Mar 13, 2017
From Cape Codder staff reports
In a letter to the director of the Rights-of-Way Program for the Massachusetts State Pesticide Bureau, the Association to Preserve Cape Cod stated opposition to Eversource Energy’s plan to spray herbicides along its right-of-way in 10 Cape Cod towns as part of the utility company’s vegetation management program for 2017.
In the letter, which was addressed to Clayton Edwards, the state rights-of-way program director, APCC called on Eversource to work cooperatively with Cape Cod towns on alternatives to herbicide spraying. APCC expressed concern that the herbicides proposed for use by Eversource pose environmental and human health risks from potential contamination of groundwater, surface waters and other sensitive natural resource areas. Glyphosate, one of the herbicides proposed, has been identified by the World Health Organization as a “probable carcinogen” and has been linked to other human and animal health issues.
APCC also cautioned against clear-cut mowing using heavy machinery, which in the past has been the utility’s substitute to herbicide spraying. Such indiscriminate mowing can be devastating to plant and animal species caught in its path.
As an alternative vegetation control, APCC pointed to recent examples on Cape Cod of volunteer groups that successfully removed trees and other undesirable vegetation from sections of the utility right-of-way using only hand tools.
The 2017 plan lists Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Edgartown, Harwich, Oak Bluffs, Orleans, Sandwich and Tisbury as slated for herbicide use. The specific right-of-ways on the Lower Cape include Goose Pond in Chatham to Orleans, Harwich to Orleans and Dennis to Harwich.
Last August four towns — Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Dennis — got together, pooling $60,000 to appeal the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources’ approval of Eversource’s Yearly Operational Plan (YOP) for 2016. They requested an adjudicated hearing before the Pesticide Board, which is comprised of 13 representatives from different state agencies, farming interests and the industry. As it happened Eastham was not actually slated for herbicide use in 2016 but the other three towns were. Once they filed the appeal, Eversource opted not to use herbicides in Orleans, Brewster and Dennis.
Attorney Bruce Taub, who represents the four towns, noted that a 45-day waiting period on the 2017 YOP ends March 27 and then MDAR will decide whether they approve the 2017 plan. After that towns would have 21 days to appeal that decision.
Laura Kelley of Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifer, a group that helped facilitate the appeal and selected a pesticide expert to testify, urges interested parties to comment prior to March 27. Letters can be sent to Commissioner John Lebeaux/MDAR, 251 Causeway St., Suite 500, Boston, MA 02114.
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