterday that herbicides pose risks to the animals and plants of the lake and are a threat to Natick's drinking water.

Levin's two dozen clients appealed the herbicide plan the state put together in 2003 to control milfoil. When the appeal was denied last year, the group challenged that decision to the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals.

The group was questioned by an officer from that agency.

Levin said that after his clients' testimony, the state decided to set aside the appeal and file a new notice of intent with the town for its latest plan.

Levin said that if the Conservation Commission likes the state's proposal, the group -- most of whose members live in Natick -- could appeal the plan again.

Mike Tilton, a member of the Lake Cochituate Advisory Committee, said yesterday an appeal from residents will delay the whole process.

"What upsets us is that products like these have been used for years,"said Tilton. "From what I have heard, pesticides designed to be used for water supply can be used safely."

Framingham's Bill Frantzen, who started the Save Our Shores group to fight Levin's clients' appeal, agrees.

"We need to treat the lake as soon as possible. The state has very qualified management and has a good new plan," said Frantzen. "The weeds are dangerous to swimmers and hurt the lake ecology dramatically. The longer it takes to treat, the more it will cost the taxpayers."

Frantzen said 125 acres of the lake now have milfoil.

He said that herbicides pose no danger to the public.

"We have yet to see any concrete data to support the appealers of this needed treatment," said Frantzen. "Otherwise we are very close to losing this precious resource."

Herbicide poses minimal threat to humans, officials say

Shore Line Times (Connecticut)
By: CHRISTEN KELLEHER, Staff Writer
June 22, 2005

The goal: To make Lake Quonnipaug a weed free zone. Pending Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection agency approval, parts of the north and south cove in Lake Quonnipaug will be treated with the herbicide known as Sonar SRP.

The herbicide will be used to control invasive weeds and plants, which threaten fish and other animals in the water and on nearby land.

The herbicide will be sprayed across an area of less than five acres.

Spraying, which began this week and continues through June 30, is part of a research effort on the control of aquatic weeds by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

According to the company that produces Sonar SRP, SePRO in Carmel, Ind., the two ingredients that could threaten animals are fluridone and pyridinone.

These two ingredients could, in large doses, also be harmful humans. Potential health effects at large doses include eye irritation and respiratory difficulty.

Inhalation can irritate the upper respiratory tract including the nose and throat, and excessive inhalation of the substance could lead to long-term lung damage.

Anyone who inhales large doses of the herbicide should immediately be exposed to fresh air.

To avoid breathing the dust, people should wear a respiratory mask and wash their hands thoroughly after applying the herbicide.

If the chemical gets on skin, it is advised to wash immediately to avoid burns, absorption or irritation.

Fluridone in animals has been shown to cause liver and kidney damage and repeated exposure to the chemical may give animals a disabling disease of the lungs called "silicosis."

Manufacturers of the herbicide recommend following precautions carefully to avoid adverse effects. In order to avoid impact on threatened or endangered species, users of the product should not dump the chemical in the water or apply to any trees or shrubs growing in the water. Application to such plants could be harmful.

The herbicide in its liquid form is a dark gray color. It also comes in a dark brown pellet variety with a faint musty odor. Company representatives say that the substance is not flammable but if burned, can emit a toxic fume.

Swimming at Lake Quonnipaug will not be restricted while the herbicide is being applied.

Guilford Environmental Planner Leslie Kane was not available for comment.

Greg Bugbee of the Office of Soil and Water at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven was not available for comment.

Curing the pond: Is an herbicide really the best solution?

The Wellesley Townsman
By Michael Cox/ Townsman Staff
June 9, 2005

Wellesley residents concerned with the deteriorating condition of Morse's Pond better get used to hearing the word "fluridone." It is likely to be repeated many times as the debate over how best to clean up the pond intensifies.

During a meeting at Town Hall this week, pond supporters debated the merits of using what some consider a controversial herbicide to reverse the effects of years of careless pollution that has fostered unwanted plant growth in the pond.

"Our only opposition to the pond problem is the use of fluridone," said Sarah Frost Azzam, chairwoman of the nonprofit Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project. She believes federal regulating agencies need to study the herbicide more before the town decides to use it. "It's better to be safe than sorry," she added. "I'd rather have a few weeds than a health problem for our community."

