Photo Gallery | Buckley Dunton Lake in Becket

BECKET -- Residents upset over the recent use of herbicides at Buckley Dunton Lake can voice their concerns tonight before town officials.

The Becket Conservation Commission has set aside time at the end of their regular scheduled monthly meeting for any townspeople wishing to express apprehension regarding the state chemically treating an eight-acre section of the 161-acre body of water within October Mountain State Forest.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Becket Town Hall.

Four homeowners along the cove requested -- and paid the $15,000 -- to have DCR treat their end of the lake being choked primarily by aquatic weeds, according to Lee Blatt, a lake resident for 30 years.


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"The weeds were so thick last year, you would launch a boat and the oars would get tangled in them," he said.

Conservation Commission Chairman Scott Morley noted his board tonight simply plans to listen to the complainants.

"We're not going to get into an argument over what chemicals were used that are approved by the state," he said.

Heather Whalen throws a stick for her dog, Colden, at Buckley Dunton Lake in Becket on Wednesday.
Heather Whalen throws a stick for her dog, Colden, at Buckley Dunton Lake in Becket on Wednesday. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff / photos.berkshireeagle.com)

Following two advertised public hearings this spring -- on May 15 and a special meeting on June 5 -- Morley said the commission in early June supported the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation's request to apply diquat and fluridone to a narrow cove at the south end of the man-made lake. According to the postings for the hearings, the herbicides are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Agriculture.

DCR officials this week also pointed out that the July 2 application was approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection. A second use of fluridone is expected to be applied later this month.

"The herbicide dissipates in days and adheres directly to plants and sediments as intended," said DCR spokesman William Hickey. "While diquat is permitted for use directly in water supplies, this lake doesn't feed any downstream water supplies."

Hickey's comments counter claims listed in a pamphlet that has been anonymously circulated among residents living near and using the lake.

The information on the flier claims that the herbicides find their way into Yokum Brook, below the Buckley Dunton dam, that feeds into the West Branch of the Westfield River and eventually drinking water supplies in the Connecticut River Valley. Opponents claim the chemicals used can be extremely harmful to humans and animals.

The literature also claims that people who fish, boat and allow their dogs to swim in lake were kept in the dark about the first-ever use of herbicides in the water in the lake's 57-year history.

"The Becket Conservation [Commission], in a most undemocratic manner, failed to notify the public at large and approved this unprecedented use of herbicides in pristine Buckley Dunton Lake used by all of us and our cherished pets," reads the pamphlet.

As an alternative to herbicides, Blatt said the cost to mechanically rake the weeds -- $50,000 -- was too expensive, and would likely be ineffective given the cove is only a few feet deep.

DCR officials said warning signs regarding the herbicide use were to be posted at the cove as well as the along the main body of water.

Frequent user of the lake, Art Stringer, said he found no such signage beyond the cove.

"I walked down the boat launch, across the dam and along the shoreline where people swim, fish and launch their kayaks -- there were no posted warnings," he said in an email to The Eagle.

Buckley Dunton Lake is the largest body of water in October Mountain State Forest and is named for the former Buckley-Dunton mill that operated nearby. Dammed in 1967 by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service as a flood control measure, the lake has an average depth of six feet, with its deepest point at 10 feet.

The man-made waterway is a favorite among kayakers and canoeists due to the shallow waters. The DCR prohibits swimming in the lake as there are no lifeguards on duty or a formal beach area.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233