Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Pesticide Story

Recently, no doubt as an election ploy, the provincial Liberals announced that they would impose a province-wide ban on pesticide spraying for cosmetic purposes. This is good news, assuming of course that they get re-elected (which is not the subject of this post).

It brought to mind an incident that happened to me earlier this summer. On June 29th (coincidentally the day before the long weekend) I was cycling through Mt. Pleasant Cemetery and came across a sign announcing a pesticide spraying. It said the spraying company was Weed Man, and they were using a chemical called Par III (Killex) to treat "weeds". This is a pretty toxic compound according to the literature. There were additional signs throughout the eastern portion of the cemetery (east of Mt. Pleasant Road).

Being a concerned citizen, I noted down the details and called up the listed phone number. This led me to the city's Dept. of Public Health. I talked to Heather Richards, who is employed as an environmental health inspector. She said that cemeteries are allowed to spray once they reach a threshold of 20%. I checked the pesticide bylaw (page 4) and sure enough there is an exemption. It says that cemeteries are allowed to "spot spray" when weed cover reaches 10-15%.

I then asked Heather who makes the determination on whether weeds exceed the 10-15% range. Is it a city inspector? Is it cemetery staff? Neither, it is the spraying company that makes the call! I then asked her doesn't this constitute a conflict of interest? She refused to comment. She directed me to contact the Board of Health which deals with policy matters vis a vis the pesticide bylaw which apparently is a different department than Dept. of Public Health. I got no further than this call.

To me it makes sense that a city inspector needs to be involved to make the determination rather than the spraying company. They will no doubt always say the threshold has been reached since they don't get paid if they don't spray. Also, there needs to be some oversight on the pesticide application because it would be pretty difficult to spot spray half the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. I don't trust the lawn care companies to police themselves in this regard.

This fall I will ask the Task Force to have city staff review this clause of the bylaw and its implementation. I'll keep you posted on any updates.

1 comment:

Ferdzy said...

Yikes! Yeah, talk about leaving the fox in charge of the hen-house.