Every spring, Billy Allen expects a Progress Energy work crew to come bushwhack vegetation in the right of way of power lines that pass through his 57-acre farm in the Chinqaupin area of Duplin County.
But this year, instead of cutting the brush back, the crew doused the area with herbicides. It has been about three weeks since they sprayed, and the stretch of land looks like late fall as much of the brush has turned brown.
“It looks like Agent Orange in Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam,” said Allen, a former U.S. Marine.
Allen has been calling around to Progress Energy and others to share his concerns about the environmental effects of the chemicals.
“Would you spray this in your backyard?” he asked. “I got young’uns running out here.”
Allen is particularly concerned the chemicals could affect Muddy Creek, which is part of the Cape Fear River Basin. The Cape Fear Riverkeeper was planning on visiting the site to investigate the environmental impact.
A state water quality official said the use of herbicides is regulated, but legal.
“Unless they are exceeding the application rates, it’s assumed they’re not doing any harm to the environment,” said Rick Shiver, the surface water protection supervisor for the Wilmington regional office of the N.C. Division of Water Quality. Shiver would investigate any fish kills but said none were reported in the Muddy Creek area in the past several weeks.
The N.C. Department of Agriculture does require commercial applicators of pesticides and herbicides to obtain a license.
Shiver said as long as the crew spreading the chemicals follows the label instructions and has a licensed user, the state has no authority to intervene.