Community Action Works
Community Action Works

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.

2 thoughts on “Victory Over Pesticides at One Small Lake Could Make Change Across Vermont”

  1. Jeremy Schrauf says:

    What are the safer alternatives to get rid of milfoil? Were they then utilized? If so, what are the results? I appreciate that Sonar is not good, but unchecked milfoil can be worse. Here is a description of the plant problems:
    Maine Invasive Plants
    Eurasian Milfoil

    Myriophyllum spicatum
    (Water Milfoil Family)
    Developed by the Maine Natural Areas Program and University of Maine Cooperative Extension
    Threats to Native Habitats

    Eurasian milfoil is a highly aggressive aquatic plant that can form dense mats which congest waterways and crowd out native aquatic plants. Thick growth can impair recreational uses of waterways including boating, swimming, and fishing. Dense growth of Eurasian milfoil can alter and degrade the habitat of native fish and other wildlife. Some stands have been dense enough to obstruct industrial and power-generation water intakes. The visual impact of the flat, yellow-green of matted vegetation on milfoil-dominated lakes often creates the perception that the lake is “infested” or “dead.” Cycling of nutrients from sediments to the water column by Eurasian milfoil may lead to deteriorating water quality and algal blooms on infested lakes. Eurasian milfoil is readily spread by plant fragments, which are abundant in infested waterways. Fragments may be carried downstream by water currents or inadvertently picked up by boaters. Milfoil is readily dispersed by boats, motors, trailers, bilges, live wells or bait buckets, and can stay alive for weeks if kept moist.

    1. admtac says:

      Neighbors agreed that the milfoil concern hadn’t gotten to the point that you describe. Some ways they helped to limit its spread were by removing the plants manually to a certain point, and boating, swimming and fishing were all still enjoyable on the lake. By contrast, the pesticide use would have limited use of the lake and harmed the aquatic wildlife.

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