Massachusetts first state to ban herbicide

May 13, 1987
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BOSTON -- Massachusetts' decision to ban the herbicide alachlor after the known human carcinogen was discovered in drinking water will be appealedby the maker of the weedkiller, company officials said Wednesday.

Robert L. Harness, vice president of environmental and public affairs for the Monsanto Agricultural Co. said the decision by a subcommittee of the Massachusetts Pesticide Board was not based on 'scientific grounds.'

The subcommittee voted 3-1 Tuesday to revoke the registration of alachlor, a weedkiller for cornfields, beginning Jan. 1, 1988.

The board plans to review its decision, which made Massachusetts the first state to ban alachlor, in December when a new study on the herbicide is released, officials said.

Harness said Monsanto, a St. Louis company that manufactures alachlor, will appeal the decision to the state commissioner of agriculture. He said the decision should not have been made until studies on alachlor are completed.

The subcommittee acted after residue from the herbicide was found in five Massachusetts drinking water wells during a recent survey of 187 wells in agricultural areas, officials said.

The wells containing alachlor residue were located in the communities of Westport, Whatley and Worthington, officials said. Alachlor is used on an estimated 17,000 of the state's 60,000 acres of cornfields.

The amount of the herbicide in the drinking water wells exceeded the two parts per billion determined to be tolerable for human consumption, officials said.

Harness said the alachlor finding 'was never validated,' and the subcommittee did not consider well water studies in 1986 that showed no evidence of alachlor.

The subcommittee vote does not have to be considered by the full board, officials said. Last year, the board voted to restrict use of the herbicide to certified applicators.

The herbicide has already been banned in Canada, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency has only restricted its use in the United States.

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