Sunday, May 22, 2011

Green Decade Collecting Emails for Herbicide Notification List

by Ellie Goldberg
Got Herbicides?  The MBTA, the Turnpike, the Highway Department, DCR Urban Parks and CSX Railway plan to spray herbicides in Newton this summer.  

According to the Vegetation Management Plans*, the chemical products they use are Roundup-Pro or Razor-Pro alone or in combination with Arsenal, Escort XP, Oust Extra or Oust XP. 

The MBTA will spray tracks and ballast areas and the brush on the immediate perimeter sometime in late July and twice in late August, according to applicator Mark Lacombe from Northern Tree Service.  

The Green Decade/Newton, a non-profit environmental advocacy and education organization, believes that residents have a right to know where and when herbicides are sprayed, especially near homes, yards, gardens and children's play areas, as well as public parkways, roads, sidewalks, paths and trails.

Eight Newton residents recently met new Health Commissioner Dori Zalesnik and Senior Environmental Health Specialist John McNally to advocate for a policy of transparency and community notification of all the herbicide applications by all of the state agencies.

Although notification is no defense against exposure nor protection from herbicide drift and run off, it does alert us to the State's use of pesticides. Unfortunately, the State’s fact sheets use 1980s research to claim there is no herbicide run-off or drift.  Current research shows these claims to be untrue.

State regulations require that the applicators put a notice in at least one newspaper 48 hours before the herbicide application.  However we believe that it is not an adequate alert now that so many of us rely on digital communication.

During our meeting at the Health Department, we asked about using the city's 311 system to notify residents of spraying.  Dr. Zalesnik said she was unsure if this would be an appropriate use of the system. 

As an alternative, Marcia Cooper, Green Decade president, offered to collect emails from interested residents to provide to the Health Department.  Dr. Zalesnik could then simply send out emails when she gets a 21 day notice from the herbicide applicators of the estimated ten-day time frame for the spraying.  

If you would like the Green Decade to put your email on the notification list, send your name and email to

For more information on herbicides, cancer and the Precautionary Principle, see the following resources and more at Don't Spray 'em. Outsmart 'em

Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition article about the President's Cancer Panel:

The Presidents Cancer Panel Report: Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now

Boston Neighborhood Pesticide Action Committee (NPAC) letter to the MBTA and Massachusetts Department of Transportation summarizing the links of the herbicides to cancer and other health hazards as well as soil and water contamination and asking for a MBTA NO SPRAY policy.  

*Massachusetts Rights of Way Vegetation Management Plans  

-- Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed., is founder of and former co-chair of the Green Decade's Committee for Alternatives to Pesticides (

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Information on Herbicide Application Plans

Department of Agricultural Resources, Rights of Way Vegetation Management Plans  

The following conduct herbicide applications in Newton:
Mass DOT District 6:
N Star lists Newton as one of the municipalities:
CSX Railway:
Mass. DCR:
MBTA Rapid Transit Lines:
2010 Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation Division of Urban Parks DCR Herbicide Plan for Newton
  • Newton Hammond Pond Reservation
  • Saw Mill Brook Reservation
  • Quinobequin Road
  • Hammond Pond Pkwy