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Part 3: Residents Question Nstar's Plans for Herbicide Use

How and when herbicide could be used by Nstar in Wayland came up during meeting Wednesday night.

Editor's Note: We are covering Wednesday's two-hour discussion with Nstar in three parts. This third part addresses plans for herbicide use. Part 2 addressed protections and testing for the town water supply. Part 1 addressed individual mitigation for residents affected by clear-cutting.

Wayland officials, residents and even State Rep. Tom Conroy, who lives in Wayland, told Nstar representatives Wednesday that the utility should carefully consider its plans for herbicide use in its Wayland rights-of-way.

Controversy has abounded the past two months over Nstar's mechanical clearing of a right-of-way under transmission lines in the Meadowview Road and Oak Hill Road neighborhoods on the south side of Wayland. During that time, Nstar representatives have assured residents that it had no plans to use herbicides in that area this year.

Confusion erupted Wednesday, however, after a public notice in the July 18 edition of the Boston Globe indicated Nstar planned to begin spraying herbicide in rights-of-way in Wayland and other towns on July 16.

Resident Mike Lowery pointed out that the notice referred to "rights-of-way" in the plural and was, therefore, "defective" in that residents had no way of knowing to which areas that referred.

Nstar Senior Arborist Bill Hayes explained that Nstar did plan to spray herbicides in its right-of-way on the north side of Wayland that basically follows the old railroad along Route 20. He said the utility did not, however, have plans to spray this year in the right-of-way recently cleared on the south side of town.

"We do not plan to put any herbicide there," Hayes said, assuring meeting attendees that required notices sent to the town in February about herbicide application applied only to the area on the north side of town. He did not specifically address the notice in the Boston Globe.

He said that its possible herbicide, such as Roundup and several others, could be applied to the south side right-of-way in the future, but proper notification would be given to the town at that time.

But whether it happens this year or next, residents said they were concerned about the effect of herbicides on the town's Meadowview Well, located in the right-of-way on the south side of town.

“I think there are some legitimate concerns out here about herbicide use and the protection of clean water,” Conroy said. “We’re looking for more flexibility and collaboration.”

Wayland Board of Selectmen Chair John Bladon told Hayes that Wayland has specific bylaws related to the use of herbicide in town and specifically around the wellheads.

Hayes, however, pointed out that local bylaws could not supersede state law and state law does allow for herbicide use in certain circumstances. Even so, Nstar's policy is to avoid using herbicide within 400 feet of public water supplies.

Still, Lowery said he hoped Nstar would go a step further and respect Wayland's local regulations regarding herbicide use.

Tom Gulley, a Meadowview Road resident, acknowledged Nstar's right to clear the land in the right-of-way, but said the application of herbicides goes a step too far.

"There’s nothing in there about their right to threaten the health and well being of me and my family, my guests, and my pets," Gulley said. "We take care of our yard, and we don't want any herbicide there at all. Nstar wants to come through our yard again and spew poison ... it's out there to kill things, and I don't want it."

Selectmen told Hayes that they will expect Nstar to return for another meeting in the weeks ahead.

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