Friday, December 24, 2010

The Problem of Pesticides: They Get Into Places They Don't Belong 

Rachel Carson warned us of the dangers of pesticides in Silent Spring. And it took years for poisons like DDT to be outlawed.
However, we’re still dumping millions of pounds of pesticides on farms every year. Although the actual usage seems to have leveled off, according to EPA data available through 2001, more than 675 million pounds of the stuff was used in the agriculture industry....More

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Department of Agricultural Resources
251 Causeway Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02114 617-626-1700

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pursuant to the Rights-of-Way Management Regulations (333 CMR 11.00) in order to apply pesticides to control vegetation to maintain Rights-of Ways, the Department of Agricultural Resources must approve a Vegetation Management Plan (VMP) and a Yearly Operational Plan (YOP). The VMP is intended to justify the need to control vegetation, identify target vegetation, describe the intended methods of control, describe methods for identifying sensitive areas, describe operational guidelines for applicators, outline a program of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) designed to reduce the use of herbicides, and describe alternative land use activities.

The following municipalities are advised that the MassDOT Highway Division District 6 proposes to utilize herbicides to treat their Rights-of-Way in these municipalities:

Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Canton, Chelsea, Dedham, Dover, Milton, Needham, Newton, Quincy, Randolph, Somerville, Watertown, Wellesley, Weston, Westwood, Weymouth, Winthrop


In accordance with 333 CMR 11.05 the Department of Agricultural Resources will conduct a regional hearing to receive public comment on the proposed Vegetation Management Plan for the MassDOT Highway Division District 6 as submitted by the MassDOT Highway Division 6, 185 Kneeland Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02111.

To provide all interested parties an opportunity to comment on the proposed VMP, public hearings will be held at the following locations:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011: MassDOT, John Driscoll Building, 668 South Ave, Weston Turnpike Depot, Weston 10:30 AM- 12:00 PM

Plans Available for Public Review Prior to Hearings:

Section 11.05 (3)(d) of the Row Management Regulations provide: “At least 21 days prior to the end of the public comment period, the applicant shall send a copy of the proposed VMP to the chief elected official, the Board of Health, and the Conservation Commission in affected communities upon their request.” Such request should be made to:

Mr. Helmut Ernst District Highway Director MassDOT Highway Division District 6 185 Kneeland Street Boston, MA 02111

2010 VMP:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

NStar Use of Herbicides Raises Concerns For Public Health

From: Sue Phelan, GreenCAPE, <>  In case you are hearing false reports from NSTAR spokesmen that Silent Spring Institute has tested for their herbicides and found nothing (a shameless attempt to twist the truth), please read  the reality according to Silent Spring Institute in the following letter to the editor- Sue Phelan, GreenCAPE, P.O. Box 631, West Barnstable, MA 02668 508.362.5927


Laurel Schaider and Cheryl Osimo, Newton: NStar Use of Herbicides Raises Concerns For Public Health by Laurel Schaider and Cheryl Osimo, Silent Spring Institute, Newton  SANDWICH BROADSIDER

Posted Dec 15, 2010 @ 06:00 AM Cape Cod —
A recent Sandwich Broadsider article, “Cape environmental groups fight NStar plan,” (Dec. 8) reported that NStar spokesman Michael Durand cited a recent Silent Spring Institute groundwater study. The study did not find herbicides, and this point has been used to support the idea that spraying herbicides in rights-of-way areas will not affect Cape groundwater. We are writing to clarify the scope of our study and explain why it cannot be considered evidence that herbicide use is safe.

In our recent study of 20 public drinking water wells on Cape Cod, we tested for five herbicides, including one, triclopyr, that is among the herbicides proposed for use by NStar. We did not detect any of these herbicides. 

