Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Update on Herbicial Spraying on Cape Cod

This weekend, at the Preservation Hall crafts fair, quite a few people asked me for an update on the situation regarding herbicidal spraying. As far as I know, NStar plans to begin spraying four herbicides under the power lines in the spring. The moratorium will be up at the end of the month. The latest news is that the merger with Northeast Utilities has stalled. It is not clear to me exactly why. Northeast did not do such a hot job cleaning up after the storm in Connecticut last month, recent guests told me. They had no electricity for nine days. According to The New York Times, NStar CEO Thomas May will make $8.3 million if the merger does happen. May is not the only one who will become even richer. NStar's top five executives will receive $50 million in severance and change-of-control payments. This is obscene. What happened to corporate responsibility? When did greed take over? Why don't such corporate leaders care about the lives of citizens? You may have seen the NStar trucks out this month, trimming branches. Yes, they care about keeping the power on during winter storms. Why are they unable to extend that empathy to caring about our health?

Today, the Cape Cod Times published an article written by my organic horticulturist friend Laura Kelly in the column My View. Please read and tell your friends to pay attention. Her piece explains why NStar should abandon its plan to use herbicides over our sole-source aquifer.

Here's Laura:

"NStar plans to begin herbicidal spraying throughout Cape Cod's rights of way in 2012. The second moratorium ends Dec. 31, and there has been no update from our utility company.

As an organic gardener, I've been active in the effort to prevent contamination of our sole-source aquifer through the unnecessary overuse of herbicides. For the past three years, NStar has listened to thousands of Cape residents like me, as well as nonresidents, all requesting the use of alternatives, but NStar executives haven't budged. They'll move forward with spraying 120 miles of Cape power lines with a combination of herbicides: Accord (glyphosate), Krenite S (fosamine ammonium), Escort XP (metsulfuron-methyl), Arsenal (imazapyr) and Garlon 4 (triclopyr), a combination never tested together or with a surfactant on Cape's sandy soils.

These chemicals come from the same company that brought us Agent Orange, DDT, dioxin and genetically modified crops. As usual, Monsanto claims its product is safe, based on its own testing. Will this happen with Roundup/glyphosate as well? I guess it already has, right? Here we are repeating history by making the same mistakes.

I suggest our state representatives adopt the precautionary principle to protect our environment and the habitats that naturally thrive on Cape Cod. Once these toxic chemicals are released onto our land, there's no turning back. Manual labor is sufficient to prune vegetation. It's only a matter of keeping up with new growth. But NStar prefers toxins. Considering these chemicals have not been tested together, or on sandy soil, I worry about our drinking water.

Many consumers believe Roundup is safe. Until recently, researchers focused solely on the health effects of a single active ingredient, glyphosate. New research at the University of Caen, as reported in Green Living Ideas, has shown that the "inert" ingredients amplify the toxic effects on human cells. Turns out "inert" ingredients are sometimes highly toxic, too. (Disclosure of "inert" ingredients isn't required on labels).

People have asked me if glyphosate is in the Roundup brand herbicide. Yes, it is. And one of its "inert" ingredients, called POEA (polyethoxethylene-alkylamine), has been found to kill human cells, especially embryonic and placental cells. POEA is a surfactant derived from animal fat, added to help Roundup penetrate plants' surfaces, making it more effective.

Researchers have discovered that POEA amplifies glyphosate's toxicity. Even at low exposures, Roundup is unhealthy for people. Evidence of its harmful effects keeps piling up: The University of Caen research found that Roundup causes birth defects, infertility, and malformations in newborns whose mothers are exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy. Also, the herbicide continues to be active much longer than we were led to believe.

According to a report in Earth Open Source, industry and regulators knew the truth about Roundup in the 1980s, but corporate executives failed to inform the public. I look upon this situation as an environmental health disaster in the making. Future generations will look back and say, how could you allow this? What were you thinking?

Like Roundup, Accord contains glyphosate. I want to be able to consume drinking water from Cape Cod's sole-source aquifer. How about you? What if spraying herbicides by NStar contaminates our water? We don't have a pipeline from a quarry or another fresh water source close by.

Help protect local drinking water by telling your state representatives to ban Roundup/glyphosate altogether and protect pets, children and the future of Cape drinking water.

We also need to do our part and not spread synthetic chemicals or fertilizers onto our own land. I use chicken manure, which works quite well.

Time's running out. As an organic gardener, I know alternative methods exist to control vegetative overgrowth. Suggest that NStar seek alternatives. Let them be creative and forward-thinking. May they look outside the chemical box for a truly greener future."