The Harrisville Conservation Commission met for its regular meeting on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at Town Offices, 705 Chesham Road.

Members present: Harry Wolhandler, Winston Sims, Kathy Scott, Les LaMois
Members absent: Andrea Polizos

Members of the public: Dave Belknap, Health Officer; Russell Bastido; Dan Langille; Carla Richardson; Barbara Henry; Jenny Pettis; Guy Pettis; Thomas Helslonder; Cindy Trindall; Steve Weber; Eric Swope; Francie Von Merten; Jean Rosenthal; Amy Stodda; Miriam Carter; Deborah Abbott; Suzanne Brouillette; Jim Allan; Anne Bridge; Pegg Monahan; Don Scott

The meeting opened at 7:00 pm.

All voted in favor to accept the agenda.

Minutes of 6/6/2018 – review and approval
Harry Wolhandler reviewed the proposed amendments to the meeting minutes based on requests of Wendy White of the Dublin Conservation Commission. All voted in favor to approve the revised minutes.

Invasive Species – Japanese Knotweed Management
Jeffrey Taylor of Taylor Tree People, a licensed vegetative management specialist in NH, VT and ME, and expert on all vegetation management methods, appeared before the HCC and the public to offer insights into methods used, and experiences and results, managing knotweed and other invasives.  The HCC has been considering a variety of approaches and recently heard from members of the Dublin Conservation Commission about their program, now largely in the management phase. Mr. Wolhandler noted he hopes Harrisville can enter the action phase on both public and private lands as soon as consensus can be reached on the best approach. He remarked that knotweed pushes out everything, preventing native species from germinating and thriving, and causing structural damage to concrete, including bridges and abutments, for example.  Mr. Wolhandler asked Mr. Taylor to talk about the use of herbicides and the various application methods and safety measures and considerations for the environment, the community, and the people applying them.  He also asked Mr. Taylor to address costs for various integrative remediation methods.

Mr. Taylor began by reviewing the structure of the knotweed plant, its intricate and extensive rhizome (underground stem) structure, and the fact that it was brought to the U.S. in the 1800s for horticultural reasons. Knotweed flowers are used to make honey and also for medicinal purposes. The problem is knotweed becomes a monoculture. No animals feed on it, he stated, and it increases erosion, because no other varieties of plants survive in the soil with it.  A half inch piece of stem can start a new colony of knotweed. Mr. Taylor noted that any plants on the NH’s invasive list, including knotweed, are illegal to move, transport, plant or replant, or sell. If knotweed is on your property, you are not required to remove it, however. Mr. Taylor believes New Hampshire’s are the toughest invasive species regulations in the nation.

Mr. Taylor recommended an integrative approach, employing mechanical, chemical, natural control, biological control and cultural controls.The goal is to minimize impact on non-target vegetation and to balance the pluses and minuses of every technique. Mechanical measures can include reclaiming soil by digging up of invasive plants with mowers, or with cultivation, chainsaws, hand pruners, weed wrenches. Chemical application techniques can include use of a handheld squirt bottle, a truck-mounted hydraulic sprayer, cut surface treatment which involved treating a cut vine, and a motorized portable sprayer in places where equipment can get. Biological/natural control includes using the Galerucella beetle, which weakens the plant and makes it harder to set seed. Given that complete eradication is impossible, the goal is to get the native plants dominant. Mr. Taylor shared before and after photos of treated areas in the region, demonstrating the ability to allow native plants to return. Cultural methods include use of local livestock. In this area, goats and sheep could be effective. Mr. Taylor noted that very little knotweed germinates from seed; it’s primarily by rhizomes.

In Mr. Taylor’s experience, herbicides are the only tool, short of complete excavation by machine, that controls resprouting. Any other type of cutting results in resprouting because the root system is not being controlled.  He believes it’s the safest and most effective way to manage poisonous and noxious vegetation.  It’s particularly effective in dam areas where the roots can compromise the structure. He also believes it’s time-efficient and economical, and it can jump start natural control. Controlling the roots of the undesirable vegetation allows for regrowth of the desirable. Finally, it allows for cultural control, as reclaimed land can then be converted to other uses.

