Goats Help Clean Up Barnstable Wastewater Plant


(Tom and Steve/Getty Images)

By Cynthia McCormick, Cape Cod Times

HYANNIS, Mass. (AP) — Even as they mow down shrubbery, the seven goats chomping their way along the fence line at Barnstable's wastewater treatment plant this week are spreading a green message.

"We're in the business of cleaning water here," said Andrew Boule, supervisor of the water pollution control division of the Barnstable Department of Public Works.

Hiring the goats from Stacey Greaves' company, Goat Green of Cape Cod, seemed like a great way to test out an environmentally friendly solution to a problem that used to be resolved with herbicides, Boule said.

"I spoke to the previous WPCD supervisor, and he believes he stopped applying herbicides to the area in the early 2000s," Boule said. "Since then we have relied on manual clearing, which is very labor-intensive."

"Enter the goats," Boule said. "I think this actually does a better job."

One-third of Greaves' herd is spending about two weeks at the treatment plant removing brush along 1,000 feet of fence line, with a total forage area of 15,000 square feet.

Hemmed in by a 4-foot-tall, flexible electric fence, the goats including Magic, a black and white, bearded Alpine; and Thorn, a petite brown Nigerian pygmy, devour clumps of oak leaves and pine needles and strip bark down to the ground.

Legend has it goats will eat three times their weight a day, Greaves said. She doesn't know how accurate that assessment is but said goats will each consume three bales of hay per day during the winter.

"They will eat from sunrise until sundown," she said.

To encourage her goats to stick with their landscaping duties, she feeds them only treats and minerals and water while they are on the job in summer.

Heat slows them down a bit, as does Greaves' arrival to meet a reporter.

The ruminants fall in a line like a string of pearls along the electric fence — tall and short, pale and dark — looking toward Greaves and Goat Green volunteer Jeanne Landers, of Cotuit, for a pet or a treat.

Once in a while, the goats paw at the dusty ground with their hooves and settle in for a brief rest, jumping up again when some tempting leaves dance in the breeze.

All of the goats in the crew are males, many rehomed by Greaves as the last stop before being sent to a meat packing plant.

The nannies are valued for breeding and producing milk used to make cheese and soap and are more likely to remain on farms, Greaves said.

In the meantime, the males are sold or sometimes abandoned, as was the case with a goat named Myles who was working Wednesday at a private job in Cotuit, Greaves said.

The goats at the water treatment plant will sleep under a tented shelter behind the electric plant while they are on the job, she said.

This is not Goat Green of Cape Cod's first job for the Barnstable Department of Public Works. About four years ago, water supply division supervisor Hans Keijser hired the goats to clean out brush around water towers for two years in a row.

"We had quite a poison ivy problem at the storage tanks up on Mary Dunn Road," Keijser said.

"The goats just did a great job for us," he said. "They eat everything, including your shoes. This was a very sustainable way of dealing with the problem."

Keijser said he hopes the town's experience using goats as landscapers will make other people think about alternatives to spraying herbicides.

"There is another option," he said. "People need to think out of the box. We here at the DPW try to do that."

Public works officials tried using a side arm mower at the wastewater treatment plan, but the brush would come back twice as thick, Boule said.

Crews are picking up whatever shorn branches are left behind by the goats. But most of the ground covered by the goats is pretty bare of vegetation.

"Now we're out ahead of it," Boule said.

Online: https://bit.ly/2HsYVgC


Information from: Cape Cod (Mass.) Times, http://www.capecodtimes.com

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