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.

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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. 

Lanark County voted to deny Tay Valley’s request to halt the spraying

MAY 28, 2017 — Friends of Lanark County is disappointed that — given the opportunity to reverse the decision taken at its last meeting County Council denied Tay Valley’s request not to spray on the County roads that pass through Tay Valley.

On a weighted basis, it was 52 votes supporting Tay Valley’s wishes, 54 denying them their request. The vote was recorded: the people who voted against Tay Valley’s wishes were: Councillors Stewart and Hall, Lanark Highlands; Councillors Dobson and Van der Meer, Montague; Councillors Kidd and Mousseau, Beckwith; Councillor Antonakos, Carleton Place; and Councillors Churchill and Code, Drummond/North Elmsley.

Because of resident concerns, warning signs will be posted after spraying. Individual notices for people who live on the spray route will not be available.  In the meantime be watchful of roads near you that are slated for spraying. If you see culverts and hidden streams that are on the spray route contact public works to let them know.  To report an pesticide incident such as a health reaction, spraying near water or on a windy day please send an email to the MOE inspector Meghan.Brien@ontario.ca and tor.rustad@ontario.ca. Check the County’s website URL for daily updates http://www.lanarkcounty.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=7402 .
We encourage people to still try to submit their opt out requests to the County or their township public works department to see if you can be accommodated.

 

Here is how the vote went:

COUNCILLOR
VOTE Points
Vote For
Vote Against
Points For
Points Against
District
Position
Hall, John
7
0
1
0
7
Lanark Highlands
Deputy Mayor
Stewart, Brian
7
0
1
0
7
Lanark Highlands
Mayor
McLaughlin, Shaun
10
1
0
10
0
Miss Mills
Mayor
Torrance, Jane 
10
1
0
10
0
Miss Mills
Councillor
Dobson, Bill 
3
0
1
0
3
Montague
Reeve
Van Der Meer, Klaas 
3
0
1
0
3
Montague
Deputy Reeve
Fenik, John 
5
1
0
5
0
Perth
Mayor
Gemmell, John 
5
1
0
5
0
Perth
Deputy Mayor
Kerr, Keith 
7
1
0
7
0
Tay Valley
Reeve
Campbell, Brian 
7
1
0
7
0
Tay Valley
Deputy Reeve
Kidd, Richard 
6
0
1
0
6
Beckwith
Reeve
Mousseau, Sharon 
6
0
1
0
6
Beckwith
Deputy Reeve
Antonakos, Louis 
8
0
1
0
8
Carleton Place
Mayor
Flynn, Jerry 
8
1
0
8
0
Carleton Place
Deputy Mayor
Churchill, Aubrey 
7
0
1
0
7
Drummond/North Elmsley
Reeve
Code, Gail 
7
0
1
0
7
Drummond/North Elmsley
Deputy Reeve
TOTAL
106
7
9
52
54
RESULT
49%
51%