However, these results are of limited relevance to the NStar proposal, because we did not target wells close to sources of herbicides, and we did not include all herbicides proposed by NStar, nor the undisclosed “inert” ingredients in pesticide formulations that also raise health concerns. In addition, public wells are protected from nearby contamination sources by a 400-ft buffer zone, while private wells are less protected and may be more vulnerable to contamination than public wells, and nearby surface water bodies also may be impacted.

The proposed use of herbicides in rights-of-way management on Cape Cod raises concerns about groundwater contamination and exposure to animals and to people who pass through a sprayed area, for example during recreational use. The characteristics of the Cape's aquifer (sandy soils, low organic content) promote relatively fast movement of groundwater and limited breakdown of organic contaminants.

Pesticides continue to be among the chemicals that Silent Spring Institute is testing for in ongoing groundwater and household exposure studies. The active and “inert” ingredients raise multiple health concerns, and alternatives should be evaluated.
Laurel Schaider and Cheryl Osimo
Silent Spring Institute

Friday, December 10, 2010

Letter to Linda Walsh, Newton Health Department

12 8 2010  Attn:  Linda Walsh,  cc: Bob Rooney
Dear Linda,
   Bob Rooney sent me the draft of the letter you are planning to submit to the MBTA.
   I am very grateful that you have taken the time to send comments.
   I hope you will be willing to consider my suggestions for your comments.  Please call me if you would like to discuss them. 
    (Note: I have asked Bob to ask the Mayor for a formal acknowledgment of the original letter and a brief summary of the steps City of Newton officials have taken so far.)
   Your letter focuses on steps to fulfill the requirements regarding notification.  At our meeting last Thursday, I thought we agreed that newspaper notices are not acceptable.  In the past, the local newspaper notice was limited and ineffective. It is even more inadequate today when so many people rely on email and online communication.  
    Clearly the requirements for record keeping and communication to the public need review and updating.  The confusion between Ann Phelps and John McNally about when the spraying takes place is evidence that systems need updating.
    And then, even if the state agencies and the city of Newton did meet the requirements of the current regulations, the public would not be receiving adequate or proper notice of either the spraying or the opportunity to influence official policymaking. 
    Therefore I hope you will ask that the review and comment period for the YOP be extended to give the City of Newton adequate time to notify its citizens, especially the abutters, of opportunities to engage in a legitimate public review of the entire YOP.
    More important, there are no precautions that people can take to protect themselves and their families from exposures to herbicides. In fact, such false assurances misinforms the public about the true nature of pesticides.
    Since learning that City of Newton officials do not have records of the multiple herbicide applications on Rights-of-Ways in Newton, and until such records are public, I hope the Health Department will object to the use of herbicides by state agency contractors. 
    While Bob Rooney has asked the City of Newton Law Department to acquire the herbicide application records, please know that the complete ingredients in the chemical products are trade secrets. They not disclosed even to the EPA. So that public officials nor the public ever has the complete picture of what chemicals are being used and therefore there is no way to truly track or evaluate the true cost to health or the environment.
    As we discussed last Thursday, I look forward to working with you to share information with other Newton officials and citizens.
    Please forward me your final letter so that I can share it with others who are interested in the City’s response to the Letter to Mayor Warren.  Signatures (as of 11/20/2010).
    I have been posting information and resources online. Click here.
Best regards,
Ellie Goldberg 617 965-9637

Letter from Linda Walsh to MA Dept. of Agric Resources

Health and Human Services Department
Linda Walsh, Interim Commissioner
1294 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1544
Telephone 617.796.1420   Fax 617.552.7063   TDD/TTY 617.796.1089

December 7, 2010   
Rights-of -Way Program
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources
Pesticide Bureau
251 Causeway Street, Suite 500
Boston, Massachusetts 02114-2151

Dear Sir,

I am writing to comment on the yearly operational plan to manage vegetation along the railroad’s right of way in compliance with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Rights of Way Management Regulations 333 CMR 11.00. The public notification of herbicide applications is mandated by this regulation to our department by registered mail at least 21 days in advance of treatment.

