Our Response to Lanark County’s 2018 Spray Program

Starting in mid-May, Lanark County used Clearview herbicide along County roads in an effort to control wild parsnip. Once again, as for the two previous years, there has been insufficient notification of this program. The small ad in the local newspaper still left residents in the dark. As well, the opt-out options were not advertised. Those who signed onerous opt-out contracts last year were not notified that a renewal was necessary. Several individuals, including an organic farmer who opted out last year, had their properties sprayed without their knowledge. This was due, in part to a lack of communication from County and township public works departments.

This year, Lanark County initiated a different spray program to manage vegetation along the guardrails, several of them adjacent to water and significant wetlands. No notice was given that approximately 45 kilometres of guardrails would be sprayed. The guardrails were treated with two different herbicides, Arsenal Powerline and VP480. The active ingredient in Arsenal Powerline is Imazapyr and in VP480 the active ingredient is glyphosate. This is concerning since most of the sprayed guardrails had no wild parsnip, nor poison ivy and were sprayed during turtle nesting time. Lanark County is home to several species of turtles, several of which are threatened. An inspector from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change visited several of these sites and is reviewing the situation.

Last year, members of Friends of Lanark County met with Public Works to suggest that all areas where County roads intersect with water be mapped out and protected from herbicidal spraying, and that wild parsnip at those locations be controlled manually by volunteers or staff. The new spray program along the guardrails appears to disregard resident concerns to keep pesticides away from our waterways.

Eileen Barbeau, a member of the Friends of Bolingbroke Road Adopt a Road Group, commented,“In the recent press release by Lanark County, no mention is made of the labour-intensive manual control program that is being undertaken by numerous volunteers. The Adopt-A-Road program involves residents who provided and are still providing many hours of labour in this regard. They are the ones using the alternative management strategies that protect our water and our pollinators. They not only remove parsnip, they are also required to pick up the litter along their section of the roadways.”

These hardworking people are not acknowledged in the County’s Press Release.

The press release describes spot spraying methods, however this term requires clarification. Does this mean spraying individual plants from a backpack or does it mean spraying larger areas with a wand which also kills all of the plants in the area. This year’s “spot spraying” was clearly the second description, which resulted in damage to broadleaf plants including milkweed and clover.

As far as lack of success in previous years of mowing, repeated, targeted and well timed mowing was not attempted. Instead of giving money to out of area contractors and pesticides manufacturers from the United States why not hire local people to manage vegetation with equipment and manual techniques?

Lanark County encouraged the townships to join their program and several of the participating townships boom sprayed their roads this year. Did these townships reduce their use of herbicides? The combined chemical burden on aquatic life, pollinators and insects needs to be considered.

Until the Vegetative Management Plan is overhauled and guided by a mission statement based on environmental protection with zero contamination, Lanark County cannot become a leader in environmental stewardship. Individuals concerned about our community often wonder what they can do to be heard. Local elections are coming up. Residents can use this opportunity to challenge candidates on where they stand and they can decide who they will vote for.

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Lanark Highlands will not be joining the County’s spray program!

Your voices were heard. Thanks to everyone who were involved in moving this forward, in the last 3 weeks or as far back as 2016.

The residents of Lanark Highlands owe a debt of gratitude to the four Councillors, Bill King, Pete Rodger, Steve Roberts and Jeannie Kelso who chose the precautionary principle over spin and voted not to join Lanark County’s pesticide spray program.

Pro spray presenters, with their amped up messages via slide shows and overtime presentations failed to influence them nor did they adequately address their concerns. It was a polite and articulate beekeeper, Jonny de Matos who drove home the truth of the risk residents were being asked to accept. If other forms of livestock were as susceptible to poison as his are perhaps spraying advocates would be less cavalier.

What was most surprising was that our Medical Officer of Health stated, after being questioned by Councillor KIng, that the main reason for controlling parsnip was about threats to farmers, not public health. For more details of the discussion, pick up the Lanark Era next week.

