Village Water Supply Passes Test

No herbicides used by Putnam County detected

By Michael Turton

An analysis of water samples from Foundry Brook found no trace of herbicides used by the Putnam County Highway Department to kill weeds along Fishkill Road, according to Cold Spring’s water superintendent. The brook provides drinking water to Cold Spring and Nelsonville.

Greg Phillips, the village superintendent of water and waste water, ordered the analysis because one of the herbicides, DuPont Oust XP, carries a warning that it should not be applied near surface water. (See Village Raises Concerns About Herbicides, June 30.)

A guardrail along Fishkill Road overlooking the reservoir that supplies Cold Spring’s drinking water (File photo by M. Turton)

Phillips said on July 27 that samples collected on June 30 were analyzed for glyphosate, the active ingredient in Oust XP, as well as 93 other compounds. “All sample results, for all parameters, fell below the laboratories’ detectable limits,” he wrote in an email.

Putnam County Highway Commissioner Fred Pena and Deputy Commissioner John Tully did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

8 thoughts on “Village Water Supply Passes Test

  1. Trust your government — not. Where is this report, and where can it be read? Or do the people that would like to see it need to file a Freedom of Information request in order to obtain it?

    • Here is a link to the report, along with notes sent to us with it by Greg Phillips:

      The first two pages are Principal Organic Contaminants (POCs) tested annually, includes MTBE (the fuel additive in gasoline). Pages 3 and 4 are Synthetic Organic Compounds (SOC), which are tested every three years. These are organic (carbon-based) chemicals that are less volatile than Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). SOCs are used as pesticides, defoliants, fuel additives and as ingredients for other organic compounds. They are all man-made and do not naturally occur in the environment.

      On the last page is glyphosate. Under the qualifier column of the POCs, there is a “U.” That indicates that the analysis was less than the detectable limit.

      With the SOCs, the results column shows an “<" before the value, and that value matches the Minimum Detectable Limit column (MDL).

  2. Given that the application of the pesticides took place on May 23, it is difficult to get comfortable with the results of a test on samples taken on June 30 (i.e., 5 weeks after the application) given: (1) contaminated water may have already entered our system, and (2) the low end of the range of the half-life listed in the prior article.

    Furthermore, Oust XP is not supposed to be injected into the mix at all within the water setback requirements. So, it would seem that Oust XP should not have been used at all along Fishkill Road, north of the lower reservoir. The prior June 30 article indicated that it was used.

  3. Yes, Michelle Smith is right. Clear water reads five weeks after application mean little to nothing. The larger question is why is the County carrying out widespread spraying of herbicide along roadways — and particularly along the route of our water supply — at all?

    On June 22, I filed a Freedom of Information Law request for county contracts related to herbicide application along county roads, including Fishkill Road, as well as application records. In response, I recently received a number of documents that raise serious questions regarding the safety of our drinking water supply in light of actions taken twice yearly by the County Highway Department. My concerns include:

    * The application contracts are for the spraying of all county guardrails and signs, twice a year, with applications records in this data set going back to 2012 — that is to say, this is not a new practice.

    * A report from the company that was hired most recently to apply the herbicides identifies the use of a “non-selective glyphosate product” with injections “into the spray stream when appropriate” of trade chemicals DuPont Oust XP (#352-601) and Credit 41 Extra (#71368-20).

    * Depending on exposures, glyphosate, “Oust XP” and “Credit 41 Extra” all carry risks to human, animal and environmental health.

    * Following resident complaints, an inspection of Fishkill Road was carried out by the DEC on 7/12/17; the DEC inspector’s report documents that the inspection was incomplete, and notes that the contractor, Allen Chase Enterprises, “was not present so not all requirements were checked.”

    I forwarded the documents I obtained to the Cold Spring Village Trustees today and requested that the Village Water Department, under the supervision of the Village Board of Trustees and in consultation with the Town Board, investigate this matter further. The public should understand, at a minimum, the following:

    * Why is herbicide spraying of guardrails necessary? what is the hazard of vegetation around guard rails?

    * Are there buffer zones that protect drinking water sources? I have been told that the DEC requires a 75-foot buffer for herbicide spraying – is that accurate?

    * Existing codes related to the protection of the Village water supply mandate buffer zones for a number of wastes and hazards; do we need to address herbicides more specifically?

    I hope others will join in the call to stop county spraying of herbicides along roadways, and particularly along the route of our drinking water supply.

  4. Thank you, Highlands Current, for posting live links to the documents I referenced above. Check these out, readers. We need a robust public discussion and a signed agreement with the County to stop herbicide spraying along the route of our water supply.

  5. Thanks to Kathleen and The Highlands Current for all this great information! Two more things to add:

    (1) Philipstown’s Zoning Code (175-14) is very protective of the Cold Spring water supply and has designated a special Resource Protection Overlay District for it, with limits on what can and can’t happen in that area. See map here. It’s hard to see how the use of these chemicals is consistent with the protections in the code.

    (2) Peekskill’s water supply may also be impacted: Page 23 of the FOIL packet indicates there is also spraying along Peekskill Hollow Road, which is adjacent to the Peekskill Hollow Brook, the primary water source for the City of Peekskill.

  6. Kathleen Foley and Michelle Smith have done a real service to everyone who relies on the Cold Spring water supply. I am mystified that we have not yet heard from Highway Commissioner Fred Pena, and not one word from Barbara Scuccimarra, our County legislator. Why must we rely on citizens doing research on their own time when we pay taxes that pay the salaries of both these people, who have the authority and the responsibility to act?

    In any event, the Cold Spring Village Board should formally ask the Putnam County Legislature to ban the use, by any County agency, of herbicides along Foundry Brook, or near any drinking water supply. The Cold Spring Trustees should also ensure that the Code Update Committee addresses, in their upcoming Environmental Issues review, the need for stricter controls on toxins being sprayed or dumped near the Cold Spring water supply, consistent with the village’s 2012 Comprehensive Plan.

  7. Thank you to Greg Phillips and Kathleen Foley for their efforts to obtain this information and share it with the community at large.

    The Putnam County Legislature’s Health, Social, Educational, and Environmental Committee, headed by Legislator Scuccimarra, will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug 9, in Room 318 in the Putnam County Office Building. They plan to discuss the issue of herbicide spraying along Fishkill Road.

    I urge all concerned citizens of Philipstown to attend this meeting and let the Health Committee know your views regarding the use of herbicides to control foliage along our water resources. It’s not just Fishkill Road we should be concerned about, but the safety of our water source from the upper reservoir all the way to the treatment plant.

    Studies have shown time and time again that glyphosate and other herbicides are extremely harmful to our water sources and the environment as a whole. People should note that while this one application is of concern to our local water resources, agricultural runoff that is more prevalent east of Philipstown should be of concern to all Putnam County residents.

    I plan to advocate for the complete ban of the use of glyphosate, Oust XP and Credit 41 Extra. The more voices we add to the chorus of those who oppose their seemingly ubiquitous use, the more likely a ban will be implemented. I hope others will join me in pressuring our legislature to do the right thing.