In light of the concerns of residents and some very vocal groups, NSTAR voluntarily suspended their Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) program here on Cape Cod four years ago. The program, which will start up again this fall, includes the use of herbicide sprays.
According to NSTAR, for the past four years, the power company has relied solely on the use of mechanized clearing methods on their right-of-way areas across the Cape. But repeated mowing and other such methods are far less effective than targeted herbicide use, according to Steve Sullivan, Vice President of Operations Services for Northeast Utilities, NSTAR's parent company.
Sullivan maintains the use of approved herbicides to control growth in these critical areas is far more effective and has been shown to not damage the Cape's sole source aquifer. According to NSTAR water testing revealed the presence of septic system and pharmaceutical contamination, not herbicide contamination.
Further, NSTAR says a state study estimates NSTAR's herbicide impact to be minimal compared to that in use by cranberry bogs, golf courses and private homeowners. But according to members of the group GreenCAPE, the chemical mixture used by NSTAR is much more powerful than that used by the average homeowner. In 2011, members of GreenCAPE, joined by State Senator Dan Wolf, protested the power company's spraying plan at a rally at the canal.
Some of the most vocal opponents to herbicide spraying live on the Outer Cape where no spraying is planned this fall. Only recently in Wellfleet has an "NSTAR do not spray" banner been replaced on the Long Pond Road bridge over Route 6 in favor of banners celebrating the town's 250th.
For two weeks in the early fall, "trained applicators" will be walking the right-of-way areas in Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Falmouth, Harwich, Orleans and Sandwich and targeting and spraying very specific vegetation, according to NSTAR.
(Google Map image showing the "NSTAR, mow don't spray Cape Cod" banner on the Long Pond Road bridge, which was only recently replaced.)