Wednesday, August 17, 2011

GreenCAPE Holds Successful Press Conference on NStar's Plan for Herbicidal Spraying Under Power Lines

Over sixty people gathered today for a press conference, organized by GreenCAPE and Toxics Action Center, to demand that NStar abandon its plan to spray four herbicides along 150 miles of rights-of-way. You can see from the banners in the previous post that getting a message across visually is crucial. Thanks to Femke Rosenbaum’s Made-in-Wellfleet marvels, no one at the Sandwich Visitors’ Center this morning could doubt that a very important event had united us, both activists and ordinary concerned citizens from all over Cape Cod. No sooner had fellow activist Laura Kelley stepped from her car than she immediately donned a banner.

Poison Stops Here read a sign carried by Barbara Hayes of Barnstable. As the banners were unfurled and the signs were positioned, I felt the energy shift. The mood became upbeat and almost celebratory, despite the extreme gravity of the situation.

“The science is there. It’s just a question of policy,” Dr. Kumara Sidhartha told me as we waited side-by-side for the proceedings to get under way.

We were standing beside the Cape Cod Canal. GreenCAPE had chosen the spot because it delineates the boundary of our sole-source aquifer.

In case you didn’t know, there’s a merger going on. NStar plans to merge with Northeast Utilities, if Governor Patrick gives the go-ahead. It was time to reiterate that Cape Cod does not want herbicides in its sole-source aquifer. No pussyfooting around at this press conference.

“We’re drawing a line in the sand,” declared Toxics Action Center Organizing Director Sylvia Broude in a firm voice. “It’s time for NStar to make a permanent commitment not to spray Cape Cod. How many times do Cape Codders have to say no?”

It was a good question and one I have asked myself many times. 200 businesses have signed on. All fifteen towns have passed a resolution against spraying. Over seventy doctors and health professionals recently put their names to a letter destined for NStar’s CEO Thomas May. Why is the utility company still not getting the message?

“Cape Cod already has a long history of breast cancer,” Sylvia added. “We’re calling on NStar to take leadership on this issue.”

Senator Dan Wolf agreed. “I’m honored to be here with citizens who understand what stewardship of Cape Cod is,” Senator Wolf said. “NStar should look for alternative methods. This is an opportunity for a win-win.” He also suggested that a Cape-wide inventory of chemicals should be undertaken and indicated his commitment to doing everything possible to ensure that NStar ends pesticide and herbicide use along the rights-of-way. "We should reduce the use of the chemicals, pesticides and herbicides that end up in our water,” Wolf said.

Then it was the turn of GreenCAPE’s Sandra Larsen to speak: “Our sandy soil makes the use of herbicides problematic. Herbicides threaten our health and drinking water. We are sure the public of Cape Cod is on our side. How about a pesticide-free pledge for the rights-of-way, Mr. May?”

Next at the microphone, Craig Slatin of UMass Lowell. Dr. Slatin explained endocrine disruption and zeroed in on the toxicity of glyphosate, one of the herbicides threatening our sole-source aquifer. Cancer in children is on the increase, he added. These herbicides have “unintended disease consequences” for humans. I learned from his speech that endocrine disruptors can trigger cells to be less protective against cancer. Other valid points included the fact that herbicides remain active at very low doses, and ADHD, autism, reproductive disorders can result from prenatal exposure. Finally, he pointed out there is no difference in cost for the utility company, so why spray herbicides?

Dr. Sidhartha echoed Craig Slatin’s call to NStar to return to mowing. Dr. Sidhartha urged this restraint on behalf of his cancer patients. “Every time pesticides are sprayed in the environment, we are one step closer to sowing seeds of cancer.”

“We are asking both companies to commit to a no-spray policy along the rights-of-way on Cape Cod,” concluded Sylvia Broude, referring to both NStar and Northeast Utilities. “If we applied the precautionary principle, it would make Massachusetts a much healthier place to live.”