Photo of Senator Kennedy.

State Senator

Ted Kennedy, Jr.

Representing Branford, Durham, Guilford, Killingworth, Madison & North Branford

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Kennedy Calls for an End to the Spraying of Toxic Herbicides Along State Highways

Bill passed in Environment Committee would prohibit DOT from spraying herbicides along Connecticut roadways and highways

Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-Branford), led Environment Committee passage of SB 754, a bill that would prohibit the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) from spraying toxic herbicides on state highways and roadways. The measure was approved by a bipartisan vote of 24-6, and now heads to the senate floor.

“Year after year, DOT sprays our roadsides with thousands of gallons of glyphosate, defoliants and other toxic herbicides, poisoning our water and threatening our health, all in the name of ‘weed and vegetation control,’” said Kennedy. “The Environment Committee has called for DOT to stop this practice and asks the agency to consider safer, and oftentimes less expensive options, such as mowing, planting pollinator-friendly flowers, and using non-poisonous herbicide alternatives. Connecticut’s environment is one of our state’s strategic economic assets that must be protected and preserved for future generations.”

At issue is the longtime, and now routine, spraying of herbicides along roadsides and under guardrails to control unwanted vegetation and maintain sightlines on curves and intersections. DOT, agrichemical companies and other herbicide proponents point to the need to control invasive plant species and poison ivy. They also justify the widespread use of herbicides as the cheapest way of controlling weeds.

Environmental advocates have long voiced concern about the indiscriminate overuse of toxic chemicals and their persistence in the soil and waterways. Several states, such as Alaska and Iowa, and county governments from Florida to California, have already called for their respective transportation departments to either halt roadside spraying completely or to direct that herbicides be used sparingly in localized areas where no other alternative exists. Other states, such as Massachusetts, have banned spraying in sensitive areas and public drinking water supply drainage districts. Some state and local governments have also required that the public be notified at least 24 hours before spraying occurs.

The issue of routine roadside spraying has gained more traction recently as newly-unsealed court documents reveal how Monsanto, the maker of the most widely used herbicide, glyphosate, repeatedly tried to hide evidence of the herbicide’s toxicity. The World Health Organization deemed glyphosate a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015, and many countries have already banned or restricted the chemical’s use.

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