12 INVESTIGATES: Dead brush along VA roadways

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Dead and dying tree leaves and brush along many of Virginia's roadways - it's unsightly and apparently attention grabbing, at least according to some of the messages coming into our newsroom.

NBC12 viewers posted comments on our page about it: "It's awful. Did they spray poison or something?" Another person wrote, "I've been wondering the same thing."

We found the dead vegetation along 288, 95, Chippenham, even along the Powhite Parkway. It covers the side of the road and even goes up into some of the trees.

The Virginia Department of Transportation admits to spraying herbicides in these locations.

"This is an operation that we perform every year," said VDOT spokesperson Lindsay LeGrand.

It's usually done in the fall. Everything's already dying, so the brown vegetation doesn't stand out as much.

"We've had heavy rain fall," said LeGrand. "It's created a lot of overgrowth for the brush. So we've had to start early this year."

VDOT says the herbicides cut costs - it's cheaper to spray then send out a mowing crew. The agency says its also about safety, keeping the brush from obstructing signs or views.

The program is not without controversy. The online news site Charlottesville Tomorrow says Albemarle County supervisors are urging residents to opt out of the roadside spraying program over concerns about the chemical being used - Krenite S.

"We're spraying a variety of agents," said LeGrand. "It's just brush overgrowth agents, it's EPA approved. We don't have one agent that we stick to. It just really depends on where on the roadways that we are."

Once the brush dies - which takes a few weeks - VDOT sends crews around to remove it. That process is underway now.

A VDOT spokesperson says if you notice brush blocking a sign or if you see overgrowth, report it to the VDOT customer service center at 1-800-367-7623.

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