State environmental regulators have approved herbicide spraying along the Alaska Railroad tracks for the first time in decades, prompting tribal and environmental groups from Eklutna to Seward to ask them to reverse the decision.
Starting Wednesday, the Alaska Railroad has permission for two years to spray 30 miles of track in a 90-mile segment between Indian and Seward with two chemicals, including glyphosate, the weed-killing ingredient in Monsanto's famous Roundup spray.
The state-owned railroad said it needs to use the chemicals to reduce risks of derailment as well as to ease concerns of federal regulators that the tracks are becoming unsafe.
State regulators concluded the two chemicals the railroad wants to use -- glyphosate and Agri-Dex -- will not harm human health or the environment and they granted the railroad an herbicide spray permit.
However, seven environmental groups, all but one based in Alaska, and the Native village of Eklutna, passionately disagree.
These opponents cite scientific studies that show glyphosate mixtures are linked to cancer and other harm to humans and wildlife. Eklutna lies miles away from the tracks involved, but it claims lands near Indian as part of its traditional use area for subsistence.
Marc Lamoreux, land and environmental director for the Eklutna village government, said herbicide spraying many years ago sickened Native elders, and village leaders are also worried about the chemicals' potential harm to fish.
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