In the battle between citizens of small Cape Cod towns and utility giant NSTAR, over NSTAR’s plans to spray chemical herbicides on power-line rights of way, the citizens scored at least a temporary victory. The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources announced in early May that an agreement had been reached between NSTAR and the Cape Cod Commission to delay spraying until 2011, so that towns can map public and private wells and other critical water resources.
The Cape Cod Commission will conduct mapping for towns that request it by December 31, according to the agreement. In January and February 2011, NSTAR will notify towns and abutters of its “integrated vegetative management plan,” which includes herbicides.
For the past year, grassroots activists have held meetings, spoken with elected officials, signed petitions, and organized on the Facebook group Concerned Citizens Against Herbicide Use on Cape Cod to halt spraying of herbicides that contain chemicals linked to public health problems and groundwater contamination, including Roundup (glyphosate) and Arsenal (imazapyr).
Congressman Bill Delahunt raised the need to better protect our water supplies to the national level. In a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Delahunt called for collaboration between different government agencies that address energy, environment, and agricultural issues. Mark Forest, Delahunt’s chief of staff, says, “We need to get these people in the same room, talking to each other. There’s no reason we can’t control vegetation without harmful chemicals.”
“It’s a throwback,” said Senator Robert O’Leary on Earth Day at the Island Merchant, when asked about the EPA regulations allowing big companies to use toxic chemicals to maintain large tracts of land within the State.
Jared Collins, an Eastham resident who spearheads the Facebook campaign, believes that still more must be done. He says that Concerned Citizens plans to hold monthly awareness events and explore environmental law and abutters’ rights.
Eastham organic horticulturist Laura Kelley has introduced Chip Osborne, co-chairman of Marblehead’s Pesticide Awareness Committee, to town boards interested in considering a regulation to prohibit the use of toxic pesticides on town property.
What you can do:
Ask your town to request water-resource mapping by the Cape Cod Commission. As we go to print, the following towns have NOT yet made a request: Barnstable, Bourne, Eastham, Mashpee, Provincetown, Sandwich, and Wellfleet.
Stay informed on news and events, and support legal resources, through www.greenCAPE.org and on the Facebook group, Concerned Citizens Against Herbicide Use on Cape Cod.
Written by Susan Spencer