Cape Cod – Nstar Activists – Terror Never Ends – County’s NStar actions do speak volumes

The Barnstable Patriot – County’s NStar actions do speak volumes

Written by Sue Phelan   

April 22, 2011

This is in response to the Barnstable County Matters column “Actions speak louder than words” of April 8.

Yes, the county’s actions related to NStar speak volumes. The “plan of action” proposed by the county is inadequate to address threats posed by NStar’s herbicide use on Cape rights-of-way.

“The plan” only addresses herbicide exposure via groundwater. It never addresses exposures via air (aka drift), which are significant here, OR exposures from herbicides tracked into homes on shoes or pets – a continuing source of exposure inside the home. Well mapping and monitoring – while helpful – do not prevent herbicide intrusion into water.

The horse is already out of the barn once chemicals are detected. Mapping does not reflect the “sensitive areas” beyond wetlands or endangered species habitat, such as pregnant women, infants and those immuno-compromised from disease or chemotherapy.

Monitoring groundwater for only some of the herbicide constituents is misleading at best. Information on every aspect of monitoring should be public and transparent for test results to have credibility. While collection and examination of data of other pesticide users is useful, it confounds me why NStar would have such an interest in this, except for the distraction it provides for them.

The so-called plan for education and outreach to the public with “best practices” is just a euphemism for the continued use of pesticides – a poor choice over any drinking water supply. “The plan” has its shaky foundation in a quickly generated paper by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (NStar’s state regulator) guesstimating that residents are using more pesticides than NStar and relies on only one 11-year-old study in densely populated urban Columbus, OH.

Hardly “proof” of local habits. This intentionally promotes a sand box mentality – “If the homeowner is doing it, why can’t I (NStar)?” Though herbicide use is never the wisest decision, at least the property owner is spraying his own property (on which he pays taxes, not NStar) with herbicides approved for use on residential property; NStar is spraying private property, in spite of the owner’s desires, with herbicides NOT approved for use on residential property.

That’s a big distinction that has been lost in this discussion though it has been oft repeated and proof of such submitted to the county and MDAR. The county plan is not helpful as a preventive technique and doesn’t reflect the desires of towns it purports to represent – all 15 passed resolutions opposing the NStar spraying. Instead of constant re-telling the NStar-as-“good-neighbor” fairy tale, the county might encourage alternative ROW management opportunities that would afford their good neighbor a hero opportunity and a cost savings.

They could at least support a return to the cut and mow practice of previous decades but, better, suggest a low-tech option – local goats – a method used successfully elsewhere. NStar – if they were really a good neighbor – would abandon their use of herbicides on privately owned residential property over the Cape’s only water supply with herbicides that have not been fully vetted for health and safety. NStar can continue to throw big money at good PR or short money on hungry goats.

The writer, a West Barnstable resident, is director of GreenCAPE.

The Barnstable Patriot – County’s NStar actions do speak volumes.