Protect Island’s water with your vote


To the Editor:

I am writing in support of the herbicide home-rule article that will be on the warrant for several town meetings this spring.

“Water is life,” and on this Island we have only one source for it. No wonder we are upset about the plume of firefighting foam from the airport. As rain percolates into the ground, such toxins are carried along to contaminate the aquifer that we all depend on.

A point source like that is relatively easy to pin down. However, herbicides are used everywhere. In recent years there has been alarm about Eversource spraying herbicides. Private wells can be affected. Where studies have been done, they have found glyphosate and its breakdown products in groundwater and in streams and ponds.

Glyphosate is the main active ingredient in many herbicides such as Roundup. Glyphosate blocks an enzyme in bacteria, fungi, plants, and some microorganisms so that they stop growing and die. What could possibly go wrong? Because it kills every plant it touches, Monsanto licenses seeds for “Roundup-ready” plants, genetically modified to produce an alternative enzyme. This is the very definition of a cash cow. The cost to farmers and the perils of monoculture have been well-documented. There are deeper costs. Last Fall EWG (the Environmental Working Group) published results of testing breakfast cereals and other foods marketed to children. They found glyphosate in every sample.

Herbicide makers tell us that glyphosate is not toxic. Independently funded research contests this, and the chemical is being banned in Europe and California. They tell us that microorganisms break it down quickly. Breakdown products of glyphosate include sarcosine (makes benign cancer cells malignant), methylamine (untested for toxicity, leaches rapidly through soil to dissolve in groundwater), and formaldehyde (disrupts cellular functions of molecules such as proteins and DNA on cell membranes and in body tissues and fluids).

A product like Roundup is actually a cocktail which is more toxic than any single ingredient. Yet the ingredients are tested separately, if they are tested for toxicity at all. Calling something an “inactive” or “inert” ingredient does not mean it is harmless. “Inert” ingredients are often also toxic. And often we do not even know what the “inactive” ingredients are, because the manufacturer claims a privilege of trade secrets.

The process is this: If voters approve, then Edgartown, Chilmark, and Oak Bluffs will join the other three Island towns in sending to the State House home-rule petitions to grant us local control of herbicide spraying by utilities and government agencies. This will support Senator Cyr and Representative Fernandes in legislative work that did not pass last year. The legislature will probably continue to be slow to take statewide responsibility. These home-rule petitions will enable our town boards of health to provide oversight, at which time we can address the need for a consultant to provide the necessary expertise.

Please support herbicide home rule.


Bruce Nevin