But Ken Wagner, a specialist with the environmental firm ENSR and the town's consultant on Morse's Pond, defended fluridone's use, saying he does not believe the pesticide poses an undue risk for the benefits it provides.

"Fluridone is not a carcinogen," Wagner replied. "We do not perceive there is a risk to health. "

But he added, "I have no problem at all if the town is not comfortable with it. That's why we are coming up with other solutions."

About 50 residents attended Monday's public forum to discuss the Morse's Pond Ad Hoc Committee's recommendations to fix the pond. Fifteen residents who attended the meeting identified themselves as opposed to using fluridone as a possible solution.

To get control over the rooted plants and algae infesting the pond, Wagner suggested a long list of potential remedies, including dredging the pond, a process in which the nutrient-rich sediment that feeds the plants is removed by wet or dry evacuation. However, Wagner pointed out that the cost for this alternative could soar well beyond $5 million. "If money and permits were no factor," he said, "I would strongly consider this option."

Town officials attribute the weed and algae overgrowth in Morse's Pond to its 8.8-square-mile watershed, which drains nearby Route 9, as well as local commercial and industrial sites and homes. Some of those pollutants affecting the pond include road salt, gasoline, upstream septic systems, pesticides and fertilizers.

Any method the town chooses to remedy the problem must also include a watershed management program to control unwanted pollutants from entering the lake in the first place, Wagner noted.

While the process was debated, it was clear that all the residents who spoke on the matter wanted the ad hoc committee to come up with a long-term solution to the problem, even if that meant going back to the town three or four times to get the support they need.

In addition to its many recreational uses, Morse's Pond is also an important component of the town's water supply, with three gravel-packed wells drawing water from a major aquifer under the pond. Town residents use the pond to swim, boat, bird watch, fish, ice skate and walk along paths that are part of the town's trail system. The pond also is a habitat for numerous aquatic plant and animal species.

Besides its potential effects on swimmers and the water supply, Frost Azzam said she was also opposed to fluridone because of what harm it might do to animals and water creatures. "We know it kills plants. The part we're not sure about is if it will kill other things."

In addressing the drinking water issue, Wagner pointed out that the federal government has approved fluridone for use in drinking water at twice the level he would be proposing to use it. He said the fluridone would be applied at eight parts per billion, or roughly a drop for the size of a swimming pool.

"I've never been a fan of herbicides," he added. "The key is when it's appropriate to use it."

The Board of Public Works, the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) and the Recreation Commission will hold another meeting about Morse's Pond on Thursday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Hall at Town Hall.

Residents are encouraged to attend this education forum to lend their voices to the discussion of the options the town has been studying to protect Morse's Pond. The draft recommendations can be seen on the NRC's web site at www.ci.wellesley.ma.us/nrc.

NRC says no to controversial herbicide

The Wellesley Townsman
By Michael Cox/ Townsman Staff
June 30, 2005

By a vote of 4-1 and following three public hearings on the matter, Wellelsey's Natural Resource Committee has said no to the use of the controversial herbicide fluridone to cure the ailing Morses Pond.

The decision, made June 16, comes as town officials grapple with how best to solve weed overgrowth that is strangling the popular body of water, which residents use for swimming, boating and, most importantly, their drinking water.

NRC vice-chairman Heidi Gross, who voted against the herbicide, said the decision was an easy one because it is consistent with the Integrated Pest Management Policy the NRC, School Committee and Board of Health passed two years ago. That policy prohibits the use of herbicides and pesticides on public land or public water supplies, unless there is a direct danger to human health or environmental health, and where no other viable alternatives exist.

"This is not a solution that is acceptable to the policy," said Gross, who cited an outbreak of the West Nile virus as an instance in which the use of a pesticide would be acceptable. "These weeds in the pond are not a detriment to human health."

In addressing environmental health, Janet Bowser, director of Natural Resources Commission, said the use of a pesticide would be permissible, for example, in an instance where pests are threatening all the maple tress in town.

Bowser, who is not a voting NRC member, said that given all she knows about fluridone, and having been involved in writing the town's pest-management policy, she is opposed to using fluridone in the pond.

Ken Wagner, an environmental consultant working for the town suggested the use of fluridone as one of several potential remedies for Wellesley to consider in an attempt to get control over the rooted plants and algae infesting the pond. During a public meeting, he said that the herbicide was not a carcinogen and pointed out that the federal government has approved it for use in drinking water at twice the level he would be proposing to use it. In Morse's Pond, fluridone would be applied at eight parts per billion, or roughly a drop for the size of a swimming pool, he said.

