On the Local Environmental Front: Good News and Bad

In 2013, HRNERR – the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) agency that oversees four marshes on the Hudson River – came out with a plan to eradicate up to 200 acres of Phragmites in the Piermont Marsh, most likely by spraying a glyphosate herbicide. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Round-Up and the subject of multi-million dollar lawsuits. Local opposition quickly manifested itself and, organized by the Piermont Marsh Alliance, mounted an eight-year campaign to put a stop to this plan. While HRNERR has not officially committed to abandoning the plan, it first reduced the size of the proposed eradication, then pivoted to funding a study – the results of which confirmed that Phragmites serve an important function in absorbing the force of storm surges – and eventually settled on a small project using geotextile rather than herbicide. In a Zoom meeting last summer, the new head of HRNERR essentially admitted that the original plan was a bad idea. Also in 2020, New York passed a law forbidding the use of glyphosate on state land. Overall quite a vindication for the local community that opposed the plan from its inception.

But there is bad news too. Once again – as previously happened in 1993 – a “turf war” has erupted at Piermont Landing. The development is in an environmentally sensitive location. It is wedged between the Hudson River, Sparkill Creek, and the Piermont Marsh. Since 1994, the development has refrained from using chemical landscaping methods, but the present Board has decided to return to the use of chemicals. This is a step backwards for sure, and a surprising one in Piermont.

The Piermont Landing board is behind the times on this issue. Locally, neither Orangetown nor the Village of Piermont uses pesticides for landscape maintenance. In 2008, Rockland County passed the Non-Toxic Landscape Maintenance Act, strictly defining its practices on county land. In 2010, New York State banned chemical landscaping on school grounds. The Piermont Landing board should be at least as forward thinking. For more information, go to piermontpieralliance.org or e-mail piermontpieralliance@aol.com.