Plant removal grows controversy on Chickamauga Lake
HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB)-- Some homeowners and outdoors men who use Chickamauga Lake are calling for stricter regulations, when it comes to getting rid of unwanted lake grass and weeds.
A strong herbicide is currently used to kill the growth but the company that sprays it is no longer required to post warning signs.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation adopted new federal regulations in April and the regulations say the herbicide treatment of less than 80 acres does not require a permit. And that is the case with all of the applications occurring on the Chickamauga reservoir.
Some who live and play on the lake say there are too many unknown dangers.
"There's been no studies, no test in our area in our river system, that will let us know what's going to happen on down the road," says Chris Coleman.
Chris Coleman is an avid outdoorsman and a Channel 3 contributor.
He says signs used to be posted around the lake, warning fishermen and swimmers that herbicide had just been sprayed to help get rid of the pesky water growth, hydrilla.
But with no more signs posted, Coleman says everyone is at risk.
"If we're treating like this with no warning signs, and your next door neighbor comes home, he doesn't know his area's been treated, so you're actually putting your next door neighbor at risk without letting him know," says Coleman.
"Unless a homeowner's group request that we post signs, we do not post signs," says Troy Goldsby.
Goldsby is a vice president of Aqua Services, the company contracted by TVA and homeowners to spray the herbicide.
"These products are all EPA approved products," says Goldsby. "It's a fast method to take care of the vegetation that is present and it's cost-effective."
He says hydrilla is an exotic plant not native to the lake and has spread over the past several years.
He says it also serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and it affects property value.
"In the past four seasons it has gone from one 10 acre spot on Chickamauga Lake to probably 80 percent of the perimeter of Chickamauga Lake," says Goldsby.
"It's unsightly and it makes it look bad and unclean," says lakeside resident Bill Neighbors.
Neighbors has lived on the lake for 20 years.
As much as he hates the hydrilla, he is concerned, especially for his dog, Bob, who could potentially drink the water.
"I wasn't aware that they were doing it without posting any notice of it or letting anybody know about it. This is the first I've heard of it and I don't like it," he says.
Goldsby maintains the water is safe to swim and fish in, you just can not drink it or irrigate your lawn with it.
He also says the herbicide used is continually tested for safety issues.
A TDEC spokesperson says it is committed to spraying the herbicide "in a way that is protective of human health and waters of the state."
Coleman says the grass serves as a 'road map' on the lake to warn boaters and swimmers of shallow water and there are other ways to remove unwanted grass that does not involve such harsh chemicals.