A little over six months ago, the Leesburg Town Council voted to stop using glyphosate—an herbicide marketed in the U.S. since 1974 as RoundUp—along the town’s waterways. Now, county supervisors have directed staff
Leesburg 10-year-olds Elias Brock and Aila McGregor were once again leading the push to stop the use of glyphosate, over concerns that the herbicide could have negative health impacts. Chemical and agricultural technology giant Bayer-Monsanto, the parent company of RoundUp, has faced numerous high-profile lawsuits over the impact and scrutiny of the product’s potential health impacts, including possibly causing cancer.
“Aila and I, and all the kids in Loudoun County, live downstream from your decisions,” Elias told supervisors. “What you choose to do or not to do affects all of our futures.”
“I am coming to you not only as a kid of this generation who is concerned about the awful chemicals being used in my county, but also as an adult of the next generation who will take responsibility for the ecosystem of this planet,” Aila said. “… Maybe you were once a kid who thought you could never make change, but you can now.”
In April, after Elias, Aila and other town residents pushed the Town Council to abandon an herbicide called Aquaneat along Leesburg’s waterways, the council voted to explore other options. On the Town Branch, the town hired goats to clear vegetation to comply with regulations to keep the stream channel clear—a contract that ended up with two goats dying from presumed snake bites or an individual feeding them.
Goats will likely not be the solution for Loudoun’s much larger landscape maintenance work.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) proposed the review.
“It can’t be done through Loudoun County, because Loudoun County is too big,” Randall said, also pointing to the county’s common areas and areas along roadways. But, she said: “There are some very cost-effective means we could use, actually costing less than this.”
“I’m almost surprised that we’re still using these chemicals today with all our knowledge about the problems, the health problems, they create,” said Supervisor Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg).
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) asked county staff members to involve the county Health Department for an opinion on risks and the scientific evidence of herbicides’ potential danger to health.
Supervisors approved the review on an 8-0-1 vote, with Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) off the dais.