Chemical burning of county must stop

By Evie Henderson

Evie Henderson
Evie Henderson

PAMLICO COUNTY — With reference to Jeff Lomer’s letter in the Sept. 17 issue of The County Compass, I wish to add my horrified voice to his. A couple of weeks ago, when I drove out of my subdivision — only a quarter-mile from the Neuse River — what greeted me on both sides of the road was a war-like devastation of dead, brown foliage in the ditches and more than 20 feet up into the trees. The devastation continued for the more than 12 miles to Arapahoe and beyond as I made my way to New Bern.

And, as I have discovered since, it is spread throughout the county.

Pamlico County’s DOT spokesman informed me that the chemical used was Krenite (Fosamine ammonium), manufactured by Dupont and that it was not harmful to wildlife or fish.

The research on Krenite as a defoliant is not as abundant as that on the more popular chemical, Roundup. But, while Krenite is touted as “water-soluble,” its directions suggest that it might be mixed with a “penetrating type oil-based (surfactant or crop oil concentrate”…and if foaming is a problem during mixing, an anti-foam agent may be added.

How was this chemical mixed before application in Pamlico?

Krenite is considered a “dormancy enforcer,” whose specific mechanism of action has not been identified. There is some evidence that it inhibits mitosis – the process of cell division — in susceptible plants. Deciduous plants treated with fosamine ammonium fail to refoliate and die, without going through the “brown out” caused by many other herbicides.

When applied to deciduous plants two months prior to leaf drop, the compound is absorbed with little or no apparent effect. In the following spring, buds either fail to open at all, or produce only spindly, miniature leaves. Evergreen plants such as pines show response soon after application.

The fact is that everywhere I’ve seen its action in Pamlico, it has killed everything – shrubs, deciduous and evergreen tree limbs, grasses, even cattails.

The manufacturers claim that Krenite is “low toxicity.” In reality, however, its effects on humans, wildlife, birds, insects and amphibians are not fully known.

For decades, Monsanto claimed that its weed killer, Roundup, was not harmful to humans. Yet, just a couple of weeks ago, California became the first state to require that Roundup be labeled as “carcinogenic.” Roundup has been used in this country for decades and I, myself, have used it thinking that it was safe. We are now finding out that Roundup is far more dangerous than we were told.

DOT says the chemical used recently is cheaper than paying for manpower and mechanical methods of vegetation control. In most of the sprayed areas that I saw, there were no power lines threatened by the brush or trees. Will manpower and mechanical methods now be used to clean up the brown foliage devastation around us?

At a time when the our insect pollinators such as the bee population (vital to our food supply) are in great danger from the chemical defoliants that we use and the Monarch butterfly is nearing the brink of extinction because of the eradication of milkweed along roadsides and on farms, why are we imposing more dangerous chemicals on our environment?

One of the major reasons those of us who choose to live in Pamlico County do so is because it is a rural county. We love its beautiful trees, wildflowers, birds, and wildlife, its scenic back roads, its proximity to the water and wonderful access to fresh seafood. We did not choose to exchange gas and diesel fumes for the ugly chemical havoc to our environment that the state and county DOT is forcing on us.

Unless more citizens speak out on this issue, our health and our environment are at stake. We hope this chemical defoliation will be stopped.