Billings residents implore council to have Garlon spraying banned in twp.

Herbicide spraying by utilities has long been a contentious issue on Manitoulin Island. Expositor file photo

KAGAWONG—The Billings township council chambers was packed with a large delegation of local residents imploring council to change its mind on giving approval to Hydro One to use the herbicide Garlon RTU for its regular vegetation maintenance in the community. The timing of the work will depend on crew availability and is expected to occur in the next few months in coordination with the MTO.

“One of the questions I have for council is what assurances do you have that the Hydro One workers using the spray are properly trained in using the spray properly?” asked Pat Hess. “And if someone calls into Hydro One requesting that no spray be used adjacent to their property, how can you assure that these chemicals will not reach neighbouring properties?”

Mr. Hess explained, “the Garlon RTU with active ingredient Triclopyr is made by Dow Chemical, the same company that manufactured Agent Orange, a defoliant used to kill and disfigure hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Americans including children and the elderly during the Vietnam War. We even have many cases of Agent Orange exposure on Canadian military bases.”

Mr. Hess said that “after researching toxicology reports for myself and with the help of others, we found the chemical Triclopyr to have many negative effects on other “non-target” plants, animals and humans. Some of the adverse side effects include: allergic skin reactions, increase in the incident of breast cancer, genetic damage called dominant lethal mutations, reproductive problems, highly toxic to fish, inhibits behaviours in frogs that help them avoid predators, decreases the survival of bird nestlings, inhibits the growth of mycorrhizal fungi (which helps plants absorb nutrients), disrupts the normal growth and development of the nervous system, accumulates in fetal brains when pregnant animals are exposed; what about humans? I don’t think any of these side effects sound inviting to anyone.”

“Triclopyr has many by-products,” said Mr. Hess. “Health hazards of inerts used in triclopyr herbicides include the following: Ethoxylated sorbitan monooleate has caused a drop in blood pressure in dogs given the compound for research purposes. It also has caused adrenal gland tumours in laboratory tests of male rats.”

Other by-products listed by Mr. Hess cause eye and skin irritation and is irritating to the upper respiratory tract; has caused a variety of birth defects in rats; damage to kidneys and the nervous system;  abnormal vision and irreversible damage and many other affects.

Mr. Hess stated, “sometimes the easy way is not the best way. We all get caught up in our busy life sometimes and forget to inform ourselves about the different chemicals being used around us. Many other Manitoulin communities have banned Garlon including Assiginack and Tehkummah back in 2011; and they even started a bylaw to ban the spraying of herbicides and pesticides in the municipality completely.”

“Hydro One also made plans to use the herbicide in Howland Township, Assiginack, Aundeck Omni Kaning and Sheguiandah for brush control in 2006,” continued Mr. Hess. “A petition circulated within the municipalities was presented to then-reeve Leslie Fields, which eventually led to an outright ban through a bylaw. I strongly believe that if the councillors in Billings Township informed themselves on the effects Garlon can have on the environment they would reconsider their previous decision to let Hydro One spray in Billings. I understand that Hydro One has trained professionals to apply the poison and they will follow all the rules; however I think they can find another suitable non-toxic alternative.”

“We are asking council to look at the effects and reconsider its position,” said Mr. Hess.

Mr. Hess read another letter, this one from Emily Edwards who was unable to get to the meeting. “I’m 17 and didn’t hear council had agreed to let Hydro One spray Garlon until I read it in the Expositor. It is extremely toxic to fish, and must be to other animals as well. And I’m sure a lot of times it ends up in neighbour’s water. I’m sure Hydro One is careful to make sure the spray does not go into the water, but it shouldn’t be used at all.”

Martin Connell told the meeting that he had worked in the spraying industry for five years. “We did spray a lot of Garlon. What Patrick (Hess) has said is correct.” He questioned if those doing the spraying would be kids, or trained professionals. “And are they spraying near water?”

Mr. Connell said he got out of the spraying business because of being exposed to the toxins in the spray. However, he noted as well that what is sprayed on food and crops is even more dangerous than what is being proposed by Hydro One.

“First of all they (Hydro One) do not spray haphazardly, they pick certain spots that need to be sprayed, not all over,” said Billings Mayor Austin Hunt. He said this maintenance work has been carried on in the community for a number of years. “They are to kill one tree in an area, not trees in large quantities.” And he added council can reconsider its decision, once it garners more information and looks at the pros and cons of spraying.

Mr. Hess noted he has also floated a petition around in the community, calling for council to stop Hydro One from spraying Garlon in Billings township and asked council to ask other Manitoulin townships to stop the spraying of Garlon anywhere on Manitoulin Island. “Triclopyr is highly toxic to aquatic life and has many adverse side effects to people and our local ecosystems.”

Councillor Brian Parker gave the meeting the name of a representative of the Ministry of Environment if they have any concerns with the spraying and the license granted to Hydro to carry out this work.

“We want the spraying of Garlon banned completely in Billings,” said Mr. Hess.

Councillor Barb Erskine noted, “council doesn’t usually pass motions at the same meeting we have delegations. We have a couple of weeks to get more information and think about this. It will give us time to look at both sides of the issue and to make up our minds if we want to change our mind.”

Hydro One had approached the township council about carrying out the spraying. “We agreed to put it through,” said Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. “But we will take into consideration what you have said and make a decision at our next council meeting.”

Billings resident Paul Darlaston told the Recorder late last week that in research he has completed, he believes council should never have passed the bylaw approving Hydro One spraying. “Because they have no jurisdiction over it-the province does,” he said. Mr. Darlaston said the Cosmetics Pesticides Ban Act is administered by the Ministry of the Environment. He has passed on a summary of his findings to MPP Mike Mantha to raise in Queen’s Park.