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Massachusetts Neighborhood Successfully Halts Utility's Spraying of Herbicides
(Beyond Pesticides, June 25, 2004) Northeast Utilities has decided to halt the spraying of herbicides for one year along a 2000-foot stretch of a power canal in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, reports The Recorder. Last week’s decision comes after a year of debate between residents and the power company about the health effects of using the toxic chemicals so close to their homes.

The debate was sparked in July 2003, after Samantha Haskins, a 2-year-old who lived alongside the canal, died suddenly from seizures shortly after chemicals were sprayed. After Samantha's death, neighbors in the 19th century neighborhood known as "The Patch" began documenting other health problems they believed were associated with the spraying. Those problems included asthma and serious illnesses with their cats and dogs.

Northeast Utilities contends that their herbicides are safe and were in no way connected to Samantha Haskins death, and the decision was made out of respect for neighbor’s concerns. Neighborhood activist and founder of People Against Toxic Herbicides, Dale Moss was thrilled about the decision, and said that other neighbors were as well. She says of Northeast Utilities, "I'm glad to see them being the good neighbor they've always said they wanted to be and agreeing not to do spraying, at least this year, in the patch, we'll see about next year when that comes around," Moss said. This story is an excellent example of how communities can work together to affect change.

Numerous health problems have been linked to commonly used herbicides, including birth defects, infertility, asthma, and elevated cancer in dogs. One of the herbicides used by Northeast Utilities was glyphosate, a very widely used herbicide which has been associated with many health problems, including nausea, elevated blood pressure, head-ache, and flu-like symptoms. It has also been linked to non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

TAKE ACTION: This story is a perfect of how communities can work together to affect change. Find out more about local activism in your state or community. To read more about alternatives to toxic herbicides for controlling weeds in right of ways, read in “Right Way to Vegetation Management." Our website also has some excellent resources for community organizing. See this “How to” sheet on Preventing Pesticide Pollution Locally.