CLEBURNE COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama summers can mean tall grass and weeds along roadways that create hazards for drivers.
In Cleburne County, the commission passed a motion last year for a roadside maintenance contract. County commissioners told CBS 42 the goal was to save money on mowing costs by using herbicides.
The county hired IVM Solutions to spray the herbicides. An employee with the company said they used MSMA Target 6 Plus in the most recent round of spraying in June.
According to the label, MSMA Target 6 Plus contains a form of arsenic and is banned in a dozen states.
During previous rounds of spraying, IVM Solutions has used Roundup and 2,4-D, according to a pesticide use investigation from Cleburne County.
Roundup’s active ingredient, Glyphosate, has been at the center of several high-profile lawsuits. So far, thousands of people have come forward with claims the chemical gave them cancer. While some studies report it’s a possible human carcinogen, the EPA stands by its research that found glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic.
Since Cleburne County began spraying herbicides, hundreds of people have signed a petition, asking the commission to stop.
Neighbors tell CBS 42 they’re worried about potential health impacts for their families and pets.
“I started doing research, and the more research I do the more I’m convinced that herbicides are really, really dangerous,” said Fruithurst resident Greg Flanders.
Local biologist and former licensed pesticide applicator, Melanie Spaulding, captured video of IVM Solutions spraying near a child on a tractor and waterways.
“That just horrified me to think about what he was being exposed to,” said Spaulding.
As a former licensed pesticide applicator, she told CBS 42 she believes IVM Solutions violated the law.
Tuesday, The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries confirmed with CBS 42 there is now an active investigation underway. The agency said in a statement:
“The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ Pesticide Management section is conducting an active investigation into the Cleburne County situation. Consumer complaints were received by the department which initiated the investigation. An inspector has been assigned to this investigation to determine that the product being used is a registered product and being applied properly, according to label directions. We will contact you once the investigation is complete.”
A representative with IVM Solutions confirmed with CBS 42 over the phone that the Alabama Department of Agriculture has been in contact with them. IVM Solutions has not provided any more details on the investigation at this time.
CBS 42 reached out to each of the Cleburne County Commissioners. District 1 County Commissioner Laura Cobb was the only one who would do an on-camera interview.
The original roadside maintenance contract was passed unanimously, but Cobb said she thought there would be no spraying in her district at the time.
She later learned that was not the case. While Cobb admitted she did not review the contract before voting, she said ever since then, she has been pushing to bring the issue back on the table.
“If you’ve got a contract with a company that’s going to go through and spray out waterways and near where kids are playing, that’s wrong. We don’t need that in our county,” said Cobb.
District 3 County Commissioner Terry Hendrix initially brought the roadside maintenance contract forward. He declined an interview, but told CBS 42 the spraying under the current contract finished last week and, “the contract will be debated this fall when all county contracts are due for next year.”
In the meantime, neighbors hope voicing their concerns and putting ‘No Spray’ signs on their front lawns will convince the county commission to make a change when it’s time to vote.
“If this continues we are looking at major health hazards,” said Spaulding.
Stay with CBS 42 for the latest on this developing story.