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Lake George Association again challenges proposal by Lake George Park Commission to use herbicide to control invasive aquatic plant

 Lake George
Lucas Willard
Lake George

Plans by the Lake George Park Commission to use an herbicide to control an invasive aquatic plant are once again being contested by local advocates.

The Lake George Association is leading efforts to stop the LGPC from using chemical ProcellaCOR in two proposed experimental treatments in the lake.

Earlier this month, a New York state appellate court ruled the Lake George Park Commission can seek permit approval from the Adirondack Park Agency to apply the herbicide.

The LGPC maintains that the chemical application approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is not harmful to humans or the lake ecosystem.

Meantime, LGA says it will bring the case to the state’s highest court and has written to Governor Kathy Hochul to halt the use of ProcellaCOR until more research is conducted.

The environmental organization points to a study by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture that links ProcellaCOR to so-called PFAS chemicals.

To learn more, WAMC’s Lucas Willard spoke with LGA’s Lake George Waterkeeper, Chris Navitsky…


After the court decision in our favor a year ago and New York State's successful appeal of it to the appellate court, the Lake George Park Commission is now moving forward to try to expedite a permit to use ProcellaCOR this year by the end of June. So, there are two application permits, one to the Environmental Conservation, DEC, and one to the Adirondack Park Agency. Actually, there's two applications to each of those two agencies, to gain approval to use ProcellaCOR by the end of June this year.

Is the LGA also considering new legal action to prevent this from happening?

Yes, we are Lucas, we have filed an appeal for consideration to the New York [Court of Appeals]. And that we are not sure when that will be reviewed. But we did. We are exhausting every possible means that we have to seek legal action on the previous decisions by the court.

Now, the LGA is also putting out there a recent connection between ProcellaCOR and PFAS chemicals that was found in a study from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Can you tell me a little bit about the link between ProcellaCOR and PFAS?

Yes, well, it was told to us and it took some research, but we did find that there is a report that the Minnesota Department of Agriculture was requested to provide to the state in Minnesota regarding their determination on PFAS and those chemicals that could contain that. So, they analyzed pesticides that were registered in Minnesota and found that there was a total of 95 that met the state of Minnesota’s definition of PFAS regarding the fluorine-carbon bond really kind of defines what these forever chemicals are. And one of those pesticides was for fluoroprixyphine benzel, or the active ingredient in ProcellaCOR. It is acknowledged that Minnesota's definition for PFAS forever chemicals is a bit more inclusive than what the EPA says. But, you know, that is a concern of ours because clearly if there's one state that has determined that that should be the definition of PFAS, shouldn’t that be the conservative approach that we take for the use of these type of chemicals and compounds in our water bodies, especially water bodies that are drinking water. And we know that New York State has been a leader in trying to get out in front of PFAS and especially when they're considering drinking water source. So that's where our concern is and that's why we wanted to make the regulators and the governor's office aware of this.

The Lake George Park Commission on its website has a disclaimer that mentions the Minnesota Department of Agriculture study and the advocacy from the LGA and others. The message on the Park Commission's website does say that it believes ProcellaCOR to be a safe chemical and to disagrees with the findings of the study. What do you think of the Park Commission's messaging regarding ProcellaCOR as well as the LGA’s concerns?

Yeah, well, we unfortunately, you know, disagree with the Park Commission on this issue. We partner with them on many lake protection measures, septic systems, you know, stormwater regulations. We even are a funder of the milfoil management program, providing about 30 to 40% of their annual budget between four and 500,000. So, you know, we partner with the Park Commission a lot however, on this proposal to use this as a proposed management tool we disagree and regarding, we feel that this…you need to consider the protection of the lake and if there is any concern, that these chemicals could be considered as PFAS could be harmful or could harm the ecology, I think we have to err and we have to do that on the side of the protection of Lake George and the residents. So that's why we disagree on that. We do not feel that we should take a lesser restrictive approach, especially in a manner that contains forever chemicals, PFAS that are known to cause, you know, illness, cancer. So, we do not feel that that is a proper measure for the protection of Lake George, especially when it is not a crisis. Milfoil is not a crisis in Lake George. It's not an environmental or an ecological crisis and that there are methods proven that are effectively managing milfoil at this time.


Responding to the concerns of the Lake George Association and other advocates, Lake George Park Commission Executive Director Dave Wick says ProcellaCOR has been used to successfully treat invasive watermilfoil in other New York water bodies and has not shown any harmful impacts.

Willard spoke with Wick, who takes issue with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s report that links ProcellaCOR to PFAS.


