Residents split over whether TVA should spray aquatic weeds

Copyright 1998 Associated Press
September 4, 1998

Residents in Marion County and northern Alabama are split over whether the Tennessee Valley Authority should use herbicides to kill aquatic weeds that are growing out of control in lakes.

The decision to use herbicides at Guntersville Lake in Alabama was backed last month by a 25-member group called "Stakeholders," whose members represent a mix of river users.

The board's short-term recommendation to TVA was to use aquatic weedkiller throughout the summer. When the weather changes, the board would devise a long-term plan.

Since TVA quit spraying two years ago, aquatic weeds at Guntersville Lake have grown immensely, blocking access to boat decks, piers, boat ramps and shoreline areas.

Property owners became frustrated and began dumping all sorts of potentially dangerous chemicals into the river to get rid of the weeds, according to Stakeholders spokeswoman Judy Miller.

She said TVA is a better remedy because its spraying is structured and announced.

"The random application that's been going on is frightening," Miller told The Chattanooga Times. "We simply wanted TVA to resume what it had been doing that was working very well a few years ago."

But others feel the spraying poses a health risk.

"These caustic chemicals have numerous harmful effects to humans, animals and fish," said Lyle Hass, president of the TVA Clean Waters Association in Scottsboro, Ala.

Haas, a retired 26-year veteran with the Alabama Health Department, said the Center for Health Statistics reveal that since 1976 the rate of cancer deaths in DeKalb, Marshall and Jackson counties has jumped 49 percent.

A group at Bennett's Lake - about 70 miles southwest of Jasper - has said it welcomes TVA spraying.

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