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