Friday, December 04, 2009

Guest Blogger Shares Environmental Concerns on Herbicide Spraying

I would like to present guest blogger, Laura Kelley of Littlefield Landscapes, second from the left, whose words were published yesterday in the Provincetown Banner’s Letters to the Editor:

“NStar intends to spray up to six herbicides on Cape Cod, where I have worked as an organic landscaper for 18 years. Federal law requires the utility company to remove brush under the power lines. In the past, NStar kept vegetation below the two-foot limit by mowing. I believe spraying herbicides will pollute groundwater. Governor Patrick’s new green procurement program gives me the hope that NStar executives will change their plans and choose a non-chemical solution, one that protects Cape Cod’s unique environment.

As an organic gardener, I fear the risks posed by herbicidal use have being vastly underestimated. Chemicals do not necessarily remain where they are applied. They will drain into our sole source aquifer. Most Cape Cod residents get drinking water from private wells. We live on a sand bar without enough topsoil to aid in natural filtration. Spraying a dangerous combination of herbicides will harm habitat and insects, destroying natural pollinators, the ones we need in order to support our ecosystem, not to mention the potential harm inflicted on humans!

According to the Massachusetts Water Works Association, scientists are concerned about what ends up in drinking water. They have no means of assessing how chemicals interact, even at low concentrations, and what affect these low doses may have on us. Most testing data so far has been based on the active ingredient in each herbicide. Therefore, it’s impossible to predict the toxic effects or full impact of all six together.

One of the herbicides NStar intends to use is glyphosate, a known carcinogen and endocrine disrupter at low doses. Personally, I would prefer not to have glyphosate in my drinking water.

A scond is Imazapyr, known to remain in soil. It has very high mobility and thus is likely to contaminate surface water, as well as groundwater. The breakdown of Imazapyr can be irritating to eyes, respiratory systems, and skin. I would prefer not to have Imazapyr in the soil I touch every day.

As an organic gardener, I know non-toxic ways to control vegetation exist. Why can’t NStar mow beneath the power lines every five years, as in the past? Mowing may not end sucker growth but how much more sensible than the use of toxic chemicals!

Local landscapers could maintain the rights of way annually to keep vegetation at acceptable levels. I know horticulturists who can identify native ground cover that would help prevent unwanted vegetation. Furthermore, it’s possible to remove their root systems and replace them with low native species. This would be the best solution, mutually satisfying to both Cape residents and NStar executives.

At the request of Selectmen in Eastham, where I live, Wellfleet, Truro and Orleans, NStar agreed this fall to a moratorium that will expire June 1, 2010. Over 2000 concerned citizens have signed petitions to urge NStar to chose a less harmful, non-toxic method of brush removal. I believe the use of herbicides is not a long-term solution or a sustainable way to manage weeds. I worry about my health and my neighbor’s health. There are already high rates of cancer here, and a large elderly population who are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures. At a time when everyone is “going green,” why does NStar insist on chemicals?”