Cranberry grower spins ‘corporate fiction’ over pesticides in wells

Apr 7, 2018

To the Editor:

In its reply to the editor about the cranberry pesticides in our drinking wells, AD Makepeace asserts that it is “irresponsible” to disclose that its Maple Springs cranberry bogs have been scientifically identified as the primary source of the pesticides in the Wareham Water District drinking wells.

Makepeace’s intellectually dishonest effort to ignore science and re-write history is what’s irresponsible.

Makepeace was actively and directly involved in the 2016 Kleinfelder Pesticide Tracer study which was designed to scientifically “determine the estimated travel time, potential mass load, and concentration of pesticide expected to enter the water supply from the cranberry bogs upstream …”. The cranberry bogs upstream are repeatedly identified in the study as the Maple Springs bogs owned and operated by Makepeace. Indeed, the study includes schedules documenting the types, volumes, and dates of pesticide applications to these cranberry bogs, all of which data was provided by Makepeace as part of the scientific inquiry.

The final report, at Page 52, concludes as follows: “the historic Wellhead Protection Program sampling and the current study both indicate that the primary source of pesticides in the Maple Springs wells is downgradient groundwater migration from the cranberry bogs.”

These findings speak for themselves and have been well known to Makepeace for over a year. And its angst about others learning of the findings hardly makes the disclosure irresponsible.

Makepeace’s reply then undertakes the usual public relations … “here are the facts” …campaign. But instead of facts, the grower provides little more than a sugarcoated cranberry sauce of corporate fiction, ‘spin’ and nutrient rich hypocrisy.

Contrary to Makepeace’s claims that “In all cases, the detections of these compounds were more than 10 times below the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) informal guidelines for these compounds” … the testing data confirms that a permitted guidance level was documented to have been exceeded. This too is well known to Makepeace. And, because the tests taken to date have been grab samples, as Makepeace also knows, it is uncertain if all the pesticide levels recorded to date are actual highs or actual lows.

Crucially, Makepeace neglected to explain that the informal guidance standards, with which it falsely claims to have always complied, were constructed without using the pesticide toxicity data utilized by the 30 countries around the world that have banned certain of the chemicals found in our wells. Leaving this available toxicity and risk data out of the formation of the informal guidance standard is like calculating a student’s GPA based solely on grades in gym, recess, and lunch - while ignoring the student’s scores in English, reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, attendance, and citizenship.

The grower/developer then boasts of its offer to sell water to the district as a money saver for citizens. How so? If the cranberry bogs had not polluted the wells in the first place, there would be no need to save the money needed to test for and remove the cranberry pesticides infecting the wells. (And according to the Freedom of Information responses from the District, Makepeace’s offer to profit from selling water was in connection only with its pesticide problem, not the district’s separate manganese and iron issues, as the Makepeace response implied.)

Makepeace was predictably dead silent about its threats of legal action against the water district and its role in changing the wording of the District’s notice to ratepayers about its pesticide contamination problem. But its hypocrisy is deafening.

Consider this. According to public disclosures, the same Makepeace senior executive who threatened legal action against the Wareham Water District also happens to be an elected official in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Like Wareham, Shrewsbury has trouble with naturally forming manganese and iron. And in addition, very low levels of a potentially harmful chemical were also found in its drinking wells.

In response to the chemical found in its wells, and despite the identified chemical not even being regulated in Massachusetts, this Makepeace ‘leader’ has been a strong and consistent voice for protecting the drinking water quality for his family - and his constituents - and for zealously attempting to identify and hold the polluter(s) accountable.

In fact, Shrewsbury is even considering the construction of the second largest organic treatment plant in all North America, a dedicated portion of which will be to address this single chemical.

Moreover, it has been reported that the construction of this innovative treatment plant was delayed while, among other things, Shrewsbury finds the underlying cause of who is responsible for the chemical and how they might get the responsible person(s) to pay for the treatment costs. Perfectly logical.

Conversely, all the Makepeace leadership has done here in Wareham, so far, is to threaten to sue the District over the wording of a flyer about this topic, essentially ignore the District’s requests to chip in financially to fix the pesticide problem it helped cause, and to characterize the public disclosure of the problem as irresponsible.

Is it also irresponsible for the Makepeace senior official, who threatened to sue the district, to help lead Shrewsbury residents toward clean drinking water?

Is this hypocrisy satisfactory to all Makepeace employees who live in Wareham and to your readers?

“Our 160-year history in the cranberry industry affects the way we do business,” says Makepeace. Time to do business a whole lot differently don’t you think?

Just as it’s time for ratepayers to call upon our water district officials to insist upon accountability from polluters of our water supply, regardless of the levels of pollution, just as in the hometown of the assigned Makepeace senior executive trying to will the Wareham problem away.

Ratepayers can begin by attending the April 9, 2018, Annual Meeting of the Wareham Fire District, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the High School auditorium.

Barry Cosgrove