8 Cape towns on utility’s herbicide list

Eversource to spray Cape rights-of-way later this year
Eversource plans to spray rights-of-way along transmission lines later this year.

By Christine Legere
Cape Cod Times
May. 5, 2016

Eight Cape towns are scheduled for herbicide spraying this year to destroy invasive and tall-growing plants along Eversource’s rights-of-way along transmission lines.

The utility company’s latest list includes Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Dennis, Falmouth, Orleans, Sandwich and Yarmouth. Although spraying will not occur until late summer or early fall, the public only has until June 3 to comment to the state Department of Agriculture on the plan.

A spray product containing the chemical glyphosate, sold in stores as Roundup, will be applied to targeted leaves, stumps and bark by workers wearing backpack sprayers.

On Cape Cod, herbicide spraying historically has been met with a great deal of opposition. Eversource is in the fourth year of its five-year vegetation management plan.

Environmental groups such as the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, GreenCape-the Cape Alliance for Pesticide Education and POCCA (Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifer) have worked to raise awareness of spraying, saying the chemicals will contaminate the Cape’s single-source aquifer.

“We urge anyone who lives on the Cape or cares about the Cape to write a comment,” GreenCape Director Sue Phelan said. “We even hear from tourists that they don’t want to come to the Cape while they’re spraying.”
Officials in all 15 Barnstable County towns have submitted letters to state agricultural officials opposing the application of chemicals.

“I think everyone on Cape would appreciate it if Eversource was more sensitive to their customers’ concerns and, in particular, the fragile environment that we all are responsible for maintaining here on Cape Cod,” Dennis Town Administrator Richard White said Thursday.

Eversource spokesman Michael Durand said his company has been responsive to concerns expressed on the Cape. “We use the Department of Agriculture’s approved products for environmentally sensitive areas for all areas on the Cape,” he said.
Power line neighbors and other residents do not want any spraying to take place. Last fall, three abutters filed a suit in Barnstable Superior Court to stop spraying on the Cape. That case is still pending. According to the trio’s attorney, Bruce Taub, the court rejected a motion by Eversource to dismiss the case.

Taub, who works with Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifer, said the organization planned to challenge this year’s request to the state for the issuance of a spraying permit.

“There are administrative remedies both prior and post issuance of a permit,” Taub said. “We intend to challenge it at both stages.”

A common complaint from right-of-way neighbors is Eversource’s failure to provide them with specific spray dates. “That non-notification is going to lead to exposure to people who own homes or have children who may play in their yards,” Phelan said.
Durand argued that abutters are provided with notice. “Thirty days before spraying, we put a display ad in the Cape Cod Times,” he said. “We also notify abutters with door tags about 30 days before spraying. We’re unable to provide specific dates and times because so much of what we do is weather-dependent.”

State Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, has sponsored a bill that would require utility companies such as Eversource to negotiate with communities regarding the chemical spraying.

“If a community comes up with alternative methods, those methods would be used,” Wolf said. The Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture recommended passage of the bill and forwarded it to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“We need to rein it back so communities have more control over chemicals being used in backyards and neighborhoods,” Wolf said.

Durand said the utility company was already providing the best method of weed control.
“The integrated vegetation management program is the most effective way for us to maintain electric service reliability along our rights-of-way, while promoting the types of low growth that are compatible with electric lines,” Durand said. “The benefits of programs like ours have been proven time and again across the state and across the country.”

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