Environmentalists Don’t Side With Herbicides on Cell Tower Road

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Sears Island, ME is a small, undeveloped island favored by nature lovers and conservationists in Penobscot Bay. However, the non-profit Friends of Sears Island, the property’s management caretaker organization, were upset to see brown vegetation lining a roadside, indicating the presence of chemical spraying. As the Bangor Daily News reports, the Friends say there was no advance notice of the herbicide application along Cell Tower Road, and no explanation of its possible dangers.

A five-acre parcel at the far tip of the island is owned by American Tower Corp, which maintains a cell tower at that location. When asked about the chemical spraying, Matt Peterson, VP for communications at American Tower discovered that a vendor the company employed was the responsible party. The vendor reportedly advised that as soon as the chemical dried, it posed no danger for humans or animals. According to the vendor, the spraying was also limited to the towerco’s property. 

“After reaching out to our vendor, there is nothing that we are aware of that would cause concern for people or their pets accessing the area,” Peterson noted in a written statement. “We will be connecting soon with Rolf [Olsen, VP at the non-profit] and Friends of Sears Island to discuss any concerns and review best practices at the site.”

“We don’t want to get involved in advocacy or challenging herbicides or pesticides,” Olsen told the Daily News. “But this clearly was in our face and we had to deal with it.”

Olsen expressed skepticism that the chemical was only used at the American Tower site, saying, “We will prepare a more thorough and formal response to this claim.” While harboring concerns about the residual impact on local land and waterways, Olsen did acknowledge American Tower’s willingness to meet with the Friends of Sears Island.

The towerco has volunteered to facilitate a meeting between the herbicide vendor contracted by American Tower and a collection of state organizations overseeing the island’s welfare. Participants would include representatives of the Friends of Sears Island, the Maine DOT, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, and the holder of the conservation easement, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

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