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Communication problem

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

Last week this newspaper reported that our state representatives had made some progress in their efforts in getting state and town officials together with the Housatonic Railroad to discuss its herbicide spraying along the train tracks that pass through Northwest Corner towns.

State Rep. Maria Horn (D-64) and state Sen. Steve Harding (R-30) were guardedly optimistic that a meeting could take place in the next few weeks.

But time is running short.

This week, the Housatonic Herbicide Working Group, a group that formed to press the railroad to use best practices in its application of herbicide along the railroad right of way, has announced a new push for a dialogue with the railroad. (See story on Page A1.) The group’s concerns are focused on environmental and human health concerns. Its members represent five towns in the Northwest Corner including New Milford, Cornwall, Kent, Falls Village, and North Canaan.

Cornwall First Selectman Gordon Ridgeway informed his town’s selectmen on April 4 about a conversation with the railroad’s general counsel, who said that the railroad had received the town’s letters in years past and had cut down on spraying.

The herbicide in question is Method 240, which according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a “high potential” for reaching surface water if there is runoff and for several months after application. The Housatonic Herbicide Working Group calls for the railroad to immediately stop using M240.

It also is recommending a longer-term approach that would put the railroad under the same kind of legislative oversight that exists under Massachusetts law. There, the Housatonic Railroad, which runs through the Berkshires, follows legislated practices designed to protect people and the environment.

The railroad has said in the past that vegetation along the right of way can be a hazard in terms of fire and visibility and can interfere with signals and communication lines. It can even cause problems with braking.

What we now have is another kind of communication problem. Let’s hope our elected officials and concerned citizens and residents can “push” through to achieve a meaningful dialogue.

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