by Ashton Goodell
Thursday, July 15, 2010
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The Alaska Railroad won't be able to spray weed-killer along its tracks until the Alaska Supreme Court learns more about the chemicals' effects.
The court issued an order to stop the spray of herbicides along 30 miles of track just south of Anchorage until it can review the case. Environmental groups worry the chemicals could contaminate drinking water and cause harmful health effects.
The railroad says the bigger concern is not being able to see the track because of overgrown weeds.
"We've looked hard at herbicides and what we are using is essentially Roundup -- and the scientific work that we've done on it and the studies we've done through the University of Alaska in Fairbanks have shown that this is a pretty benign product," said the railroad's chief engineer, Tom Brooks.
"Once these chemicals get into the waterways, then the risk of ground water contamination or surface water exposure is pretty significant, so an individual wouldn't need to walk on the tracks or eat the berry immediately adjacent to the railroad tracks to potentially be exposed," said attorney Austin Williams with Trustees for Alaska.