City supports status quo on herbicides

Salmon Arm council has opted for a diplomatic approach towards BC Hydro’s use of herbicides within the municipality.

Salmon Arm council has opted for a diplomatic approach towards BC Hydro’s use of herbicides within the municipality.

At its Aug. 8 meeting, council agreed to send a letter to the Crown corporation stating the city supports its practice of not using defoliants on city property, and encourages its use of other means of vegetation control on its own rights of way, including a variety of manual and mechanical methods.

“I have no problems supporting this because, it’s kind of a soft approach but it makes our intention really clear,” said Coun. Ken Jamieson. “And the intention is we try our best to use… less amounts and fewer types of herbicides and defoliants.”

The letter stems from a series of recommendations from the city’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC), which in turn were the result of discussions and a presentation on the effects of herbicides, especially those containing glyphosate.

Council’s EAC representative, Coun. Tim Lavery, provided an overview of those discussions and the presentation, including comment on the health risks associated with glyphosates and its pervasiveness, noting traces of the chemical has been found in 14 popular brands of German beer, Californian wine, breakfast cereals, soy sauce, honey and breast milk.

The EAC’s initial recommendations asked the letter to BC Hydro state the city does not wish for any chemical defoliants to be sprayed or otherwise applied on BC Hydro rights-of-way running through city property. They also asked that the city encourage BC Hydro to begin the process of phasing out the use of herbicides on its rights of way throughout the province, and the city approach the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) and ask that they use non-herbicide methods for controlling or eliminating invasive species within the municipality.

Council voted against the last two recommendations, with Coun. Chad Eliason noting the Union of B.C. Municipalities has seen a pesticide ban request happen at every conference for the past eight years or more.

Regarding the request to CSISS, Coun. Kevin Flynn said he would need more information from the organization before he could support it, though it was suggested the group encourages the use of alternative control methods, with herbicides being a last resort.

Flynn used this to segue into a criticism of the city’s own pesticide bylaw, and exemptions where the city is allowed to use herbicides. He said he knew, in talking to city staff, that staff is reluctant to make the call to use herbicides even when city infrastructure is being damaged.

“I think we as a council need to revisit our pesticide bylaw because, all though staff has exemptions, staff does not feel comfortable in my opinion using that exemption,” said Flynn.

As for BC Hydro, representatives of the Crown corporation provided a presentation to council complete with data showing it hasn’t used herbicide on its transmission or distribution line corridors in for the past five years. Over the same time period, BC Hydro has used about 70 litres of herbicide at its Salmon Arm substation and office building.

“I think they made a very compelling case for spraying for safety reasons on their substation…,” commented Lavery, adding he was grateful for the data and stating he would like to receive more of the same from BC Hydro on an annual basis.

Salmon Arm Observer