NStar Should Raise the Bar on Herbicide Use

posted Feb 16, 2011, 6:35 AM by Elysse Magnotto-Cleary   [ updated Feb 22, 2011, 2:09 PM ]
"My View," As Published in the Cape Cod Times
February 16, 2011
By: Cleon H. Turner
Many people are disappointed in the results of the vegetation management meetings conducted under the auspices of the county commissioners. The hope was that NStar would see, through the conduct of those meetings, that the use of herbicides over the Cape's aquifer is simply untenable and that NStar would use some other means to control the unwanted vegetation.

NStar must be aware of the delicate state of the drinking water supply on the Cape and its sole-source aquifer. Beth Schwarzman reminded us of this delicate aquifer in her 2002 book, "The Nature of Cape Cod," when citing the contamination of the Sagamore groundwater lens in the early 1940s when "plumes of toxic materials contaminated a number of private and town water wells and several cranberry bogs, necessitating their closure."

It cannot be argued that the Cape's drinking water is safe when herbicides are used.

Though NStar insists that its plan is the most environmentally friendly approach to vegetation management, we must recognize that history has shown that today's environmentally friendly chemicals have very often proven to be tomorrow's health care disasters. While I appreciate the concern for wildlife and meadow type environments, we must remain true to the overarching public health issue, and first and foremost aim to protect the drinking water consumed by those on Cape Cod.

We (and NStar) simply do not know what the long-term effect of the proposed herbicides are or what effect those chemicals will have on humans in the future. Taking the chance that the proposed chemicals will never be a problem is simply too much of a chance to take with Cape Cod's sensitive environment.

Though it may be legal and NStar may find that herbicide use is necessary to better manage the vegetation growth along the rights-of-way on Cape Cod, this is a prime opportunity for NStar to take the high road and to lead the way in reducing the use of herbicides on the Cape.

Rather than argue that homeowners, cranberry growers and others also use herbicides, it would be quite beneficial to NStar and the future of Cape Cod if NStar used this opportunity to either revert to vegetation management via mowing or plan to cease the use of herbicides within a defined short period of time while developing alternatives to herbicides and urging all users of herbicides to find alternative methods of controlling adverse vegetation.

As NStar undoubtedly knows, studies that other countries and organizations have done on several of the chemicals included in the vegetation management plan show unfavorable affects. It must be clear that we do not know the full potential of spraying the proposed chemicals over our sole-source aquifer.

I respectfully ask that NStar take the lead on this very serious issue and do the right thing for the people of Cape Cod.

State Rep. Cleon H. Turner, D-Dennis, represents the First Barnstable District in the Massachusetts House.