Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), March 1, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: Alaska Community Action Against Toxics (ACAT) won a big victory over the Alaska Railroad Corporation when state government denied the raiload a permit to spray toxic herbicides along 600 miles of tracks.]

By Pamela K. Miller

Dear Friends,

We are celebrating a significant victory today that the Alaska Railroad Corporation will not be granted a permit by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) to spray herbicides along its more than 600 miles of right-of-way. Over 1,500 water bodies, including rivers, streams, and creeks are within 225 feet of the tracks, making salmon and salmon habitat vulnerable to contamination from herbicides.

The following is from ADEC's web site (see the full decision document at

The [Alaska] Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) is denying the Alaska Railroad Corporation's (ARRC) application to spray herbicides on the railways and rail yards for vegetation management purposes. The ARRC applied for a permit to spray three herbicides as well as a drift retardant to approximately 500 miles of track plus approximately 100 miles of rail yard.

Any pesticide sold, distributed, or used in Alaska must be registered by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the ADEC. The labels of all three proposed herbicides specifically prohibit applying these chemicals directly to water. According to Kim Stricklan, ADEC's Pesticide Program Manager, the ARRC did not adequately identify all the water resources in and near the proposed spray area. Concerns raised during the public comment period and during coordination with other state agencies were compelling regarding the potential for the proposed herbicides to reach waters of the state.

In its application, the ARRC proposed a 10-foot spray buffer zone around water resources. ADEC concluded this buffer zone would pose an unacceptable risk that the herbicides would reach waters of the state.

ADEC reviewed and evaluated nearly 100 studies in support of the decision to deny the permit. All studies were given equal consideration for inclusion. However, only unbiased, scientifically- based, peer-reviewed (or validated) data were utilized in the decision to deny the permit.

Background: The specific herbicides included in the ARRC application are Razor Pro, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Registration Number (Reg No.) 228-366, with active ingredient glyphosate; Solution Water Soluble , EPA Reg No. 228-260, with active ingredient dimethylamine salt of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid; and Oust Extra, EPA Reg No. 352-622, with active ingredients sulfometuron methyl and metsulfuron methyl; as well as the drift retardant Alenza with principle functioning agents proprietary polyvinyl polymer.

Excerpt from Alaska Community Action on Toxics' news release:

Alaska citizens living along the railbelt expressed consistent opposition to the use of herbicides by the Alaska Railroad; the ADEC received approximately 1,083 written comments in addition to oral testimony, as well as resolutions and letters expressing opposition from local governments and community councils, including: Native Village of Eklutna (resolution and letter), Montana Creek Native Association, Inc. (resolution), Municipality of Anchorage (letter), City of Seward (resolution), Kenai Peninsula Borough (resolution), Matanuska-Susitna Borough (resolution), Denali Borough (resolution), Birchwood Community Council, and Talkeetna Community Council.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics firmly opposes the use of herbicides and associated chemicals for vegetation management purposes by the Alaska Railroad. "We assert that there are viable, economical alternatives that preclude the need for chemical treatments," stated Pamela Miller Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. "Herbicide use poses an unacceptable threat to water quality, fish, wildlife, habitat, and public health. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation had the responsibility to deny the permit application of the Alaska Railroad in order to meet their obligation to protect human health and the environment."

Please contact Pamela Miller at Alaska Community Action on Toxics for more information (907) 222-7714.

Pamela K. Miller, Director Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) 505 West Northern Lights Boulevard Suite 205 Anchorage, Alaska 99503 (907) 222-7714 (Phone) (907) 222-7715 (Fax)

Mission: We believe that everyone has a right to clean air, clean water, and toxic-free foods