Saturday, October 22, 2011

Update on Herbicial Spraying on Cape Cod

Anyone who has been to the Orleans rotary over the past week was able to admire goats prancing along the fence, proxies for real goats that would love to eat vegetation under the power lines. These marvels were created by Clean Water Art Action Cape Cod. Someone "complained" (NStar execs?) and made the Department of Transportation take down the banner. A shame. Still, it was up for almost a week.

I decided to ask GreenCAPE’s Sue Phelan for an update on the situation with our local utility company. Here it is: “It is disappointing that NStar appears not to have followed through with the goat pilot project this year. Searching for the ‘ideal’ test plot for the goats' appetites, they have failed to recognize there is very little that isn't ideal for goats. A missed opportunity.....Some cutting and mowing would still be needed when goats are part of the rights-of-way maintenance, but less often. Bottom line remains – NStar has chosen to spray large quantities of mixtures of untested designer poisons that a homeowner wouldn't be allowed to purchase much less spray on property they don't own – without consent of the owner (as NStar does). What would you prefer to see in your back yard or behind your child's day care-goats or goons in moon suits?”

Scott Michaud, at the Cape Cod Commission, told me that he is anticipating the release of NStar’s vegetation management plan for 2012 but has received nothing yet. He reminded me that NStar “did not agree to not apply the herbicides,” although the Cape Cod Commission was able to obtain two moratoriums of one year each, which expire at the end 2011. Scott suggested I contact his colleague Martha Hevenor.

Martha said she had asked NStar if it would consider a pilot project with goats, the one Sue refers to above. Martha located a local grazer, who is a contract herder, and sought out a potential location for the pilot project. Now she is waiting to hear back on scheduling. The ball is in NStar's court, in other words. Unfortunately, she has been waiting "a long time." Martha remains hopeful, especially since this option has been proved to work for municipalities across the country.

Next I spoke to Seth Rolbein, Senator Dan Wolf’s senior advisor. Seth said Wolf remains optimistic. There was a presentation on Wednesday to the County Commissioners by Chip Osborne from Marblehead. GreenCAPE had brought Chip in to go over his approach for alternative lawn care that does not involve herbicides. The presentation was well-received, and the hope is that the broader issue of pesticide application across Cape Cod can be addressed. “But the clock is ticking,” Seth admitted. He pointed out Senator Wolf was present at the Bourne Canal press conference in August. The spraying was postponed, which Seth called only an incremental step, adding, “We need to continue the conversation to be sure to get a permanent change in policy.”

Senator Dan Wolf is on our side. Rep. Cleon Turner and Rep. Sarah Peake are both on our side. Dozens of banners have been created. We have collected thousands of signatures. We have proposed other options, like goats, that work perfectly well at Google’s corporate headquarters. NStar persists in its foolhardiness. They base their decision to spray on antiquated science. Glyphosate, one of the herbicides, has recently been shown to cause birth defects and has also been linked to ADHD.

A couple weeks ago I discussed how the mentality that corporate powers have a right to do whatever they please – which in this case is contaminate a sole-source aquifer – ties Cape Codders into the Occupy Wall Street movement. Does NStar’s CEO Tom May care about the Cape Codders who will drink well water contaminated by herbicides? Until the utility company abandons its plan to spray under the power lines, I must conclude he does not, and we must continue to defend our sole-source aquifer, as EPA New England suggests.

What have you done recently to protect Cape Cod drinking water?

Are there any private property owners, preferably along well-traveled roadways, who would be willing to sport a banner, custom-made according to what he or she wants to express about NStar?

What all of you can help with is spreading the word. Educate friends on the dangers herbicides pose to health. Many local stores still sell Roundup, the retail version of glyphosate. Tell merchants to replace the poison with alternative products that are safe. We are the 99% for clean water. Say so now, before it's too late ...