This notification is extremely important to ensure adequate time for notice to be given to our citizens so that one may take the necessary precautions before, during and after the use of herbicides.   It has been our experience that the notification procedures have not been followed according to the mandated protocol.  This should be addressed with explicit language that would ensure the notification procedures are followed, up to and including canceling the spraying until such notification has occurred.

It is understood that the notification will occur in the local newspaper, which is acceptable, however I would further request that the Commissioner for the Department of Health and Human Services is notified via email and telephone (, 617-796-1420) concurrent with the public notification to establish the necessary relationship with managers on ground.  This would enable the City to conduct further notifications and assist in the answering of further questions raised by Newton residents.  

This is a matter of great importance in maintaining the public health and safety of all residents. I appreciate your attention to this matter.


Linda Walsh
Interim Commissioner of Health and Human Services

Thursday, December 9, 2010

State policy lags far behind current science in the regulation of herbicides.

We urge state policy makers to update current herbicide regulations in light of latest scientific information.  Quote from the GreenCAPE campaign
Cape Cod for a Truly Green NSTAR

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Debacle over drinking water deals a blow to CDC and EPA.

When it comes to something as basic as ensuring that our drinking water doesn't poison our children, you'd think federal scientists and environmentalists would hustle to give the public the fullest and most reliable information as quickly as possible. Washington Post [Registration Required] 
EG: This article discusses why government agencies do not provide the most reliable information on the health affects of environmental hazards and why they are slow to admit error...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Attn: Mayor Setti Warren Re: MBTA Herbicide spraying

To: Mayor Setti Warren, Newton CIty Hall
Da: November 12, 2010


Dear Mayor Warren,

We were inspired by your promise on Newton’s 350 day to make us the greenest city and your commitment to create a "culture of safety" at the recent NNHS Safety Meeting.

We are writing to ask you to take leadership to protect public health and environmental safety by objecting to the MBTA’s plan to spray hazardous herbicides along the tracks in Newton and Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Malden, Medford, Milton, Quincy Revere and Somerville.  

There will be a hearing on November 15 regarding the MBTA’s Vegetation Management Plan (VMP) and a Yearly Operational Plan (YOP).  Written comments are accepted until December 9.

MBTA Vegetation Management Plan 2011 - 2015

In 1994, several Newton residents organized the Committee for Alternatives to Pesticides (GreenCAP) after Dr. Rita Arditti's presentation about cancer as an environmental disease and state statistics named Newton as one of the towns with the highest rate of cancer.  Our goal was to educate the community and the city about alternatives to toxic chemicals for weed and insect control. 

That year, our main action was to organize community and official objection to the MBTA's herbicide spraying on the tracks and we continued to do so as the MBTA resumed spraying every few years. 

Please read the brief history below and see the attached resolution by the Newton Board of Alderman.

Today, our objections are stronger than ever.  All pesticides are poison.  Pesticides can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin or swallowed, not only in treated areas but down wind and down stream. 

Moreover, toxic chemicals are unnecessary. Alternative non-chemical weed control methods such as planting low maintenance vegetation and mechanical cutting are known to be both effective and economical.

This time, the primary chemical product is Razor® Pro Herbicide, (Active ingredient is 41% Glyphosate Isopropylamine Salt.)

According to Razor® Pro's marketing information, it is “Ideal for use in post-emergent weed control in industrial sites as well as forestry, turf, vegetation management, and ornamental areas. Razor Pro controls most annual and perennial weeds and is highly effective on woody brush and plants. This surfactant-loaded liquid formulation is rainfast within two hours of application and eliminates the need for additional surfactant.  Note: This herbicide cannot be sold in MA, VT, WA, CA.  

Most alarming, the MA Department of Agricultural Resources’ fact sheet defending the primary herbicide ingredient, glyphosate, is based on the same misleading and out-of-date references from the 1970s and 1980s that we first objected to over fifteen years ago when we were objecting to the use of the glyphosate-based product, RoundUp Pro.   

