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DEC received slew of comments regarding AK railroad herbicide spraying

by Diana Haecker ~ June 25th, 2010

Thursday marked the deadline for public comments to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to weigh in on the question whether a DEC permit issued to the Alaska Railroad Corporation to spray herbicides should be denied.

In April, the DEC gave a permit to the railroad allowing them to spray herbicides on the tracks. Pam Miller, biologist with the Alaska Action on Toxins said she is concerned about the mix of chemicals and their effects on water quality and human health.

The lawfirm Trustees for Alaska on behalf of Alaska Community Action on Toxics and six other groups including Talkeetna-based Alaska Survival and Tom Kluberton, filed a request to appeal the DEC permit.

On Thursday the DEC’s comment period closed on the request for an adjudicatory hearing and the request to stop the spraying pending the hearing process.Gary Mendivil with the DEC said so far 52 comments were received.

The next step is that the DEC commissioner has to decide whether to stay the permit while the appeal is pending.

The question whether the commissioner will grant the appeal will be answered in more than a month’s time. First, the Trustees have a seven-day period to review the comments, then the commissioner has a 30-day period to make his decision.

The railroad says they’re losing the battle against weeds and are in trouble with the Federal Railroad Administration concerning vegetation growth on tracks. The railroad plans to spray herbicides between Indian and Seward. If it works, the railroad will look into the use of herbicides on railroad tracks north of Anchorage, too.

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