MONTPELIER — According to a notice from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture (Food & Markets) — herbicide treatment will be applied to a right-of-way owned by the Washington County Railroad prior to 6 a.m. sometime between July 20 and July 22. The area is between Main Street and Granite Street beginning at Sarducci’s Restaurant and ending just past the Hunger Mountain Food Coop and Allen Lumber.
“The planned treatment is a result of a multi-year effort between the state, the City of Montpelier, and the railroad owners,” the notice states. This section of rail was last chemically-treated in 2013 … And after 2013 the secretary of agriculture, Chuck Ross, turned to a scientific advisory panel, the Vermont Pesticide Advisory Council, “to review and identify if there were additional effective, sustainable, non-chemical, management options for this particular stretch of railroad.”
There were multiple public meetings that were held since 2015 to consider whether or not to approve the herbicide treatment on the right of way or to pursue non-chemical alternatives. Last year, the railroad in conjunction with the City of Montpelier was able to control vegetation along the right of way by mechanical methods. But according to the notice, “mechanical removal does not address the persistent root structures below the ballast, which pose a serious safety risk by undermining the rails … these roots can lead to the deterioration of the rail infrastructure over time and present a significant threat to public safety.”
Although the herbicide treatment will go forward and letters are going out to notify residents along the railroad right of way, “the city, the state and the railroad operators look forward to continuing the dialogue with the engaged community and moving forward using all possible options.” Residents wishing to receive notifications are invited “to sign up for VT-Alert, electronic system and also to review documents related to this herbicide treatment at: http://agriculture.vermt.gov/pesticide-regulation/vpac.