Another proposed herbicide is Oust Extra.  Health hazards of Oust Extra, Fact Sheet, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides: See additional information below.

We ask you to submit written comments urging the MBTA to revise its plan to spray and reach out to other state and local leaders to join you.  We also ask that the City of Newton departments that receive the state notifications, the Health Department, Conservation Commission and Board of Aldermen (identified 11/17)  share that information with Newton citizens, especially with the abutters of the MBTA tracks and other Rights of Way herbicide users (i.e., the Turnpike, Highways, Commuter Rail, etc. added 11/17) so they can participate in the hearings and take advantage of options for public comment.

We are eager to meet with you to answer questions and provide additional background.

Yours truly,
Ellie Goldberg, 79 Elmore Street, Newton Center, MA 617-965-9637

Green Decade Letter to Mayor Warren, November 2010

From Marcia Cooper, President, Green Decade/Newton

Dear Mayor Warren,

Green Decade appreciates the attention you have given to the importance of public safety in Newton. We have a concern on this topic, since becoming informed of the MBTA’s plan to spray hazardous herbicides along the tracks in Newton and Boston, Braintree, Brookline, Cambridge, Malden, Medford, Milton, Quincy, Revere and Somerville. Pesticides that are harmful to our health and the environment ought not to be used in our community.

There will be hearings November 15, 2010 regarding the MBTA’s Vegetation Management Plan (VMP) and a Yearly Operational Plan (YOP). Written comments will be accepted until December 9, 2010.

Green Decade supports the use of alternative non-chemical weed control methods, such as planting low maintenance vegetation and mechanical cutting that are proven to be both effective and economical.
With public safety as a high priority, we ask that you submit written comments urging the MBTA to revise its plan to spray along the MBTA tracks in Newton.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of our request.

Marcia Cooper
President, Green Decade/Newton

City of Newton Board of Alderman MBTA Herbicide RESOLUTION 1995

City of Newton
In Board of Alderman
August 14, 1995
the MBTA postponed its scheduled herbicide spraying of the Riverside Line in Newton and held a Public Information Meeting on August 7, 1995, as requested by the Board of Aldermen unanimously by Resolution on July 10, 1995 (#280-95); and
that meeting was attended by Aldermen Lipsitt, Mansfield and Parker, State Representatives Cohen and Khan, members of the Green Decade Coalition and GreenCAP, and about 30 abutters to the Riverside Line; and
although MBTA officials presented information to demonstrate that they use an approved product and their methods of application limit the extent of the spraying, testimony was given by GreenCap members that some of the components of the herbicide are untested and their effects unproven, and by abutters that MBTA procedure had resulted in significant over spray as recently as 1994; and
MBTA also described alternative methods of vegetation control, including limited burning, mechanical cutting, and reduced concentrations of chemicals, but rejected these alternatives for the Riverside Line; and
most attendees at the meeting requested that some or all of the Riverside Line in . Newton be designated a 'no-spray zone,: with only one person speaking in favor of ' the spraying; and
the MBTA officials could not indicate where 'no-spray', 'limited-spray' or "no-spray' zones were planned to be, nor would they guarantee any abutter that a requested 'no-spray“ zone would be honored; and
the MBTA has rescheduled the herbicide spraying for the week of August 21, 1995;
that the Newton Board of Aldermen formally request MBTA Interim General Manager Robert L. Mabardy to cancel the planned 1995 herbicide spraying of the Riverside Branch of the Green Line, and to take part in a joint task force to explore and recommend alternatives to current MBTA chemical vegetation control methods, and to seek improved methods of communication with the public regarding these activities.

Resolution Submitted By:
Ald. Mansfield, Parker and Lipsitt
Request for APPROVAL under Suspension of Rules
Attest: Edward G. English, City Clerk
Boston Globe: Newton group seeks end to herbicides on Green Line