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'It’s a really bad thing.’ Invasive plant is a menace for Eno River wildlife.

A stem of the hydrilla plant. Biologists say the invasive aquatic weed is spreading to bodies of fresh water on the Coastal Plain.
Reinaldo Aguilar
Flickr Creative Commons
A stem of the hydrilla plant. Biologists say the invasive aquatic weed is spreading to bodies of fresh water on the Coastal Plain.

An invasive plant called hydrilla has been a problem in the Eno River for years. State and local environmental officials will begin working this week to eradicate it.

Hydrilla grows underwater, thick and fast. Orange County Water Resources Coordinator Wesley Poole compares it to another invasive plant, Kudzu.

"You know, it's a really bad thing,” Poole said. “It quickly reduces biodiversity, negatively impacts water quality by choking out and preventing the growth of native species."

In 2016, a task force got rid of hydrilla by injecting an herbicide into a 16-mile stretch of the Eno. Now it's back, and the task force will try again. Poole says the weed killer — called fluridone — is not poisonous to other aquatic life or people.

"It's a concentration well within limits approved by the U.S. EPA," Poole said. “And it's determined safe for swimmers and boaters. It's non-toxic to fish and wildlife. And it will remove the Hydrilla, so that's the game plan."

Hydrilla is native to the Korean peninsula. According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, it was first found in Wake County lakes in 1980.

“Since its introduction to Wake County hydrilla has spread across the state in all directions,” the DEQ says. “The people of North Carolina have spent millions of dollars managing hydrilla infested waters. The State of North Carolina recognizes hydrilla as a noxious aquatic weed; it is illegal to culture, transport, and sell this plant.”

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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