Pesticide foes warn politicians
Elgin county council has been told herbicide use to control noxious weeds may sicken residents.
Area residents are warning the county's politicians that their actions will quite possibly lead to tainted drinking water and sickened citizens.
Elgin council met Tuesday and began preliminary discussions on a county-wide vegetation management plan, a blueprint for how the county's lower municipalities deal with noxious weeds and their removal.
They were joined in the discussion by Central Elgin residents concerned about the county's use of the pesticide Estaprop. They voiced their concerns through a deputation that warned members their actions could have substantial and wide-spread repercussions.
"Inevitably there is spray drift….It's inevitable when you spray the farm land it drifts. That's all there is to it," Central Elgin resident John Martyn told Warden Bill Walters and council.
Martyn was joined by Ken Laing, a Central Elgin organic farmer of over 20 years and former member of the Ontario Pesticide Advisory Committee, who said the Estraprop (a combination of Dichloroprop and 2,4-D) the county's lower-tier municipalities plan to use or have already used is toxic, carcinogenic, can reduce fertility and disrupt hormones.
He warned even targetted sprayings instead of blanket spraying lead to water pollution.
"It (the pesticide) has a half-life long enough that, if it's sprayed one day and you get a major rainfall event within a few days, some of it's going to end up in the water," he said.
"If we spray it in our ditches, it'll end up in our streams; it'll end up in the lake and that lake is the source of drinking water for many communities in Elgin county, St. Thomas the city of London."
Walters, however, told the group the city had a report endorsed by reputable groups including the World Health Organization and United States Environmental Protection Agency approving the pesticide.
He also reiterated lower-tier municipalities will only engage in targetted sprayings (sprayings concentrated to small areas machines can't reach) for removal as opposed to blanket spraying (spraying a wider area with a larger amount of chemicals).
"I don't think the intention ever was to do to blanket spraying. I don't think the intention was ever to go up and down each roadside with chemicals and spray," he stressed.
"The intention was to do targeted spraying….The idea is to target those areas where mechanical cutting cannot be done."
Peter Dutchak, engineering services deputy director, added mechanical removal, using mowers to remove the problem plants, causes 10 times the greenhouse gas emissions of pesticides each time mowers are out.
He added it usually takes more than one cut to eradicate the weeds completely.
"Unless you remove the seed bank, dig out the root system, they will be right back and they will be back actually denser and they'll be more of an issue for us the second, third, fourth times around."
"Mechanical removing of vegetation is not benign to the environment. It's going to destroy everything in its path. More blades are not selective."
After the meeting, Martyn told the T-J the higher greenhouse emissions are a fair trade-off for the negatives of pesticide sprayings.
"Everything in life is a balance," he said.
He also said he wasn't assured in the fact the sprayings will be targeted, saying there will still be poisonous particles spreading across the county.
A full copy of the reports dealing with the pesticide debate is available at the county's website under Council at www.ElginCounty.ca.