By Chad Ingram
Published Sept. 3 2019
The Municipality of Dysart et al will impose a ban on the use of powerful herbicide Garlon.
Back at an April council meeting councillors supported a recommendation from the municipality’s environment and climate change committee that Hydro One be advised that the use of Garlon would be prohibited within Dysart et al.
However that direction was then delayed with some members of the committee recommending that Hydro One be given a year’s time to find a suitable alternative solution.
During an Aug. 27 meeting of Dysart et al council Mayor Andrea Roberts pointed out that until recently she wasn’t aware of what Garlon was and of the concerns around its use.
“[The committee] made a recommendation I’d never heard of it didn’t know what was involved” Roberts said adding that council had supported the resolution at the April meeting.
Garlon is used to kill small trees and woody plants and is used by Hydro One to control the growth of brush along power line corridors. It is not permitted for residential use.
“Then we had a delegation from Hydro to the environment committee and unfortunately it didn’t come to all of council so it may not have been well-received in the press or all of council might not have understood Hydro’s responsibility” Roberts said. “ . . . They talked about what equipment they have to wear they were arborists these are extremely trained people . . . it is not air-spraying . . . it is done very particularly. It was a fulsome delegation to the environment committee which probably changed some people’s opinion in terms of the time period . . . I think it was always a decision of council to do something on pesticides and herbicides.”
Roberts explained the environment committee had then proposed a setback from waterbodies of 300 metres. The current setback for Garlon use by Hydro One is just three metres from water.
“It was the thought of the environment committee of some of the members not all of them we haven’t had a recorded vote that we give Hydro a year” Roberts said adding the municipality was not trying to hide information from anyone.
Earlier in the meeting council heard delegations from the presidents of two lake associations requesting the municipality enforce a Garlon ban immediately.
Rick Wesselman is president of the Drag and Spruce Lakes Property Owners’ Association.
“For most of the summer the issue of Garlon sort of flew under the radar” Wesselman said adding the association supported a ban. “It’s unfortunate that lake associations haven’t had time enough to discuss this with members.”
Wesselman noted the toxic properties of Garlon its effects on aquatic life and also questioned the health implication of people picking berries in areas where Garlon has been sprayed or hunters taking animals who’ve been feeding in areas where the chemical has been applied.
While Councillor John Smith who first brought the issue of a potential Garlon ban to the committee back in February said earlier this year he’d received verbal confirmation from a rep at Hydro One that the herbicide would not be used Wesselman said residents have observed it being used as has Smith himself he said.
Wesselman said a ban was supported by a number of other lake associations in the county.
Percy Lake Ratepayers’ Association president Anna Tillman also urged council to proceed with the ban noting the toxicity and long half-life of Garlon and adding that its use has been banned by Hydro One in a number of other Ontario communities.
Council chambers were full for the presentation on Garlon.
Roberts said perhaps council needed more information from provincial and federal environment ministries before making a decision.
“I think this is a bigger issue than . . . perhaps this table is able to make [a decision on]” she said.
“If it’s such a terrible thing . . . why does the government allow it?” she added.
Councillor Larry Clarke pointed out that Garlon is not the only harmful chemical herbicide and suggested that council should get more information and then create a larger more comprehensive ban on all herbicides and pesticides deemed too toxic for use.
“This was first raised in April . . . we gave them [Hydro One] an opportunity to come and explain to us” Clarke said adding that the utility had been asked to identify alternative products that would not be harmful to local lakes or residents.
If the municipality were to enforce a ban on Garlon alone “we start the process again with the next chemical and the next chemical” he said reinforcing his preference for starting work on a larger herbicide ban.
“To be clear my position on this hasn’t changed” said Smith advocating for an all-out ban. In response to Roberts positing that the provincial government still permitted the use of Garlon Smith said “They don’t look at the needs of specific communities” adding that’s why the Municipal Act gave local governments the authority to make such decisions.
“We know of one major industrial user in this county and it’s Hydro One and let’s stop that immediately” Smith said as residents in the gallery cheered and applauded.
“This is not a theatre it’s a council meeting” Roberts said asking attendees to refrain from applauding during council proceedings.
Councillor Tammy Donaldson wanted to know why reps from Hydro One hadn’t visited council as a whole.
“Why wasn’t Hydro here to answer the questions?” Donaldson asked.
“They were only at the environment committee” Roberts said.
Another recommendation from the environment and climate change committee came to the council table that a 300-metre buffer be established and that Hydro One be given until the end of 2020 to come up with an alternative. That motion was defeated by council meaning the support of the April motion instructing Hydro One to cease use of Garlon will stand.
Smith asked that the utility immediately stop using the chemical and the issue of a larger ban on toxic herbicides will go back to the committee.