Essentially, what the state of Minnesota has done is very much lowered the bar for what is considered a, quote, forever chemical, or a PFAS to what, traditionally, what the EPA, what all the states, what Canada, what Europe all consider a, quote, PFAS or a forever chemical, which is a long, almost entirely…the long chain of carbon atoms almost entirely surrounded by fluorine atoms. And what the state of Minnesota did was very much lower the bar. So, if it has any fluorine atoms in it whatsoever, it falls into that category, this much broader category. And if you read the report, you'll see that they know that it's creating their own internal problems, because under that classification, it brings in a whole array of consumer products and also things like Prozac, one of the most common medicines on the market is now considered a forever chemical. So, they acknowledge the fact that when they changed the standard for what's considered a forever chemical, it really is creating some internal challenges. And remember, this is just an interim report, internally in the state of Minnesota. And the final report is expected out in 2025. After, they consult with EPA who has a much deeper X amount of knowledge regarding these topics. So, at the end of the day, the Park Commission is no different than any other lake association. We need to apply for permits to undertake anything related to aquatic plant management, whether it's hand harvesting, or aquatic herbicides, no different than like Sunnyside or Lake Luzerne or anybody else that has done ProcellaCOR projects. And they rely on the state and federal approvals for this product. ProcellaCOR was registered by the EPA in 2018. And then registered and approved by New York in 2019. And since that time, there have been hundreds of successful and very safe applications across the Northeast. And what we see in ProcellaCOR, one of the reasons that it is so widely utilized and enjoyed by those lake associations is that the product breaks down almost immediately. So, in contrast to being a forever chemical, Lake Luzerne our lake right next door to Lake George utilized it. And what they found was that within 24 hours of application, 80% of the water sample sites were completely clear of any remaining residual of ProcellaCOR. And that's pretty astounding, because 20 years ago, most of the products were lasting months, if not even longer, in the water column, and it would affect a greater array of plants. So, once you start to learn more about this, you really see that this can be a real game changer in lake management.

With the two study areas that the Park Commission is looking at for the experimental application, are they a distance away from any drinking water intakes? Is there any possibility that someone could see or potentially interact with the ProcellaCOR chemical once it's applied?

There are no public water intakes at either individual treatment area. There is no registration or database of any private water intakes, really, anywhere for any lake out there. So, people are supposed to register with the Department of Health when they have a water and taken water body, but it really never happens. So, we have heard anecdotally that people have water lines in those areas. And what we have worked with each of those individual homeowners and said there are no zero drinking water restrictions, you can drink the water immediately after application. And this is based on EPA and DEC, there are no drinking water restrictions and the product labeling. And so, we try to get that word out that we would understand that people were there when it was being applied and they were pulling water in and they had zero filtration – which is also not recommended – but even with zero filtration, there's still no drinking water restrictions. That's what's so astounding about this. But we absolutely understand the hesitancy. So the goal is to get the applications done before most people come up to Lake George and are at their camps. Because even if we applied it on a Monday, generally there'd be no product left in the water by Wednesday. So if we can get it in a time in June before most people come up, and the application is completed and the product has been uptaken by the plants and broken down by photolysis, which is sunlight action that it breaks down by, then we really don't even have that concern because the people aren't even around. So, short answer, if they're around and they do take it in there's zero harm whatsoever from breaking it. And even better yet, if we can do it at the appropriate time, land owners won't even be around yet because it's still early in the season.

Is there anything that is preventing the Lake George Park Commission from receiving any other evaluation or seeing any independent research on the ProcellaCOR? Or does the data that has already been provided and the EPA is approval of the use of the chemical, is that sufficient to move ahead with the trial application project?

Sure, the answer to the question is the latter, that the product has already been deeply scientifically reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency and DEC, and it's registered for use in the state of New York. However, all applications still have a requirement for water sampling, post application. And the Adirondack Park Agency also puts a stipulation on the fact that you need to do aquatic plant surveys following application as well. So, APA goes above and beyond any other applications in New York State. But the question is, should we be doing more scientific analysis of these applications? So, the answer is we are doing the requisite water quality sampling, and we're going to be doing quite a bit more than is even required. But we're not looking to do any new scientific studies, because we contacted Dec and asked them specifically, ‘If we were to do additional scientific work regarding ProcellaCOR or to close any potential data gaps ProcellaCOR, what would that be?’ And the DEC was very clear and said, ‘Let me be very clear in this. If there were any data gaps in the record for registering ProcellaCOR in New York state, it would not have been registered in New York state.’ So, DEC was saying ‘We're very confident in our product registration process,’ and they feel no need for additional scientific study for this product.


An Adirondack Park Agency public comment period on the LGPC’s application to use herbicide ProcellaCOR to control invasive Eurasian watermilfoil in two Lake George bays runs through Thursday, May 30th.


Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.