Thursday, March 11, 2010

Guest Post by Laura Kelley

Readers have asked me for an update on the local situation regarding herbicidal spraying under the power lines. For a summary of a recent meeting, go here.

Below, a guest post from organic gardener Laura Kelley, of Littlefield Landscapes, on this subject. (Since our utility company is searching the Internet for mention of its name, I have abbreviated below, with simply N, but I'm sure you know, by now, which company N refers to.)

Here's Laura:

N intends to spray a mixture of five herbicides along 150 miles of Cape Cod. I’m extremely worried because herbicidal spraying is the wrong method of brush removal for Cape Cod. Federal law requires the utility company to remove vegetation under the power lines but does not mandate chemical straying. In the past, N kept vegetation below the two-foot limit by mowing.

The risks posed by herbicidal use have being vastly underestimated. Chemicals do not necessarily remain where they are applied. They will drain into our groundwater. 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, with a surfactant base of petroleum, 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.

Why can’t N mow beneath the power lines every seven years, as in the past? Non-toxic ways to control vegetation exist and have been proved successful.

I believe the use of herbicides is not a long-term solution. I worry about my health and my neighbor’s health. There are already high rates of cancer on Cape Cod, and a large elderly population who are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures. At a time when everyone is “going green,” why does N insist on chemicals?

Laura also would like to share with you the first page of the most recent Association for the Preservation of Cape Cod Newsletter:

"Tell your legislators Cape Cod needs a regional policy for N’s herbicide program!

APCC urges you to contact Commissioner Scott Soares today and write him personally about why you do not want N to spray herbicides here. The electric power utility recently announced plans to conduct herbicidal spraying this spring and summer along its Cape Cod easements. N plans to use herbicides in 2010 in all Cape towns except Provincetown and Mashpee.

APCC is concerned about potential impacts to the environment and human health from herbicide use near wetlands, public water supply areas, private wells, rare species habitats and other sensitive areas, found along the easements that run through most of the Cape.

The spraying is part of N's vegetation management program, which in the past has solely relied on mowing and pruning to control vegetation that could pose a hazard to power lines or impede access for repairs and maintenance. As a public utility, N is exempt from certain state and local laws restricting the use of herbicide and other pesticide use.

Because of the unique characteristics of the Cape's sandy soil and prevalence of sensitive natural resources, APCC has advocated for the establishment of a Cape-wide policy that would meet N’s vegetation management program goals while protecting the Cape’s natural resources and human population from potential exposure to herbicides.

Currently, the Cape Cod Commission is working with several towns to help identify the location of private wells and other sensitive areas, and has initiated preliminary talks with N with the goal of reaching agreement on a Cape-wide policy."

To help ensure that these important discussions continue, please contact Commissioner Scott Soares, DAR, to express concern by leaving him a fact-based reason why N should not apply the herbicide program throughout Cape Cod. Thank you for your attention. (Scott Soares, Commissioner DAR, 251 Causeway St. Suite 500 Boston, MA 02114)