Another Roadside Detraction
The Washington State Department of Transportation has come under attack by citizens who say its practice of spraying the sides of roads to control weeds puts people and the environment at risk. Last year, a decade after promising to reduce its herbicide use, the department instead hit an eight-year high, applying more than 120,000 pounds of weed-killer alongside state roads. Critics argue that the herbicides can get into groundwater and wells, harming humans, salmon, and other life forms and undermining expensive efforts to restore creeks throughout the state. The department says herbicides are a safe and affordable way to keep roadsides clear, thereby reducing repairs and improving safety. But critics counter that other options are available and note that neighboring British Columbia, Canada, maintains a road system four times the size of Washington’s yet uses a fraction of the herbicides.