Sandwich Selectmen Join Other Towns In Opposing NStar’s Herbicides Plan
By: Mary Stanley
NStar may have hit a bit of a snag in its plans to spray herbicides and pesticides along its rights of way underneath power lines in town when, last night, Sandwich joined 11 other Cape towns in signing a resolution to ban the spraying of these chemicals. The non-binding resolution asks the utility company not to use herbicides as part of its vegetative management plan and instead use machinery to contain growth.
For the past two months, Sandwich residents and representatives from the group GreenCAPE, which opposes the herbicide spraying, have been urging towns to sign a resolution to ban the spraying. But when those people first went to Sandwich's Board of Selectmen in November, the board turned the matter over to its Board of Health.
On Monday night this week, the Board of Health held a public hearing on the issue and after taking a closer look at the chemicals being used and reviewing several documents that were submitted, voted unanimously to recommend to the board of selectmen that it sign the resolution to ban the spraying.
During the health board meeting, member Sean P. Grady said that the company should have to prove that the chemicals being used are safe and to prove that there is no risk to the Cape's sensitive environment.
"We've taken it to the people who have the credentials to evaluate the plan and we should abide by those recommendations," Selectman James W. Pierce said just before last night's vote.
"The board of health did a great job of discussing this issue. Sandwich is the twelfth town to sign the resolution but it is the first town to ask its Board of Health's opinion on this," said Selectman Linell M. Grundman.
In a telephone interview this week, Sandwich Health Agent David B. Mason said when NStar initially asked the board of health to review its management plan, the board had looked at the plan in terms of compliance with state and federal laws. Mr. Mason said by law the utility company is required to notify residents of the spraying, to provide information about where and when the herbicides will be sprayed and what chemicals were being used. "In terms of compliance, NStar's plan was valid," Mr. Mason said.
Diane Suhme-Bigorre of Burning Tree Lane attended last night's meeting and was pleased that selectmen voted unanimously to sign the resolution. She pointed out that the chemicals NStar plans to use in the spraying have not been properly or thoroughly tested.
"The chemicals have been tested individually but not in combination with each other," she said.
She added that individually, bleach or ammonia are fairly harmless cleaning chemicals, but when they are mixed the vapor they produce can kill a person. She said such may be the case with the chemicals that NStar plans to use. She added that "the chemicals have been tested on normal soil but not sandy soil." She said it is still unknown if those chemicals could get into the water supply. "It's not a good idea to put chemicals over your water supply," added Susan Phelan of GreenCAPE.
"And the tests are also outdated. How could the state approve spraying chemicals that have never been tested," Ms. Suhme-Bigorre questioned.
Ms. Phelan said there are still two more towns scheduled to vote on whether to sign the resolution.
She said Falmouth is the only town on the Cape to have voted not to sign it. Although the resolution does not forbid the utility company from using herbicides in its vegetation management plan, it strongly urges it not to. And with nearly every town on the Cape signing the document, it carries some weight. "NStar does have permits and state approval. But the Cape delegation is concerned about the spraying and this resolution is the wind beneath our wings. I'm sure NStar will be appalled when they learn so many towns have signed this," she said.
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