December 16, 2013 – 5:43pm SHERRI BORDEN COLLEY Staff Reporter
Group says more retailers violated laws in 2013, but N.S. questions findings
Violations of Nova Scotia’s pesticide laws at lawn and garden centres were “up significantly” for 2013 over last year, says a report released by Pesticide Free Nova Scotia.
A random check across the province found that 14 of 21 retailers audited were violating the provincial law.
“Only 3 of 21 audited retailers can be described as implementing the pesticide ban regulations properly in all (four) categories audited,” the report said.
In August and September, the coalition sent six volunteers, posing as mystery shoppers into 21 stores (eight certified and 13 non-certified) in Kentville, Wolfville, Spryfield, Lower Sackville, New Minas, Coldbrook and Cole Harbour.
In five cases, banned pesticides were accessible to the public; nine stores had staff who had limited or no knowledge of the pesticides; 11 of the stores had no written information available about pesticides ; and one store had an untrained salesperson who tried to sell banned products.
Chris Benjamin, the audit’s coordinator, says three years into the ban becoming law, the stores that are following the rules are “the exception” and that more enforcement is required.
“It was not a total surprise, it was maybe a bit more of a jump than we expected but it does continue the overall trend that we’ve seen,” Benjamin said in an interview Monday.
“We don’t see the purpose of this report as being to snitch on retailers, it’s more to get an idea on what’s happening at the ground level.”
Lori Errington, an Environment Department spokeswoman, said there are some issues with the report, including the methodology used and the standard being applied.
“One of the key issues we have with the audit is that they’re auditing for things that are not covered by the law,” Errington said.
For example, certain pesticides need to be inaccessible by the public, but they do not need to be under lock and key according to the Act. Also, the law does not require signage to be posted in stores.
“So, they’re holding them to a standard that the law doesn’t require,” Errington said.
It would be helpful, she said, if Pesticide Free Nova Scotia contacted the department’s inspectors with any concerns before lawn and garden supplies are removed from the shelves and replaced with Christmas items.
Enforcement is complaint-based because the department does not have the resources to have inspectors out auditing stores.
“We do respond to any concerns or questions raised by any Nova Scotian and the sooner they let us know the sooner we can be out there to go to the store,” Errington said.
Staff will inspect the vendors mentioned in the report in the Spring to discuss the concerns and ensure staff are aware of the rules.
“Most of the retailers we’ve worked with have been very co-operative, we’ve asked a lot from them in the last few years,” Errington said.
Last year, the department issued two directives to retailers to comply with the Act.
Of the 18 stores visited in 2012, eight violations were reported in five stores. When coalition volunteers visited 27 stores the year before, they found only one clear violation.
In the spring of 2011, the province banned the sale and use of pesticides for cosmetic use on lawns. But the commercial use of pesticides in agriculture and forestry and on golf courses is still permitted. Use on vegetable gardens is also exempt.