Using at least four different and persuasive arguments to reject pesticide-based controls, Lanark Highlands Councillors connected the dots between inadequate testing, rising rates of illness paralleling rising pesticide use, and uncertainty over whether chemical controls will ever be more than a slippery slope to stronger and stronger pesticides. They represented your concerns.

Mayor Brian Stewart, Deputy Mayor John Hall and Councillor Linda Hansen voted for spraying.

Please continue to speak up for the environment, through your everyday actions and through the political process. Send your councillor a message, either now or at election time.

Understanding the bigger picture of invasive plants and the role they play and our attitudes towards their control is complex. More on that later.

But for now it’s a good day.

(now on to documenting the herbicide damage at guardrails adjacent to our wetlands, honestly what are they thinking?)

Sonia

The Lab Rats of Lanark County

Imagine a giant chemical experiment taking place in our county. For which we taxpayers are paying $51,500 – per year. Where we are the subjects — and the scientific method is non-existent.

“Wow!” you say. “Will we get any mind-altering experiences from this?” No. But you will get lots of dead roadside vegetation. And the future effects are unclear, but worrisome.

“Impossible!” you exclaim. Well, let’s review the evidence.

Having performed science experiments in school, we’re familiar with the scientific method. Using this established procedure, I’ll outline how Lanark County have conducted their own “experiment”.

First, the question: Why is wild parsnip a problem, and how should we respond? Well, wild parsnip can cause a nasty photosensitivity rash if, during its flowering phase, the plant’s sap gets on your skin. The remedy? Avoid sunlight on your skin until you wash off the sap. Once you learn to identify this metre-tall plant with yellow flowers, it’s easily avoided.

Second: Conduct background research related to the question. It seems reason was abandoned, as Lanark County, instead of analyzing this plant’s habits, seized on chemical warfare as the means to obliterate it. The fact that the spraying would miss whole swaths of wild parsnip, which would then likely reseed any bare spots, was…forgotten? The fact that more prudent jurisdictions had found safer weed management solutions was overlooked.

So Lanark County council and staff decided to proceed with a “trial test” and, for some reason, selected the Health-Canada-approved pesticide ClearView as their weapon. Despite other countries having banned numerous pesticides approved by Health Canada, because these pesticides were found to be unsafe. Despite the link, established by the Ontario College of Family Physicians, of pesticides to ADHD, autism, and other cognitive and behavioural disorders in children. Despite Pesticide Action Network’s conclusion that “evidence linking pesticide exposure to increased risk of leukemia and brain tumours continues to mount, with increased ‘meta-analysis’ studies pointing to higher risks among children in rural agricultural areas”. Despite the damage of these pesticides to our soils, to aquatic life when they reach our waterways via roadside ditches, and to food sources for our pollinators. Despite the livelihoods of the many beekeepers and organic farmers in Lanark County placed at risk by these pesticides. Despite the likelihood of increased resistance in the surviving wild parsnip plants to the herbicides used, leading to even more toxic chemicals.

Despite incomplete testing by Health Canada, who reviewed only the main ingredients of ClearView. A percentage of ingredients in ClearView are undisclosed for proprietary reasons, and don’t require testing for toxicity. It’s not uncommon for such filler chemicals to be more toxic than the main ingredients, and in different ways. Adjuvants mixed with ClearView, such as Gateway, facilitate dispersal of the herbicide, but also contain chemicals that haven’t been tested. Gateway, which contains petroleum distillates, is even more harmful to aquatic organisms than the two main ingredients of ClearView.

This is where we, the unwitting lab rats, come in. The long-term effects of exposing a human population and huge swaths of our countryside to ClearView, were NOT considered. Just so much collateral damage in this all-out effort to eradicate a garden escapee.