Herbicide application techniques can be employed with a hand sprayer, a wick sprayer, which involves a sponge-like wiping of plants that is dripless, a hand pump with different nozzles to control the amount, the knapsack mist blower, which is very effective in remote areas and protects the understory.  Mr. Taylor has used hydraulic type applications in Dublin, Troy, Falmouth, Maine and elsewhere, primarily along roadways. With cut surface applications, a dye can be injected into the herbicide to mark which stumps have been treated. This technique can be done year-round. Low-volume basal technique involves treating the base of the plants.

Mr. Taylor showed additional before and after photos of treatment areas, including in Dublin, of both knotweed and bittersweet, with evidence of regrowth of native vegetation, noting his work with several wildlife organizations to help restore natural habitats. He had mentioned that he sees buckthorn (both common and glossy) as the next big threat to the ecosystem as, like knotweed, chokes out native species, robs sunlight and becomes a monoculture. The buckthorn berries, formed between June and October, are eaten by migratory birds, which do not provide the nutrition they need and would ordinarily get from native berries from dogwoods, viburnums and black alder.  The more buckthorn is mowed, the thicker it gets, unless mowed often enough to starve it.
In NH, the state is not allowed to mow knotweed.

Following his presentation, the public asked questions.  Regarding the number of applications required, Mr. Taylor noted that it depends as some areas are more stubborn. The section of knotweed along the junction of Routes 137 and 101 has been treated five times whereas, elsewhere, two applications were effective. On properties in Dublin where the landowners cut the knotweed in June and herbicide was applied in September when the plants were already weakened, resulting in a better success rate.  Noting that herbicides aren’t practical everywhere, Mr. Taylor confirmed black plastic can help if the knotweed is cut very low and twigs and debris are removed to help prevent puncturing the plastic. For homeowners who have knotweed popping up in intermittent areas around their yards, Mr. Taylor noted that spot-treating them could help.

Addressing and acknowledging the controversy surrounding glyphosate, Mr. Taylor stated he believes, if used properly and the labels are followed according to law, it’s safe to use.  He has been familiar with it since the early 1970s, was involved in the trials and has been exposed to it maybe hundreds of times more than the average person has been. He has used it as a foliar spray, in cut surface applications, for wildlife habitat restoration, and to create pollinator habitats. He added that the benefit to it is you can plant almost immediately.

A question about the timing of applying herbicide in September led Mr. Taylor to respond that the goal is to wait until it’s beyond flowering, when the energy is going from the foliage back down into the roots. Beekeepers in the audience expressed concern about their bees being killed and the fact that the flowers make great honey. Mr. Taylor mentioned the combinations of solutions used and that going after the plants too early is not productive. An herbicide like Triclopir is better applied in the spring and glyphosate in the fall. Mr. Wolhandler added that the HCC is studying a town-wide remediation program and hasn’t decided on its course of action.  There was a difference of opinion about whether herbicides affect vegetation to the extent that nothing will grow where it is applied or whether the quality of the soil and how they are applied influences the impact. Mr. Taylor added that, in places where there has been no regrowth (Steve Weber mentioned along Route 101), the state may have added something to the glyphosate, as glyphosate itself has no soil activity. Separately, he noted that Triclopir is available over the counter at a strength of less than 20% and, unlike glyphosate works better earlier in the season when the plant is growing.

When asked about safety measures for the lay person and professionals, Mr. Taylor replied that the label is the law and should prescribe what you should do. At a minimum, applicators should wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes and socks, eye protection, and rubber gloves.  There is wording on labels that includes worker protection standard, for those who work in the fields.

Dave Belknap then spoke, stating there are a considerable number of studies labeling glyphosate a carcinogen and that its use, and exposure to it, is cancer causing. Mr. Belknap cited a recent court case in San Francisco where a groundskeeper claimed that an herbicide in the weed killer Roundup, manufactured by Monsanto, caused his disease. The suit also alleged Monsanto failed to properly warn users about the alleged risks of using the product. Mr. Belknap added the jury agreed and awarded $289 million to the plaintiff, accusing Monsanto of acting with malice and oppression and of trying to manipulate government agencies, the FDA and the EPA, to set policies to further their agenda. Mr. Belknap added that, though it has not been shown that Roundup causes bioaccumulation of glyphosate in tissues, its carcinogenic nature harms the ecosystem and our foods. Continuing his citation, Mr. Belknap read that “A recent update of diseases caused by pesticide applications identify the possible association of glyphosate use and exposure to AML, an acute leukemia… All of this demands a closer examination of its use in our fresh water ecosystems and places where people swim, areas where it may enter aquifers and where we obtain our drinking water and of harm to those people applying it.”

