Cranberry grower pesticides problem for Wareham drinking water supply

Mar 26, 2018

To the Editor:

The Wareham Fire District’s rate increase will be economically challenging for many residents. Unfortunately, however, the cranberry bog pesticides in our drinking water wells could prove a much bigger problem, unless the primary source of these chemicals demonstrates more civic responsibility and the district insists upon more accountability from this pesticide source.

Some of the cranberry pesticides in our drinking water are banned in dozens of countries. In fact, there is a cocktail of pesticides in our wells which the European Union has ruled are too dangerous, at any level, for human consumption, sale or use due to their toxicity and persistence in water.

According to the exhaustive study conducted by the expert Kleinfelder firm, the primary source of the pesticides is clear: migration from the Maple Springs cranberry bogs owned and operated by the AD Makepeace Company. And this study sadly reports that the contamination is expected to continue to impact the wells at existing or potentially higher concentrations for years to come.

In its defense, Makepeace boasts that: “Respect for the environment guides everything we do.”

But, freedom of information disclosures from the Wareham Fire District report that, after having been provided monitoring data summarizing the “cranberry chemicals” in our drinking wells, Makepeace proposed to sell water to the district from wells it operates elsewhere. Was this offer guided by respect for the environment, or a self-serving effort to turn its contamination problem into profits?

The freedom of information disclosures also make clear that despite failing to respond to the district’s then latest requests that it share in the cost of the well cleanup, Makepeace was nevertheless provided a courtesy “final draft” of the district’s citizen informational flyer about the cranberry pesticide problem. Thereafter, Makepeace threatened legal action against the district and set out to remove, not its pesticides, but key provisions of the flyer describing the risks of the pesticides. Were these Makepeace tactics also guided by its respect for the environment?

Make no mistake, the district having allowed Makepeace to have any influence whatsoever over the information provided to consumers about the risks of its cranberry pollutants (and erasing all references to cranberry bogs in the citizen flyer) suggests more concern with Makepeace’s threats than with the district’s published pledges that the quality of our wells is its “top priority.”

But, then again, why not? After all, the Town of Wareham is a virtual printing press of development approvals and tax breaks for Makepeace, in complete indifference to its bogs having been scientifically identified as the primary source of the pesticides in our drinking water supply.

So, while our new water rates are high … these fees are not nearly as unfair as the primary source of the pesticides, Makepeace, failing to pay its fair share for monitoring and fixing the pesticide contamination it helped cause.

“Our 160-year history in the cranberry industry affects the way we do business” says Makepeace. Don’t we know it!

Barry Cosgrove