Two weeks ago in this column, I mentioned the “Truro eNewsletter” and its practice of purveying propaganda about wastewater, nitrogen in drinking water, and affordable housing. Brian Boyle, who was until recently the editor of the newsletter, for years had it sent out to Truro residents as an official town-sponsored publication — until a new town manager came along and put a stop to that.
Boyle is one of the seven “Docs for Truro Safe Water” who published a 40-page “Report on Private Wells and Truro Safe Water” in 2020. Only two of the “Docs” have M.D. degrees; the others have doctorates in engineering, mathematics, biology, or social work. The Docs attached their report to a petition campaign against the Cloverleaf affordable rental housing development on Highland Road in North Truro, and they argued that the Horsley Witten Group, a respected science and engineering firm that works for towns across the Cape and had signed off on the Cloverleaf’s wastewater treatment system, “meets no standards for peer review that we can think of.”
Meanwhile, the Docs’ own report misrepresented groundwater nitrogen standards that had been adopted by the Cape Cod Commission. And they said that their report had been “peer-reviewed.” But they refused to answer a question from a reporter at a public meeting about their review process. The next day, the Docs revealed that they were in fact their own “peer reviewers.”
Two years later, the Docs are still at it. One of them, Ronald Fichtner, was unhappy with my recent comment about the Truro eNewsletter and propaganda. He sent us a letter to the editor complaining that the Independent was “marketing distrust in science” and putting us in the same boat as climate change deniers.
I wrote back to Fichtner, asking him why he and his fellow “Docs” have refused for two years to respond to questions from the Independent about their report, their “peer-review” process, and their motives. He wrote back: “Please be advised that I have never been contacted by any of your reporters. You may wish to check your sourcing.”
Fichtner was one of five “Docs” present at a meeting of the Truro Board of Health in December 2020 who would not answer direct questions from our reporter, Paul Benson. They later wrote in a memo to the health board that Benson was “a part-time reporter, not a professional journalist.”
As the good people of Truro now consider the best uses of the 70-acre Walsh property, there’s a new environmental group on the landscape: the Truro Environmental Defense Fund. It sounds like an organization one would naturally want to support. The group hired its own hydrologist to produce a report on the Walsh land, which contradicts the town’s hydrologist consultants. Fair enough.
But who is behind this new group? Its own website doesn’t say. As Sophie Mann-Shafir reports this week, the Fund’s incorporation document says that Joanne Hollander is its president, but two of its board members say that its real leader is Brian Boyle.