ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday that the Alaska Railroad can begin to spray herbicides along its tracks, starting as soon as Saturday. The court sided with the railroad and the state Department of Environmental Conservation over a plan to use chemicals to kill weeds along 30 miles of track south of Anchorage.
Railroad officials say overgrown weeds are dangerous but environmental groups sued to stop the plan, claiming that the chemicals could cause harmful health effects.
Kristin Ryan, director of the DEC’s Division of Environmental Health, says Friday’s ruling shows the agency was justified in issuing a spraying permit to the railroad.
“So it’s basically a product that any Alaskan has the right to use in their yard, but the state has the additional burden on any state-owned properties that they receive a permit from DEC before applying any pesticide,” Ryan said.
“It’s hard to say and again, it’s weather permitting, but we do have certified personnel that could get out and start as soon as they were prepared to do so — so it could be within days,” said railroad spokesperson Wendy Lindskoog.
Pam Miller with Alaska Community Action on Toxins says she’s disappointed with the court’s decision. Miller says she believes the chemicals will leak into nearby creeks, polluting drinking water and poisoning salmon streams.
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