Weed-Killing Chemicals Worry Cape Residents

Some Cape Cod residents are calling on utility company NStar to stop using pesticides to kill weeds along its power lines.

NStar maintains that its methods of weed-control are safe for the community, said spokesman Mike Durand.

"Using the herbicide in the amounts that we do, which are very low, in conjunction with some other methods that we use, is absolutely the best way to do it," Durand said.

NStar has agreed to a moratorium on the spraying until next spring, so cities and towns can map out areas that are sensitive to the chemicals.

State agriculture officials say there is little threat to the water supply.

Managing weeds by both spraying chemicals and manually removing them is safe for the environment, according to state Agricultural Resources Commissioner Scott Soares.

By using chemicals in moderation, "you maintain the meadowland environment of grasses and low-growing shrubs that eventually choke out the invasive species and provide a great habitat for wildlife," Soares said.

Environmental activists are worried that the chemicals could make their way into the local water supply and may potentially harm humans, said Silvia Broude, director of the Toxics Action Center.

"The chemicals NStar proposes to use have been linked to a whole range of health impacts," Broude said, "everything from kidney disorders and kidney damage to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers."

Broude accuses NStar of being lazy in its weed-fighting approach.

"They clearly know how to manage vegetation without pesticides," Broude said. "They've done it for decades. We think this is just very simple. This is about health and about drinking water."

The state Agricultural Resources Department, with help from University of Massachusetts researchers, is conducting tests to see if any of the chemicals made their way into the groundwater on Cape Cod.

This program aired on August 16, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.