May 192014

Dr. Susan Horowitz briefs the Board of Health on fluridoneArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Dr. Susan Horowitz briefs the Board of Health on fluridone

Dr. Susan Horowitz led the Groton Board of Health into the weed-choked water of Baddacook Pond Monday night, when she briefed the board on the safety of an herbicide, fluridone (also known by the brand name “Sonar”) being proposed to kill invasive weeds in the pond.

Use of the herbicide has been a subject of controversy for some months because of a proposal from the town’s Great Pond Advisory Committee (GPAC) to treat Baddacook, which is near — about 50 feet away from — a town water supply well.

Horowitz summed up the safety of the proposed treatment — advocated by the Great Pond Advisory Committee and the Board of Selectmen but vetoed by the Groton Water Commission — by recounting an informal conversation shd had with a toxicologist who is also a risk assessment specialist.

“She looked into fluridone, did a literature search, and she told me that she couldn’t perform a risk assessment of fluridone,” Horowitz said. “Because there was no risk. That the whole way fluridone works presents no risk to people.”

A recent local tabloid story under a screamer headline warning of “potent carcinogens in the water supply” was misleading, she said, because the chemical mentioned in the story has only been created under laboratory conditions, and never found in the real world.

Horowitz is a member of the Great Pond Advisory Committee that recommended the treatment after a successful treatment in Lost Lake and Knopps Pond last year. Neither of those ponds is near a town water supply.

“We (GPAC) don’t believe they (Water Commissioners) completely understand the science of the product … Sonar disrupts photosynthesis. As soon as it is put in the water, it gloms on to the weeds. It doesn’t go anywhere except the weeds, the plant material. It kills the plants and disintegrates with the plant material. The byproduct they are talking about is a theoretical byproduct that has never been proven to exist in real time — it is a chemical that a chemist can “make” on a whiteboard, but has never been found,” she told Commissioners Bob Fleischer and Jason Weber.

“I think the fact that we are charged with both public and environmental health, we as public health officials need to recognize that there is a protection that has to be afforded the environment. If that pond eutrifies (fills in and becomes a bog or swamp) I’m not sure that that means to the well. The well is 50 feet from the pond. It is not sucking water from the pond. GPAC is in the process of trying to get a hydrogeologist to give us answers — it is not a direct connection to the pond,” she said.

“It also points out that our understanding of water flow is quite inadequate,” Fleischer replied, doubting that the well didn’t receive some pond water.

Horowitz said the Board of Health may revisit the issue after a hydrogeologist is retained by GPAC and studies the situation, possibly later this year.