Town officials attribute the weed and algae overgrowth in Morse's Pond to road salt, gasoline, upstream septic systems, pesticides and fertilizers that drain into the watershed. Town officials considered the fluridone option because they viewed it as a more cost-effective solution compared with the other proposals.

Yet, Gross and others were still uncomfortable with its application. The herbicide had also drawn opposition from the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project and the town's Department of Public Health. NRC member Peter DeNatale was the lone vote in favor of fluridone's use.

"These other alternatives are more expensive, but they are not experimental and they do not impact on human health," said Gross, who noted that fluridone is only a decade old and she felt not enough information about it exists.

Gross said the NRC will now focus its attention on dredging and harvesting as options, even though it is believed that the cost for these alternatives could soar well beyond $5 million.

Still, Gross is elated with the committee's vote.

"I don't want to look back 10 years from on a decision that I was part of and find out some person in Wellesley is having an adverse effect because of it," she said.

Panel rejects herbicide for Morses Pond

Boston Globe
By Lisa Keen, Globe Correspondent
June 26, 2005

Will Wellesley's next generation know it as Morses Pond or Morses Marsh?

That's the multimillion-dollar question the town faces now that it has removed the cheapest solution -- herbicide -- from its arsenal of weapons to battle the weeds that have invaded the 103-acre pond.

Wellesley has been struggling for 40 years to figure out a way to prevent weeds, algae, and sediment from destroying the pond, which was created with small dams only a century ago.

''When all the hot air has been dissipated, we still have only two options: fluridone and dredging," said resident Arnold Reif at a public hearing June 16.

Following that hearing, which drew a large number of residents opposed to the use of herbicides in the town's primary source of drinking water, the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission voted 4 to 1 against relaxing its policy to allow the consideration of fluridone.

The cost of completely dredging the lake has been estimated at more than $5 million. That's an expense that may not sit well with voters, who last month rejected a tax hike to spend $470,000 to teach Spanish to elementary school students and $66,000 to maintain two branch libraries.

''Before we spend millions of dollars, I think we need to ask whether this is the best way to spend that money in terms of cost-benefit analysis," Sean Milano said at the June 16 hearing. ''It's a lot of money to benefit a small minority of people."

Neighbors and residents who go to Morses Pond for recreation are distraught over how quickly weeds are taking over the lake, making it impossible for sailing, difficult for paddling, and unpleasant if not dangerous for swimming.]

''Someone has to speak up for the pond," said Christina Medici, who added that she and like-minded neighbors feel they are not only advocates for themselves but also custodians of the pond.

''We see blue herons that come there, the three families of muskrats, the buildup of mussel shells, the swans, and so much," said Medici. She said ''an affluent community" should spend the money ''to take care of something so wonderful."

Fluridone would have cost only about $400,000 over the course of 20 years. But speakers at the June 16 hearing overwhelmingly opposed taking a chance on the herbicide, even though it has been approved for use in drinking water sources at concentrations much higher than Wellesley was likely to need.

Reif, a former president of the Boston Cancer Research Association, led the charge against the chemical.

While acknowledging ''there's no evidence that I know of that fluridone causes cancer," he noted that federal agencies ''continually update their limits on all substances." He said there was only about 10 years' worth of data on fluridone.

Fluridone and two other herbicides are used, with state approval, to treat the 35-acre Nonesuch Pond in Weston. The swimming and boating pond was restored from being a ''meadow," says Jean Estes, a member of the Nonesuch Pond Improvement Association, which has been active in cleanup efforts. The chemical treatments are paid for by the private Rivers School, which uses the pond for its summer camp.

If no action is taken, Ken Wagner, Wellesley's environmental consultant, the north basin of Morses Pond could become wetlands within 20 years.

That would not pose a threat to the town's water supply, according to Joe Duggan, superintendent for Wellesley Water and Sewer. Duggan said the town doesn't get its water directly from the pond, but from wells drilled underneath it. Morses Pond could become a meadow and still provide drinking water, he said, pointing to the example of Rosemary Meadow, another source of town water.

If the pond does become wetlands -- which vary from swamps and marshes to bogs and fens -- federal and state regulations would make it more difficult to reclaim areas for swimming and boating.

