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County not concerned by insecticides

02/13/2018

Monday, February 5, 2018 1:09:16 MST PM

Sheryl McCumsey, of Pesticide Free Alberta, said the health concerns relating to the use of a pesticide being sprayed in rural Strathcona County ditches are enough to ignite concern.Greg Southam/Postmedia Network

Sheryl McCumsey, of Pesticide Free Alberta, said the health concerns relating to the use of a pesticide being sprayed in rural Strathcona County ditches are enough to ignite concern. Greg Southam/Postmedia Network

Strathcona County is standing by its decision to allowpesticides to be sprayed by the City of Edmonton in local ditches.

Controversy has arisen surrounding the city’s use of Pyrate,a pesticide including a neurotoxin calls chlorpyrifos, which Health Canadabanned for residential use in 2001.

In summer 2017, spray maps obtained through FOIP show theproduct sprayed in rural ditches within Strathcona County, along Highway 16,Highway 21 and the Anthony Henday.

A public open house was hosted by Edmonton city council onthe matter last earlier this month, which is a right in the step direction,according to Sheryl McCumsey, of Pesticide Free Edmonton.

“I feel hopeful in that, I felt that for the first time inmany years, people were being heard somewhat,” she said, noting she has beenfighting for the discontinued use of chlorpyrifos for around four years.

“It seems like we’ve really had to work hard to get that tohappen, because we’ve had meetings with staff, then nothing happens, and we’vecertainly had concerns because Edmonton is unique in using this pesticide.”

However, the City of Edmonton’s agreement to spray in StrathconaCounty has been in place since at least the late-1980s, according to JoelGould, manager of Strathcona County Agriculture Services, who noted the city’swon pesticide program has been in place since 1972.

As a result of the public hearing in Edmonton, the city isnow reviewing its public communication protocols on pesticide use, as well aswhether to continue using Pyrate as a control method. Edmonton Mayor Don Ivesonnoted it was his belief the city had already stopped using chlorpyrifos.

 “I’m not sure if we’ll be involved in that review process ornot,” Gould said. “They let us know which products they use... When they sendtheir letter to us, we go through the products that they’re using and we makesure that they’re being used as per the regulations of Health Canada andAlberta Environment.”

He added a similar process is true to all areas in whichEdmonton sprays, creating a “buffer zone” around the city.

“One of the conditions we request when we give thempermission (to spray) is that they do have to advertise it in the Sherwood ParkNews in the spring, and they do that,” Gould said. “They advertise theirprogram... and they do that in any jurisdiction they work in — it’s the same inLeduc County and in other areas.”

Gould emphasized the city’s spraying program does not seechemicals sprayed in residential areas or in public spaces such as parks;rather, spraying is only conducted in rural ditches.

“They’re not applying anything in Sherwood Park inside theborders of the urban service area, it’s just rural roads,” he noted. “There’snot that resident interaction. It’s not like they’re going in a park andspraying it... it’s just rural ditches.”

He added: “I think one of the things that people need toremember is that these things are applied by certified applicators, they’reapplied as per the label on the product, they’re registered by Health Canada...These things are done above board, and the primary time they apply this productis right after the spring runoff. It’s still cool, but it’s when the water issitting.”

According to Gould, the chemicals are not sprayed anywherethat includes permanent bodies of water, such as wetlands. Rather, pesticidespraying is conducted in early summer when ditches hold “stagnant rain — youhave a pool of water for three, four, maybe 10 days, that’s all they’reapplying in.”

To McCumsey, though, that is cause for concern.

 “We’ve spoken with entomologists who have said there arelocal species of dragon flies that lay their eggs in temporary bodies of water,and so on,” she said, noting she has raised her concerns with StrathconaCounty.

Gould noted the county does not monitor for secondarypoisoning, which would include the pesticide killing mosquito predators or anyother animals and insects.

“It’s not something we look at because these products areregistered through the federal government, so we feel it’s their responsibilityto check into that sort of stuff and ensure that. So, we don’t... do that, no,”he said.

Regardless, it’s health concerns that have McCumsey buzzing.

“In general, the science of how harmful this is has almostbecome overwhelming, and it’s almost mentioned daily in the U.S. media,” shesaid. “Currently, there are seven state attorney generals who are pressuringthe Trump government to establish levels, because it is quite clear thatlow-dose exposure to this chemical is harmful.”

McCumsey claimed the main argument she’s heard in support ofpesticide use is to decrease the potential of West Nile Virus outbreaks — apoint she doesn’t support.

“In Sturgeon County, there was an agriculture servicesmanager that was coming to meetings and consistently saying that the citysprays to control West Nile Virus. This is just ludicrous,” she told The News,adding: “We’ve had one instance of West Nile Virus in the past 10 years. Andthey’ll say, ‘Well, it’s because we’re spraying so much.’ But that’s not true atall. It’s because of where we live — it’s a proximity to southern climates,where this is more of an issue, and even in places where there are many morecases of West Nile Virus, they don’t spray this chemical, for the same reasonsthat it impacts predators, mosquitoes become resistant, and (the pesticide) isvery persistent... and very harmful.”

Sturgeon County has since discontinued the use of pesticidescontaining chlorpyrifos.

Gould confirmed what is noted on the county’s website, whichstates that Strathcona County does not have a mosquito control program, whichwould include pesticide spraying. Rather, he said, the county’s approach is tomonitor local bodies of water and take samples in order to test for West NileVirus.

“We haven’t had a program where we’ve actively sprayed formosquitoes outside of a West Nile concern,” he explained, later noting therehave been no recent concerns of West Nile Virus locally.

He also noted the county had not raised question withregards to the use of a pesticide containing chlorpyrifos, adding: “The actualchemical product chlorpyrifos has been used for many years, and has beenallowed and registered to be used for many years, so it didn’t raise any newconcerns.”

Still, McCumsey is not convinced that pesticide use is beinghandled properly by the City of Edmonton and, by extension, in the county.

“The harm of this pesticide outweighs the benefits.”

bproulx@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Ben_Proulx


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