AVON – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is prohibiting the use of Australian Common Reed (phragmites australis) in the wastewater treatment plant’s reed beds.
According to Bill Davis with MRB Group, consulting engineers for the Village, the DEC specifically bans any planting of seeds or roots of the extremely common, invasive reed.
“There’s an American phragmites and an Australian phragmites, and the Australian one is an invasive species,” reported Davis to the Village Board Monday night. “Unfortunately, they’re the most efficient. They’re effective.”
The DEC says that phragmites is capable of ‘vigorous vegetative reproduction and often forms dense, virtually monospecific stands.’ A DNA test can distinguish the American phragmites from the invasive Australian.
“Please note that identification of phragmites should be done by a professional botanist prior to treatment to distinguish the invasive non‐native race from the non‐invasive native,” says the DEC under their Control Methods for the Common Reed page here.
John Barrett, Avon’s Superintendent of Public Works, said that reed beds contain and dry out sludge from the wastewater treatment plant.
“Previously, the sludge would get pumped out onto a layer of blacktop with sand and drainage below, and the sun would dry it out,” said Barrett. “But then it would rain, and the whole process would have to start over again. So about 20 years ago a pilot program had us plant these reeds in the sludge and they would grow and dry it out quickly. It’s one of those things that’s almost too good to be true, it saves us so much manpower.”
There may be an exception to the ban, however. The Village is awaiting the return of a ruling by the DEC.
“The ban only says that we can’t plant phragmites seeds or roots,” said Davis. “There may be an exception if the phragmites continues coming back on its own, which it does in Avon’s reed beds.”
Barrett said that in any case, he will comply with the DEC’s ruling. In the event of a total ban of phragmites use in wastewater treatment reed beds, he hopes to continue using the beds with alternative, native but less effective reeds like cattails.