When the Morses Pond Ad Hoc Committee meets tomorrow, it will give Wagner his marching orders for developing recommendations for the pond. Wagner is expected to report back in August, after which another round of public hearings will be held. A final proposal for the pond could go before Town Meeting next spring.

For the budget year that ends Thursday, the Recreation Department will have spent $42,000 for biological treatment and monitoring of the pond. The town's Department of Public Works has been spending $20,000 to $25,000 a year to harvest the weeds and do other cleanup work around the swimming beach, says its director, Michael Pakstis. But the town's harvesting equipment has outlived its usefulness.

Even if the town bought a new machine at an estimated cost of $250,000 and assigned two employees to operate it full time, the weeds could still end up winning the war, Wagner said.

In the long run, the consultant said, the town's best chance of saving the pond will involve a combination of techniques along with a campaign to persuade residents to curtail use of fertilizers and other materials that contain phosphorus.

Through runoff, the treatments used to beautify lawns wind up promoting ugly growth in the pond, he said.

The Morses Pond Ad Hoc Committee will meet at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow in the Department of Public Works Administrative Building at 455 Worcester St.

STATE EYES NEW TACK ON WEED TREATMENT
SOME STILL PRESS FOR HERBICIDES

ALISON O'LEARY MURRAY, GLOBE CORRESPONDENT
05/29/2005 Globe West

While debate continues over the best way to attack the weeds that have invaded Lake Cochituate, the weeds keep growing.

The lake's swimming area was cleared of the plants, which are mostly Eurasian milfoil, in advance of the season opening this weekend, but according to Cochituate State Park supervisor John Dwinell, the plants weren't dealt much of a blow by hand-pulling and use of special mats that are laid on the lake floor to smother them.

"There's a vast amount of milfoil in the south and middle pond," he said.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation has been battling for two years with Natick residents who oppose the use of herbicides to kill the feathery milfoil, a species that multiplies rapidly and has become a problem in lakes and ponds across the country.

The state had a permit to use herbicides on the lake, which extends into Natick, Framingham, and Wayland, in 2003. But the chemicals were never used because of residents' concerns about the possible impact on the town's drinking water supply.

Since then, the issue has been tied up in the state Division of Administrative Law Appeals, where both sides were to testify next month. Now, the Department of Conservation and Recreation says the hearings should no longer be held because the agency wants to submit an entirely new weed control plan.

"The original notice of intent and order of conditions no longer apply because the situation has changed so much," said department spokeswoman Corbie Kump, who acknowledged that the optimal time for treating the lake with herbicides this season is rapidly passing while weed infestation has grown to cover more than 100 acres. "We're kind of starting over again in order to adequately address the situation."

The state doesn't have its new plan ready yet, but Kump said it will be a multifaceted approach that will include the use of herbicides and could also include hand-pulling and placement of more mats. Any plan to alter vegetation in or around a body of water must be approved by the local conservation commission; Kump said the state will file an application with Natick officials within 30 days.

Interested residents may get a sneak preview of the state plan at the annual meeting of the Lake Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee, set for 7 p.m. June 14 at Natick's Morse Institute Library meeting room.

Sandra Brennan, chairwoman of the committee, which advises the DCR on lake issues, wants more than a new plan to address the weeds. Her group has asked state legislators to intervene and change the process so the lake's weed problems can be addressed more quickly.

"We knew it would be a long process, but it's frustrating for everybody," Brennan said. She's part of a volunteer Weed Watcher group that is trained to hand-pull the weeds from the water. She believes the substances the state has chosen to kill the weeds are the only effective way of controlling their growth.

Martin Levin, attorney for the residents who appealed the state's weed control plan, is also chagrined at the process, but for a different reason. He had toxicology experts lined up to testify at the administrative hearing that the chemicals the state wants to use are toxic and that the town's drinking water and young fish would be tainted. If the case were heard by a judge, it could be precedent-setting, he said.

"There are frequently opponents to the use of chemicals in water bodies, but it's not so frequent that water bodies at stake are acknowledged to contribute 1 million gallons per day to a town's water supply," he said. "That circumstance is the reason so many experts essentially donated their time."

Ann Karnofsky, a Natick resident who opposes the use of herbicides, says she'll fight any plan that includes them. "It's simply a matter of doing what's best," she said, arguing that alternative methods haven't been thoroughly investigated, including introducing a species of carp that eats the weed. "I don't know why they're so stuck on using chemicals here. Any plant they're trying to obliterate will only grow back."

