Testing for effect of Eversource spraying?

Like most of those who have spoken up, including those who represent our town, I’m against Eversource’s ongoing spraying of the powerlines as their ill-chosen method of keeping the plants down. The universal condemnation, especially by those abutting the powerlines, should be enough for the company to go back to mechanical “mowing,” which certainly seemed to work just fine for decades. A company should not flout the express will of its customers.

The reason we don’t want the powerlines sprayed with herbicides is fear that they will percolate down through our sandy soil and get into the water supply. A reasonable fear. The company says the fears are baseless. I do wonder why, since all Cape towns have been sprayed, there has apparently been no testing to see who’s right. At least I’m not aware of any town doing the testing and making the results known. Hard to imagine that private owners have not had their water tested, but if they have they haven’t shared the results.

Isn’t anybody curious about this? About whether our water supply is in fact being poisoned by Eversource’s spraying (or not)?

One Comment

  • Hello Brent – The issue of testing our water for herbicides is a complex one. And although POCCA (Protect Our Cape Cod Aquifer) is currently looking into testing water and soil samples, there are several potential problems. First, a sampling strategy. Although we have a ‘single source aquifer’ here, it’s really 6 separate aquifers, or lenses, across the Cape. These chemicals, if present, would be in very low concentrations, and you couldn’t take just one sample from a given lens. You might need 4 to 6 samples or more from each lens, and costs add up.

    POCCA believes in the precautionary principle — stop using these toxic herbicides BEFORE they show up in our water, not after. Toxicologists have said that once they’re in the water supply, they are difficult, if not impossible, to remove. Do we want to wait for that?

    And then there’s the interpretation of results. A negative test result might not be that reassuring. If nothing is found, Eversource will say “See, we told you everything was fine”, when in reality that might not be the case. Herbicides could be below the limit of detection, but show up in samples taken the following year. And if we tested only for glyphosate and that came back positive, Eversource would seek to place the blame on homeowners, and there’s a case to be made for that. So you’d have to test for one or more of the herbicides that Eversource uses, but which aren’t available to the homeowner.

    Finally, there’s considerable concern about the ecological effects of these toxins on our environment, not just on humans if they get into our water supply. As our expert toxicologist has said, they do not only affect plants; they have a direct effect on animal life as well; they disrupt the food chain and disrupt the entire ecosystem. This includes their effect on non-target plants, amphibians, bees, butterflies, etc. Honeybees, which are dying off, lose their sense of navigation when exposed to non-lethal doses of glyphosate, and they can’t find their way back to the hive. The herbicides are also bad for pets. All of this can occur at the surface, without detecting the herbicides in the aquifer.

    There’s a wealth of information on POCCA’s website, and I encourage you to take a look at it at http://www.poccacapecod.org

    Thanks for your excellent columns on a variety of topics in the CCT.



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