Victory Over Pesticides at One Small Lake Could Make Change Across Vermont
To neighbors concerned about dumping pesticides into Lake Iroquois to stop invasive weeds, working for a safer solution seemed hopeless. The state had never denied a permit of this kind before. But a small group of neighbors came together to organize anyway, and their tenacity paid off. Concerned Citizens of Lake Iroquois won a groundbreaking grassroots victory at home that could help stop pesticides across Vermont.
The Lake Iroquois Association wanted to use the pesticide Sonar to stop the lake’s invasive milfoil weeds. But neighbors knew that the chemical pesticide wouldn’t just kill the milfoil. It would harm the lake’s whole ecosystem including all the animals, insects and native plants that call it home, and threaten drinking water for everyone who drew their water from the lake.
Meg Handler and other residents were outraged by the plan. Meg served on the Lake Iroquois Association until she was told that she would have to step down if she wanted to publicly oppose the use of pesticides on the lake. So she stepped down, connected with other neighbors who were concerned for the health of the lake, and formed the Concerned Citizens of Lake Iroquois.
“There was a certain level of hopelessness. We were told that it was a rubber-stamp process, and with so many lakes, these permits are approved without anyone even batting an eye,” said Meg.
The Concerned Citizens of Lake Iroquois called Community Action Works and started organizing. They did their research, packed public hearings to testify for safer alternatives, and won media attention to the side of the story that had been ignored. This fall, the permit to use pesticides on Lake Iroquois was permanently denied by the Department of Conservation—a first-of-its-kind decision that could have ripple effects throughout all of Vermont.
“There’s no substitute for individual people coming together and saying that we need to rethink an idea, even though it’s been done 100 times before,” said Meg.
Congratulations to Meg, Roger Donegan, Elizabeth Deutsch and all the others who made this possible.