Ancram: Hold the poison, please

Lakeside homeowners don’t want camp to dump pesticides on water plants

ANCRAM—A majority of riparian homeowners have received some backup from the Town Board in their fight to prevent the application of pesticides in Lower Rhoda Pond.

Erma Bressler, president of the Rhoda Lake Community, Inc., an association of 49 homeowners with lake rights, addressed the Town Board at its April 18 meeting.

Mrs. Bressler, who with her husband has owned a home on Lower Rhoda since 1941, asked the board for its help to “stop” an application to the state Department of Environmental Conservation by Camp Pontiac, a Copake sleep-away summer camp for children aged 7 to 16, along with an individual referred to as “the Lower Rhoda Pond HOA.” The camp and the individual want DEC permission for a firm called Allied Biological to apply the aquatic pesticides Aquathol Super K, Aquathol K and AquaNeat.

Mrs. Bressler told the board she and her association agree that there is a problem with plants in the lake, but they want to find some way other than chemicals to deal with it.

The pesticides would be used to eliminate brittle naiad, water chestnut, Eurasian water milfoil and white watercress in the pond. The treatments would be to seven acres of the northern portion of the pond between May 1 and August 31. The total size of the pond is 59 acres, according to the DEC. Mrs. Bressler says it’s about 70 acres.

A majority of the pond is situated in Ancram with a small portion in Copake.

Lower Rhoda Pond also flows through a wetland into Long Lake, which is about 33 acres.

The pesticide application is currently on hold, deemed incomplete by the DEC, until “all affected riparian users and known users” can be notified before the permit application is processed. DEC Environmental Analyst Patricia M. Gabriel wrote in an April 22 letter to Rick Etra, who owns the camp along with his brother Ken, that the DEC’s technical review of the application is still ongoing and may result in generating more comments and/or require additional information.

In a follow-up phone call, Mrs. Bressler said her hope is to get the application withdrawn or postponed, at least for this year, to give her association, working with the camp, time to investigate alternative methods to deal with the problem, which many residents now resolve each year by removing the weeds by hand.

Mrs. Bressler said she had spoken to Ken Etra about the issue. He wants “to do the right thing” and “the FDA says the chemicals are safe,” she said, but “how many times have we heard that before and years later we find out that is not the case.”

The Town Board agreed to assist Mrs. Bressler’s association and authorized Town Supervisor Art Bassin to write a letter to the DEC.

The board vote was unanimous, with the exception of Councilwoman Madeleine Israel, who abstained because she lives on Rhoda Pond and is part of the association opposed to the application.

Mr. Bassin’s letter, which urges that other, less dangerous methods be used to combat the weeds, is accompanied by a four-and-a-half-page memorandum on the matter issued by the Town’s Conservation Advisory Council.

The comprehensive document which covers health and safety issues related to applying herbicides to a large water body for humans and other life forms; proper management of lakes, especially relating to invasive and indigenous plant species; alternatives to chemical herbicides; and thoughts about proper process when one or more residents on or near a lake want to take action that will potentially affect all residents of the lake concludes:

“Lower Rhoda is surrounded by 48 homes and an additional six homes on Cedar Lane and three others for a total of 57 homes. Three camps have access to the lake: Pontiac, Camp Emmanuel Bronx and Camp Anne. Long Lake has 50 homes as part of the development (65 planned in all) and 26 other homes.

“Decisions affecting the lake will affect all of these properties. Serious thought should be given to how treatment of the lake supported by fewer than 100% of these properties will be decided. Chemical treatment of the lake is not supported by most of these residents. The effects of herbicides on people, plants, animals, insects and the health of the lake all need to be taken into account and weighed very seriously. There are alternative practices that have successfully been used elsewhere as well as by residents of these communities. All less harmful alternatives should be explored before releasing herbicides whose known and unknown impacts may cause lasting and serious damage to these two water bodies and the streams and rivers into which they empty.”

A call to owners of Camp Pontiac was not returned by press deadline.

To contact Diane Valden email .


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