As Harrisville, Mr. Belknap asked, is so concerned with its natural environment that they hire people to check boats for Eurasian milfoil before they enter our lakes, why aren’t they more skeptical about considering the broad-scale application of Roundup and conducting further research?  Mr. Wolhandler stated that, because of Mr. Belknap’s concerns, the HCC had backed away from the subject five or six years ago. He asked Mr. Taylor to address these concerns in light of his approaches to vegetation management and the difference between glyphosate’s use in broad-based agricultural applications and the applications Mr. Taylor is experienced in.

Mr. Taylor noted that it currently is legal to use and that the EPA in 2016, through its Scientific Advisory Panel, classified glyphosate as not likely to cause cancer. The International Agency on Cancer Research (IACR), which is part of the World Health Organization, met for a week and conducted a scientific review of glyphosate from 55 epidemiological studies. They labeled it “An A-2 probable class carcinogen”, the same risk associated with talking on a cell phone and stress from shift work in a factory.  Mr. Taylor added that Canada’s Test Management Regulatory Agency in 2015 found it’s not a carcinogen, and Germany’s Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says it’s not a carcinogen. European Food and Safety Authority in 2015 agreed, as did the WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues.  In Mr. Taylor’s mind, all of these opinions cast doubt on the studies cited by Mr. Belknap, as does his lengthy career, professional associations and field tests.  He does not suggest that anyone else take his word, but he trusts the professionals and the precautions outlined on the labels.

Several attendees claimed that the alleged poisons get washed down in the soil and have to go somewhere, but Mr. Taylor noted that state pesticide regulations require setbacks from certain resources and that special permit is required for NH Pesticide Control, which is reviewed by the DES.  He noted that glyphosate is labeled for aquatic root control.  Special methods and formulations are employed for treatment, Mr. Taylor explained, directing the spray away from the water. When glyphosate hits the soil, it’s tightly bound to the soil so it can’t be released.  If the soil is eroded into the water, it can’t be released. Mr. Taylor noted it’s not at all the same thing as agricultural pesticides that have different formulas and are put into the soil year after year after year. He also noted the difference between Roundup, which was never registered for use in wetlands, and Rodeo, which Mr. Taylor uses frequently and for which he must get a permit from the state to use within 30 feet of a wetland area.  He later added that invasive plants thrive in wetlands because of the soil structure there.

Miriam Carter, former Chair of the Dublin Conservation Commission, commented on the confusion that can occur in the public’s understanding of the differences between the two and on her positive experience observing Mr. Taylor’s work over the years.  She shared the successes in Dublin of the spot treatments, the small amounts of product needed, and the particular effectiveness of the hydraulic sprayer. She confirmed that Dublin is now in a maintenance phase. She invited anyone interested to visit the treated locations with someone from the Dublin CC.

Residents shared their experiences with plants on their property and their various success rates managing it. Conversation again turned to toxicity and safety issues. Suzanne Brouillette, a beekeeper on Chesham Road, cited the experience on her property after the state sprayed along the road, stating nothing grew for years. She worries about where all the chemicals go in the environment and food sources. Mr. Wolhandler responded, again noting the difference between the amount, frequency and locations of pesticides used by large scale agricultural growers versus treating isolated patches of knotweed with herbicides.  To Mr. Wolhandler’s remarks about the half-life of glyphosate and that it’s not enduring, Eric Swope stated he has read that the metabolites and byproducts of glyphosate are persistent and that they are fairly toxic.  Jim Allen asked who is educating the landscapists, skeptical that having a permit equals knowledge of knotweed and how to manage it without spreading it. Mr. Taylor commented that anyone who treats on another person’s land has to be a certified applicator in New Hampshire. Mr. Wolhandler added that this was the reason for the meeting.

