Chemical soup

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It’s “do as I say, not as I do” time again. Our provincial government, which has banned the use of many chemical pesticides for general use, is once again launching a broad-ranging highway chemical spray program, one that’s set to start on Monday.

The spray program will be using two vegetation chemicals, Garlon XRT and Tordon 101, the second one of which is also known as Agent White.

The spraying will be covering a broad area, but the only way you’ll find out about it is through small newspaper ads. Here are the areas involved so far: on the divided parts of the Trans-Canada, heading west, from Witless Bay to Whitbourne — on the eastern side, from Whitbourne to the Foxtrap Access Road.

On the non-divided part, from the Argentia Access Road to Bellevue, and then on from Bellevue to Goobies. On the Veterans Memorial Highway, basically from the start of the highway to Riverhead. On Route 73 across the New Harbour barrens, on Route 100 from the Trans-Canada to Dunville and from Ship Harbour to Cuslett. There’s also a broad stretch of the Salmonier Line, and then on to St. Mary’s.

Stay tuned for more small announcements about the breadth of future spraying.

The provincial Department of Transportation and Works hires an independent contractor to do the spraying. The argument for spraying? That, in concert with brush-cutting, herbicide spraying is the best way to provide clear sightlines on the sides of highways, something that’s necessary for safety reasons.

They’re right about the safety — but there are plenty who would question whether chemical spraying is the best route to take.

Tordon is a mixture of two active chemicals: picloram and 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, better known as 2,4-D.

Spray opponents, like the Sierra Club, have said that 97 per cent of 2,4-D applications eventually end up in ground water. Denmark and Norway have banned its use. Others have pointed out that picloram is remarkably long-lasting in the environment and that 2,4-D has been connected to reproductive effects in humans and may be connected to cases of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

In this province, Tordon has been used for so long that it doesn’t even need to go through the province’s environmental assessment program — instead, the provincial government just quietly issues a permit to do the work it wants done.

And the roads are perhaps only a start.

The province’s energy giant, Nalcor, also plans to use chemical vegetation control along its 1,100 kilometre transmission line across the island.

As it says in its own environmental documentation, “Nalcor Energy will incorporate the transmission line into its integrated vegetation management program for its transmission and distribution system, which uses several methods including manual cutting as well as the selective use of herbicides for long-term vegetation control. Certified crews will use herbicides in accordance with Nalcor Energy’s current standard operating practices and applicable regulations.”

In other documents, the company says “Nalcor will not use sterilants as a means of vegetation control, but will rely on non-residual herbicides (i.e., Tordon 101 with Sylgard 309 as a surfactant) and mechanical methods, where practical.”

Environmental legislation means you might not be able to use them in your yard, but it looks like herbicide spraying will be around for good long time yet.

Organizations: Trans-Canada, Department of Transportation and Works, Nalcor Energy Sierra Club

Geographic location: Whitbourne, Bellevue, Witless Bay Argentia Access Road Riverhead New Harbour Dunville Ship Harbour Denmark Norway

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Recent comments

  • ward samson
    August 28, 2013 - 10:35

    I have written many articles and lobbied government to stop this spraying, but to no avail. I have an article on our website , it is entitled pesticides on the website. Check it out. Maybe someone may listen. ward

  • sc
    August 27, 2013 - 11:47

    It's amusing that some people believe that we should simply put our faith in the hands of agencies like Health Canada to protect us from various chemicals and other threats. How quickly we forget last year's beef recall and the way that was handled. Similarly, a pharmaceutical company in Ontario received a damning report from the FDA that threatened to ban the company's products from the US unless procedures were changed. The Health Canada inspectors who accompanied their counterparts from the FDA saw nothing wrong with procedures. If these pesticides are so safe, why have countries such as Denmark and Norway banned them as is claimed in this column? Is it possible that those countries are more concerned for the environment and their populations than are others? Personally I don't believe we should just blindly put our faith in the hands of 'trained professionals' -- especially those who do not want to be questioned.

  • Boyd
    August 27, 2013 - 10:06

    Exhausted comes to mind when I hear all the compaining about pesticides, fracking, cell phone towers and more. We're becoming a province of complaining hypocrites. Pesticides - We don't want you to spray pesticides, but yet you have no issue with spraying for insects in restaurants, hospitals, etc. Fracking - We don't want FRACKING, but we want the wealth and jobs. The same people who care so much about the environment stop driving your gas vehicles, using cell phones, eating vegetables/meat sprayed with the same pesticides. People look in the mirror. All these products are appoved by HEALTH CANADA the same scientists that approve your meds. Stay of the internet and let the trained professionals make the correct decision.

    • Chantal
      August 27, 2013 - 11:27

      Firstly, Health Canada has, in recent years, become a mouthpiece for industry prompting many principled scienists to leave the organization. Secondly, the vast majoirty of scientists -- trained professionals -- regard the continued, unrestrained manufacturing and use of fossil feuls at the leading cause of global warming. I assume you agree with them.

  • W Bagg
    August 27, 2013 - 09:13

    The blueberries are some big this year bye, and real tasty too!

  • George Murphy
    August 27, 2013 - 08:48

    We're slowly poisoning ourselves... Sad to say that, even though I pushed for mechanical brushclearing, so far government has not responded to the less dangerous of the proposals for the clearing of roadside brush. the worst part of all this is that chemicals work for the rough same time period as mechanical clearing does; about seven to eight years. If its not Agent White we're spraying, it's chemicals like Sylgard 309 that will be laid out for killing undergrowth of Black Spruce, or to keep the vegetation under control along the route of the Muskrat Falls transmission line. Yes...We are slowly poisoning our environment from what was once pristine...