Other residents see no problem with use of the herbicide.

One lakeside resident, meteorologist Bruce Schwoegler, says the process has been hijacked by a minority and needs to be put back on track to allow herbicides before the lake is further clogged.

I see a small minority impeding the process and having a negative impact on a very large majority," he said in a telephone interview, describing how boaters are already cut off from moving among the lake's three sections by barriers meant to hold back the weeds. "They're crying wolf. It's a pain for our recreational purposes and there's no need for it."

Weevils to wage war on weeds

Boston Globe
By Megan Woolhouse, Globe Staff
January 13, 2005

The weevils are coming. About 12,000 of them. And Wayland is hoping that the tiny beetles bring a whale of an appetite.

The weevils (officially, Euhrychiopsis lecontei) will fly -- not on their own, but in a cargo container -- from a farm in Ohio where they are bred.

They are destined for Dudley Pond, as part of a federally funded pilot project to control Eurasian milfoil, an invasive weed that has choked fish and plant life on the pond and curtailed boating and swimming.

If everything goes as planned, the weevils will arrive this summer and, over the next three years, munch their way through the milfoil.

But not everyone in Wayland welcomes the weevils. Although the critters have already been put to work in other lakes and ponds around the state, including Wachusett Reservoir in West Boylston and Lake Waban in Wellesley, members of the Dudley Pond Association are divided over whether they will be sufficiently voracious.

Weevil advocates hope that the beetles will eliminate the need for chemical treatments, which kill other plants in addition to milfoil. Opponents say the water weeds will overrun the pond before the weevils have time to consume them. The debate has pitted the two factions against each other and has raised tensions between new and old pond residents.

''We've been talking about weevils for 10 to 15 years," said Judy Currier, recent president of the Dudley Pond Association. ''It gets to be very contentious."

Since the early 1990s, the town has paid as much as $30,000 every three years to have herbicides dumped and sprayed on the 86-acre pond to stop the weed. Citing the toll that spraying has taken on other native plants, some residents have also expressed concern about possible harm to humans, because the local water supply comes from aquifers near the pond.

Smaller than half a grain of rice, the beetle uses its sharp, beak-shaped mouth to gnaw holes in the stalk of the plant, killing it. Swimmers won't notice the tiny yellow and black bugs, even when they exist by the hundreds of thousands in a lake or pond, according to Bob Hartzel, a scientist at GeoSyntec Consultants of Acton, who obtained the weevil grant.

''I've done a lot of swimming with these bugs, and they're homebodies," Hartzel said. ''I've never come out [of the water] covered with bugs. They're on these plants like stink on meat."

Although they are much less expensive than chemical treatments, weevils are not a guaranteed success, Hartzel said. Sometimes weevils don't survive their first winter, requiring more to be added.

''You've got to hang out and just see what happens," he said. ''It requires patience."

The US Environmental Protection Agency OK'd a $42,150 grant for the project, which will pay for a three-year program of stocking the pond with weevils and monitoring their eating habits.

Hartzel is also monitoring a weevil project on Lake Waban at Wellesley College, which brought in 10,000 weevils last year. So far the results haven't been dramatic, but a college official remains optimistic. ''I think it's too early to be judgmental," said Patrick Willoughby, associate director of the college's physical plant. ''You can't expect immediate results, like with herbicides."

Wachusett Reservoir launched a pilot project with 10,000 weevils last year with a state grant. Ecologist Dave Worden, who oversees the project for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, said he remains hopeful, even though after two years, the weevils haven't been as effective as had been hoped.

''These things take time," Worden said. ''We think 10,000 is enough."

Tim Simmons, a restoration ecologist with the state Department of Fish and Game, said the beetle is indigenous to Massachusetts. Simmons pointed out that while they eat only milfoil, the remote possibility remains that they would change their eating preferences

''Once these things are out and successful, you don't get them back," Simmons said of the weevils. He also raised the possible problem of the milfoil being followed by another invasive plant.

Robert Creed, an associate professor of biology at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, researched weevils as a postdoctoral student at Middlebury College in Vermont and found them to be effective.

''With just 1,000 weevils in a lake, you can build up a population pretty quickly," he said. ''And I've seen them destroy plants."