Asked about the process moving forward, Mr. Wolhandler responded that the HCC hadn’t decided on a specific path yet, though the Dublin program has offered some guidance, including its outreach and education efforts, and requests for permission, related to knotweed remediation on both public roads and private lands. Mr. Wolhandler added that the HCC has more engaging to do with the public and town officials before proceeding or making any decision. For possible approaches, Mr. Wolhandler recommended that attendees refer to Doug Cygan’s 2018 manual on knotweed that the state recently issued. A link is available here

One example with the black plastic method describes using bark mulch both below and above the plastic to prevent any nutrients from getting to the knotweed. Such a method is effective for small patches. With that, Mr. Wolhandler closed the discussion and the HCC proceeded with the additional agenda items. Before doing so, he welcomed attendees interested in inviting a speaker knowledgeable in the field, but without a potential financial gain from a remediation program, to pass any names to the HCC.

Wetland Beach Permit Application – Dave Tomaszewski and Jessica Zander, 22 Tuttle Lane (Map 51-Lot 40)  (Kathy Scott recused herself from the proceedings.)
Don Scott presented the property owners’ proposal and application for approval by the HCC for an expedited review by the state for a wetlands permit.  Objection by the HCC would require a more thorough review. Mr. Scott exhibited copies of the existing site plan, the locations of the retaining walls and the condition of the current sandy bank. Currently, water coming down the drive washes that sand into the pond.  Since it slopes as well, it can’t be used as a beach. The existing deck will be removed. Mr. Scott explained how and where a new retaining wall will be constructed as an extension of the existing wall, and the area will be filled. Stairs will be installed down to the beach. The flat perched deep will be 10’ deep and 20’ long and will lie a minimum of one foot above the existing high water mark. There will be 2’ between the edge of the water and the new proposed 12’ curve. One 3’ wide step will go from the beach onto a stepping stone and into the water and another four steps will connect the beach to the street level. Mr. Scott would like to slope from the wall back to the road, to control runoff via a swale, allowing water to infiltrate rather than having direct access from the road into the lake. Currently, the rainwater pools in the road. Mr. Scott noted he will make that change to the plan, showing the wall raised slightly compared to how it’s depicted now.

Mr. Wolhandler entertained a motion to accept the proposal for expedited review by the state, with Mr. Scott’s amendment to his design. All voted in favor to approve.

Wetlands Setbacks – Consideration of the Ordinance Revision Committee
Mr. Wolhandler updated the HCC on the ORC’s work to date, including consideration of additional wetland setbacks which currently only address septic and leach field setbacks of one hundred feet (12.3.3 in the current ordinances). Mr. Wolhandler also raised the question of groundwater protection and/or hazardous materials management. Carol Ogilvie will share sample language from other towns regarding wetland setbacks, particularly regarding new construction. The committee hopes to have more specific proposal in September, also desired by the Planning Board. The committee also is addressing language related to home-based businesses and home occupations and is working on consolidating proposed changes (from typos to more substantive changes) into as few amendments as possible.

Recycling Center – Select Board update from Kathy Scott
Kathy Scott updated the HCC on the issue of plastic collection. MDS no longer has a market for plastics numbered #3 – #7 and requests that Harrisville residents include these items with their trash.  The issue, Ms. Scott noted, is contamination of trash.  She asked if anyone knows of a use for these materials to please let the Select Board know so they can inform MDS. Separately, Don Scott wondered if Harrisville could do more with an organic compost pile, allowing people to bring yard waste that could be regularly turned and processed. Mr. Wolhandler noted the RC’s compost pile next to the wood pile. Kathy Scott also described the current bin system and the current marketplace for paper/cardboard and metal and how they’re disposed of. The current contract is scheduled for renewal by September 28. The question was raised if the cost was going up but there was no confirmation. Kathy Scott noted there is no plan at this time to return to the old system.

Lead Sinker Collection at Transfer Station – Wings of Dawn Offer
Mr. Wolhandler described the free collection box offered, a $40 value, to place at the Recycling Center to collect lead fishing lures.  Les LaMois offered to post notices at Lake/Pond kiosks.

Other Business
Mr. Wolhandler stated that, as far as timing, he hoped to address the issue of knotweed this fall to prepare for Town Meeting and any fund requests that may have to be made.  On funding issues, Winston Sims asked about paid versus volunteer workers in the Lake Host program and the number of hours for each.  The exact answer was not known.

Meeting adjourned at 9:45 pm.