*****************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.