Residents: Eversource’s plan to spray herbicides must be stopped

  • Concerned Ashfield residents Elizabeth Bienz, Delta Carney, Jenny Wildermuth, and Esther Coler meet at Elmer’s Store in Ashfield about planned herbicide spraying along power line right-of-ways in the area. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Delta Carney organized a meeting at Elmer’s Store in Ashfield about proposed herbicide spraying along power line right-of-ways in the area. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2019 11:38:07 AM

ASHFIELD — Sitting around a table at Elmer’s Store Friday morning, four residents lamented the utility company Eversource’s plan to use herbicides near high voltage power lines, set to start Wednesday and go on for six months.

The residents — Delta Carney, Elizabeth Bienz, Esther Coler and Jenny Wildermuth — said herbicides would contaminate water sources and would interfere with the environment. They said herbicides would kill bees and ruin the natural ecosystem.

The residents agreed to push for the vegetation to be removed without any herbicides. Carney raised the idea of having Franklin County jail inmates do the work. Or perhaps, she suggested, Eversource could use goats to eat the weeds or machinery instead, saying this has been done in Monroe and elsewhere.

“If anything leaches out and gets into those brooks, we’re fishing and sending our children to swim in a chemical soup in the lake,” Carney said. “What we’re saying is: no spraying.”

Carney said she would contact Eversource, Selectboard members and state legislators to stop this plan.

Eversource, a New England publicly traded energy company, announced in a Recorder paid notice June 17 that it would spray herbicides on weeds near power lines from June 26 to Dec. 31 in Ashfield and more than 30 other nearby municipalities in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties. Among chemicals it plans to use is Rodeo Concentrate, which is found in “Roundup.”

Eversource’s “Integrated Vegetation Management Program” involves spraying herbicides by hand using backpack sprayers, spokesperson Priscilla Ress wrote in an email. She said the program is approved by the state Department of Agricultural Resources and is proven to be “the most effective in promoting the long-term sustainability of the natural habitat.” The purpose is to encourage the growth of low-growing native shrubs and grasses, by removing tall and invasive species, she said.

If Eversource goes ahead with its plan to spray herbicides, the people of Ashfield may go to the site to stop it, Carney said. She recalled Ashfield’s impassioned, years-long fight against the Northeast Energy Direct gas pipeline.

“You need to understand something about Ashfield … people resoundingly said, ‘Absolutely not,’” Carney said. “People resoundingly said, ‘Where do I sign up to lie down in front of the bulldozers?’ It is not beyond imagination that if this is not changed so that we can have a guarantee of no spraying, there will be people out there, and you can’t spray with people out there.”

Coler noted that she lives in Ashfield for its beauty and a community that is concerned with preservation.

“That’s why we live here,” Coler said. “We care about our bodies, we care about the environment.”

“We’re willing to put our bodies on the line. We don’t see it as a possibility of them spraying. It’s not going to get to that,” Coler added.

If the residents are not successful and Eversource goes ahead with its plan, they will not allow their children to swim in Ashfield Lake. And swimming lessons, they noted, are set to start next week.

“My kids aren’t swimming in there,” Coler said.

Wildemuth agreed: “No way.”

Eversource also plans to spray in these communities: Amherst, Belchertown, Cheshire, Chesterfield, Conway, Cummington, Dalton, Deerfield, Easthampton, Erving, Gill, Granby, Greenfield, Hadley, Hancock, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Leverett, Montague, Northfield, Pelham, Pittsfield, Plainfield, Shelburne, Shutesbury, South Hadley, Sunderland, Warwick, Wendell and Windsor.

The Eversource notice says questions should be directed to William Hayes, the electric transmission supervisor, at 718-441-3932.

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