Lili Scheider, an environmental engineer who moved to a house on Dudley Pond in 2000, said she hoped that would happen on Dudley Pond. A member of the surface water committee of the Wayland Conservation Committee, Scheider criticized the use of chemicals as too expensive and a potential threat to drinking water.

''The weevils can be cheaper, if you get them established," she said. ''It's worth a try."

Scheider said the weevils may not succeed, and if they don't, there are other alternatives. Town officials could pay for milfoil harvesting that would pull the plants out at the root, or investigate importing carp, a voracious fish that eats milfoil.

Ellen Egnet disagreed. Thanks to herbicide, Egnet said, she and her husband were able to use their pontoon boat without the rudder becoming entangled in milfoil.

''They did the sonar and everything was absolutely fabulous," she said. "But . . . every so often you have a new group of people that come in and change things."

Thomas McGreenery, past president of the Dudley Pond Association, called the weevils ''a complete waste of time."

He resigned as president of the pond association last year in protest over ending the herbicide treatment.

He said the weevil proponents are ''environmental terrorists" who risk letting the pond become an overgrown swamp.

''The only viable method . . . is the herbicide," he said. ''It's been used on the pond four or five times, and it does a wonderful job."

Currier, the past president of the pond association and a supporter of the weevil project, tries to strike a diplomatic note.

''There are two factions and a lot of us in the middle, willing to try anything," Currier said. ''We can never solve the problem, but we want to find ways to control it."

Milfoil weevils under study

WATERLINE June 2003
By Paula Rudberg Lowe, editor, Waterline

The milfoil weevil (Ehurychiopsis lecontei is sometimes an effective biocontrol agent against Eurasian milfoil. Environmental Specialist Jenifer Parsons, Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology),
began studying and rearing milfoil weevils in June 2002. She, along with a Department of Agriculture intern, will continue to study weevils this summer.

The milfoil weevil has been implicated in causing declines of Eurasian milfoil populations in Midwestern and Northeastern states. This weevil is native to the northern part of the U.S., including Washington. The weevil's native host is the native northern milfoil (Myriophyllum sibiricum), however, if the weevil is reared on Eurasian milfoil then it will prefer that species over northern milfoil. Weevils spend their entire life cycle on milfoil, while adults will eat leaves, most damage is done by larvae that mine into the stem causing a reduction in plant buoyancy.

Last summer Parsons collected the natural occurring milfoil weevils in Stan Coffin Lake near Quincy to raise them in freshwater aquariums, which are housed in the Fish and Wildlife Department buildings in Yakima.

The tiny weevils were collected by snorkeling in Stan Coffin Lake. Weevils were placed in aquariums
where the adult weevils laid eggs on the growing tips of fresh milfoil. The eggs hatched in three to six days and the larvae ate the growing tips, then burrowed into the milfoil stems. At the end of the rearing period, the eggs and larvae were counted and released to Mattoon Lake near Ellensburg. Parsons continued the cycle through the summer and by August, she had released nearly 3,000 weevils of all life stages.

Parsons reports that she has not seen evidence of the weevils establishing in Mattoon Lake, but it may take a few years for the weevils to build to a level to be able to control the milfoil. Weevils in Stan Coffin Lake were in densities known to control Eurasian milfoil growth, and they collected weevils on northern milfoil because there is so little Eurasian milfoil in the lake.

Parsons hopes that the results of this study will be successful so she can advise lakefront property owners interested in using these weevils to control Eurasian milfoil in their lakes.

The study will continue this summer. Parsons also plans to inventory several lakes in King County to look for a test lake there and to check for natural weevil populations.
Questions about the project may be addressed to Jenifer Parsons, 509-457-7136 or jenp461@ecy.wa.gov

NEW YORK STATE AGREES TO DESTROY
RARE, NATIVE PLANT SPECIES IN LAKE GEORGE
Ruling in ‘Sonar' Case Appears to be Unprecedented in New York State

News Release
From: http://www.adirondackcouncil.org/sonorpr.html
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2001

BOLTON LANDING -- In what appears to be an unprecedented ruling in New York State, an administrative law judge has found that the State Office of General Services agreed to destroy rare, protected plants in Lake George when it consented to work with the Lake George Park Commission on a plan to reduce Eurasian watermilfoil last year.

