New Fairfield rejects plan to apply herbicides to Candlewood Lake
NEW FAIRFIELD — Town officials no longer will pursue a permit to apply herbicides to Candlewood Lake after more than 200 voters adopted an ordinance to stop the plan Tuesday night.
The ordinance, proposed by the group “Candlewood Voices” earlier this month, requires a townwide vote whenever officials want to use chemicals on the lake. The group formed in opposition to the town’s proposal to treat the lake with the herbicide Diquat to kill invasive Eurasian watermilfoil and copper sulfate to treat blue-green algae.
In a packed town hall meeting at the New Fairfield Senior Center, all but several of the more than 200 residents voted to adopt the ordinance.
“Well, this is democracy and this is how it works in a town hall form of government,” she said. “Obviously, we won’t be moving forward with the permit.”
The town had considered applying Diquat to about 10 acres of the Shelter Harbor Cove area after getting approval from about 10 residents in the cove, although they had not yet applied for a permit with DEEP. The plan was a scaled-back version of the town’s original proposal to treat about 60 acres of the lake with the herbicide Diquat and to apply copper sulfate on up to 160 acres.
Tuesday’s town meeting was scheduled after Candlewood Voices filed two petitions asking the town to hold a meeting on the ordinance. The selectmen scheduled the meeting two weeks ago after initially denying the group’s first petition for legal reasons.
John McCartney, a member of Candlewood Voices, said the group then spent the next few weeks getting the word out about the meeting by posting on its 400-member Facebook group and calling those who had signed the petitions.
“Super turnout and an awesome result,” he said after the vote. “This is the purest form of government in the United States.”
The group, made up of six core members from Danbury, New Fairfield and Sherman, said they worry about the negative health effects the herbicide could have on humans, wildlife and the existing grass carp in the lake. They also did not agree with the way town officials introduced the proposal.
Candlewood Voices organized after a March 2 forum on the proposal was attended by over 150 residents, most of whom spoke against using herbicides. The members of the group were frustrated, McCartney said, that the town didn’t abandon the idea after the negative feedback.
Khris Hall, a voter who is running for selectman, said residents should be the ones deciding whether to use herbicides in the lake.
“We’re obviously very happy with the result,” she said. “This is where the decision should have been made in the first place — in a town meeting.”
Another voter, Erin Badillo, said she may have considered supporting the herbicides if the town had gone about the proposal differently. But she voted to pass the ordinance Tuesday because she disagreed with the town’s process.
“The Board of Selectmen ignored repeated requests for input and questions,” she said. “... If it was a decision that was come to by the Candlewood Lake Authority with experts and scientists involved, I would go along with that.”
The Candlewood Lake Authority has said the herbicides might interfere with its existing grass carp program. About 3,800 carp were released into the lake in 2015 and 4,450 more will be stocked this summer.