Third: Formulate a hypothesis about the cause of this phenomenon. The growth habits of wild parsnip and its preference for certain environments such as roadsides, and its ecological role, were not examined. The prevalence and seriousness of skin reactions in people affected by wild parsnip on the roadsides in Lanark County was barely assessed. Public education to recognize wild parsnip and manage skin contact with it, was minimal.

Fourth: Design an experiment to test the hypothesis – one that is methodologically strong, and excludes factors that might invalidate the results. This requires having at least a sample group and a control group.

Instead of this, Lanark County just chose ClearView. Although this herbicide doesn’t specifically target wild parsnip, it is “highly active” against broadleaf plants. So it indiscriminately kills most roadside plants, including our native plants. It seems the use of chemicals by other jurisdictions was all the justification needed by Lanark County. The “trial test” in June 2015 consisted of hiring a contractor to spray a road section between Rideau Ferry and Perth with ClearView. That’s all. No other weed control strategies were tried to compare effectiveness, no control sample was identified, and no record was kept of other variables to ensure consistency. Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry have sprayed their roadsides for 9 years, and plan to spray yet again. Einstein’s maxim: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. If spraying costs are $51,500/year for the next 9 years, nearly $500,000 of our tax money will be spent. To achieve what?

Fifth: Perform the experiment and collect the data. The roadsides were sprayed with ClearView. Information is not available on how spraying was implemented, and whether all safety measures were followed to minimize human contact and environmental damage. The subsequent mowing by the county of all the sprayed plants made any possible data collection impossible – by destroying whatever data there was.

Sixth: Analyze and interpret the data, and formulate your conclusion. In their brief report, Lanark County staff stated that – no surprise – ClearView killed most of the roadside plants, including the wild parsnip. Their conclusion? Spray all the roadsides over the following two years. Clearly, an invalid conclusion.

To date, this year’s wild parsnip management plan has been shrouded in secrecy, but it seems clear that Lanark County will spray significant stretches of roadside yet again in late spring. Therefore, fellow lab rats, we have to yell: “STOP! We’re risking our health and our environment – for nothing — with this inept experiment!”

Let’s insist that Lanark County stop roadside spraying, using chemicals with unknown effects! Let’s demand alternatives that preserve our health and our natural environment! The Lanark County website http://www.lanarkcounty.ca/ provides information for contacting our councillors. We owe it to ourselves, our families and our environment.

Feb. 6 meeting & vote in Mississippi Mills well attended

After hearing from Paul Lacelle representing the Lanark County beekeepers, a local conventional farmer, Dr. Paula Stewart and Dr. Meg Sears, Mississippi Mills Council voted to leave most of the roads unsprayed and will do any necessary spraying with Clearview where the wild parsnip is affecting agricultural lands. Opt out options for organic farmers were not discussed. It was evident that many of the councillors had considered the many emails that had been sent to them and asked sensible questions. One question did hit the mark and that was asked by Councillor Wilkinson. She asked the Chief Medical officer why they should consider spraying a herbicide onto ditches if Clearview is not supposed to be applied near water. Thank you Councillor! We also heard from Dr. Stewart that if the herbicide did get into our wells, it would only be a “tiny, tiny bit”.

See Dr. Sears’s presentation here.

One more year of spraying is given the green light!

November 15, 2017 One more year of spraying is given the green light! Lanark County Councillors vote to stop all discussion of roadside spraying until after the election!
Lanark County Public Works requested another year of spraying. This will include spot and boom spraying, depending on their spring audit of wild parsnip plants.  Councillor Keith Kerr, John Fenik, Shaun McLaughlin and John Gemmell voted against.
To our surprise, councillors shut down all discussion of this issue at the county council meeting in November 15 2017. We question whether or not they can do this.
MOTION#PW-2017-07
 
“That the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Vegetation Management Plan and any further discussion of this topic of roadside spraying not be revisited during the term of office.”
Most of the councillors voted for this motion except for Keith Kerr ( who asked for a recorded vote) Louis Antonakos, Jerry Flynn, Jane Torrance and Shaun McLaughlin.