State Administrative Law Judge Molly McBride has ruled that OGS gave its consent to destroy rare, threatened and endangered plant species that are growing in the same location when it agreed to be a co-applicant with the LGPC in seeking an Adirondack Park Agency (APA) permit for the experimental use of the chemical pesticide fluoridone (brand name Sonar) in four locations.

"Since when does the State of New York give permission to willfully destroy the rare, threatened and endangered species it is required to protect?" asked Bernard C. Melewski, Acting Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. "This runs contrary to every action that Governor Pataki has taken in the Adirondack Park since he took office. Who authorized the Office of General Services to give permission to destroy plant species that the Department of Environmental Conservation is charged with protecting?"

The use of Sonar in Lake George and the risks to protected species was discussed at an issues conference before judge McBride in preparation for public hearings on the application before the APA. The judge ultimately ruled that OGS's consent to experiment with the herbicide in Lake George eliminated the issue from further discussions at public hearings.

"In other words, the APA doesn't have to listen to a word about the chemical eradication of rare and threatened plants when it makes a decision on this permit application," Melewski said. "If the permit is issued, those plants will die. Period."

Currently, milfoil covers less than 3 percent of Lake George. Milfoil was first found in the lake more than 15 years ago and was likely spread by boats coming from other affected waters. According to the applicant's environmental studies, milfoil cannot possibly colonize more than 8 percent of the lake bottom. In shallow water, milfoil can form dense beds that hamper boat traffic and invade the habitat of other plants. To date, it has been kept in check using non-toxic means.

There are at least three plant species on the state's protected list known to be in the areas that would be treated with pesticides. Within the proposed test areas, there are two plants listed as endangered, 3 that are "threatened" and one considered "rare." To make the endangered list, for example, plants must "require remedial action to prevent [their] extinction" within the state. "Listed plants are those with five or fewer extant sites, or fewer than 1,000 individuals..." according to state Environmental Conservation law.

That same law imposes a $25-per-plant fine for any person that destroys or damages plants on the list. The only exception to the law is where the owner of the land (in this case, a publicly owned lake bottom) gives consent. The Office of General Services purports to manage the lake bottom of Lake George for the State of New York.

In August the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) declared that the LGPC's application could not be approved in its current form and ordered a formal public hearing. On Sept. 13, the Adirondack Council filed a motion asking Judge McBride to direct the LGPC to seek a "declaratory ruling" from two state agencies.

The Council asked that the DEC (which must also issue a permit before the pesticides can be applied to the lake) be consulted on whether it would ever consent to a project in which the applicant admitted it would be killing plants that are protected by state law.

The Council also asked the judge to direct LGPC to seek a declaratory ruling from the state Health Department on whether it would allow the chemical to be applied in areas where drinking water intake pipes might be nearby. DOH currently prohibits the application of fluoridone and other pesticides withing a quarter-mile of water intakes.

The Council asked Judge McBride to adjourn the hearing until those questions could be answered. If the agencies refused or were unable to answer, the Council asked the judge to direct the LGPC to seek an advisory opinion from the NYS Attorney General. The Council continues to argue that until these questions are answered, the application is legally flawed and the proposal may actually be prohibited under state law.

"The judge said it was up to the Adirondack Council, not the applicant, to provide the answers to these questions," said Melewski. "We aren't the ones asking permission to dump tons of weed killer into the Queen of American Lakes."

In justifying her refusal to delay the proceeding until the rulings were issued, the judge wrote: "The project has long been known to the public and the [Adirondack Council] has known about this proposed project for several years." Melewski objected to this characterization, calling it inaccurate and misleading.

"Until this summer, there was not even a complete application to review or formal environmental impact statement," Melewski said. "In just the past few months, the project design for the Sawmill Bay site alone has changed three times. Until the proposed test sites were finalized, we had no idea whether water intakes would be involved. And until the LGPC made its final application to the Adirondack Park Agency, we weren't sure they still wanted to use sites where they knew they would threaten protected plants."

The hearing is expected to resume in mid-October and continue through November. Melewski said the Council would indeed petition the DEC and Health Department on its own, but he was unsure whether their answers would be received in time for the judge to act on them. Also unprecedented is the fact that the DEC has been reviewing the same application for more than three months and has not yet decided to join the APA in a single review of the application and to hold a joint hearing.

"Continued silence on the part of the DEC is a disservice to the public and failure by New York's lead environmental protection agency to assure that these very significant issues are adequately addressed," Melewski concluded.

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