Cape Cod does not normally come to mind as the center of a pollution controversy. Yet Cape Cod residents are preparing to protest the decision by the electric company NSTAR to spray herbicide on its 150-mile right of way next spring. Residents claim that the spraying will contaminate their public water supply, since NSTAR's easement runs through 78% of the public water recharge areas, as well as several private and community wells.
Environmental groups such as GreenCAPE have fought for 20 years to reduce the amount of herbicides used in Cape Cod. With NSTAR, they claim that its power lines run through backyards -- underscoring the fact that spraying the right of way is not just a remote issue, but affects people close to home. GreenCAPE has found that the four herbicides that NSTAR uses for spraying have been shown to be "potentially hazardous to human life and the environment." Sylvia Broude of the Toxics Action Center worries about Cape Cod's elevated breast cancer rates and its history of contaminated water. Many residents would prefer NSTAR to resume mowing the right of way to reduce plant growth rather than use herbicides.
NSTAR's media spokesman, Michael Durand, claimed that the company was working closely with the Cape Cod Commission. The Commission has been watching carefully the way NSTAR uses herbicides to remove undergrowth. His assurances are unlikely to calm the fears of Cape Cod residents. Each of the 15 towns in Cape Cod has submitted a resolution to the company to consider alternate methods of removal. A recent protest drew 40 people, and more protests are planned for Labor Day weekend. After that, the protests are expected to continue every three to six weeks.
Herbicides and pesticides have been linked to a number of health problems, including lower IQs in children and birth defects. Not long ago, a study showed that the Roundup herbicide caused damage to DNA, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental toxicity, and cancer. If your child has a birth defect that you believe may be linked to herbicide use, you may want to consider filing a toxic tort lawsuit against the one using the herbicide and/or the chemical manufacturer. For a successful suit against the one using the herbicide, you would need to prove that he or she owed you a duty of care (since you could be foreseeably affected by the herbicide); that this duty was breached through negligence, or behavior that did not meet reasonable standards; that this unreasonable behavior led to your injury; and that damage was suffered (your child's birth defect). You would apply these steps if you also wanted to prove the negligence of the manufacturer.
If you want to prove that the manufacturer was strictly liable, the steps are similar. Except that instead of arguing that the manufacturer's behavior was unreasonable, you would argue that even if it weren't, the product (herbicide) was unreasonably dangerous. To do this, you would need to show that the product could have been made safer without sacrificing effectiveness or making it too expensive. From there, you would argue that the product caused an injury, and you suffered damage by way of your child's birth defect. For a remedy, you could either seek damages (money amount) or an injunction against the user to prevent him or her from doing any more herbicide spraying.