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Audit: City's pesticide policy out of date, not clearly communicated


An audit coming before city councillors Monday founddeficiencies in the city’s pesticide policy.

An audit coming before Edmonton’s audit committee on Mondayfound deficiencies in the city’s pesticide policy and its communication.

The audit was done to check the city’s integrated pestmanagement policy for clarity, determine if local procedures adhered toprovincial and federal standards and assess whether the city is disclosingtheir practices to the public effectively.

City auditor David Wiun said pesticides are federallyregulated for health, and provincially regulated for other considerations.

“The vast majority of complaints are people complainingabout too many mosquitoes or too many dandelions,” Wiun said, but his auditfound the city’s pest control measures are effective.

Wiun said there needs to better transparency and clarity inwhat’s reported to the public.

“Citizens would have concerns both around their health andtheir family’s health and the environment,” Wiun said.

While the audit found that the City of Edmonton is“substantially” following the principles of the integrated pest managementpolicy and regulations for the application of pesticides, it did uncover a fewexamples of weakness in documentation, deficiencies in public reporting and oneexample of the city spraying a pesticide past its registration expiry date.

In 2016, city officials used 4,000 kilograms of 48 activepesticide ingredients to control unwelcome insects, weeds, rodents and fungi.

The top five active ingredients — sodium hypochlorite, Bti,2, 4-D amine, glyphosate and chlorothalonil — accounted for 91 per cent of thepesticides used by the city, while 43 other ingredients made up nine per cent.

Edmonton’s pesticide policy calls for preventive andnon-chemical pest management strategies to be considered first before applyingthe least-toxic approved pesticide.

However, the audit found the city policy doesn’t define whatthe least-toxic approved pesticide means or how it is chosen.

Ryan Pleckaitis, acting manager with community standards,said the department supports the auditor’s recommendations and has set atimeline for the second quarter of 2019 to enact the auditor’s recommendations.

“It really doesn’t provide much of a destination on whatexactly that means,” Pleckaitis said. “Least toxic to what? To animals? Tohumans? To the environment?”

Correcting deficiencies in documentation is “an easy fix,”Pleckaitis said.

As for communication with the public, the city will look atusing GPS to be more accurate with where spraying occurs and to have that dataavailable.

The city still has Dursban — an insecticide used on larvaland adult mosquitoes — within its warehouse, but has switched primarily to Bti.Pleckaitis said they keep the pesticide around in case of an emergency such asin the case of West Nile or Zika virus.

He said in the last two seasons, the city has not used Dursban.Ten years ago, the city used about 1,000 kilograms of Dursban, with the activeingredient of chlorpyrifos. In 2017, the city used 3.5 kilograms of Pyrate(another insecticide that uses chlorpyrifos as its active ingredient).

Pyrate is a spray and Bti is in a pellet form.

Pleckaitis said the city limits the use of chlorpyrifos toareas of heavy vegetation and remote areas.

This chart, from the Office of the City Auditor’s city pesticide use audit, to be presented to city councillors on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, shows a decrease in the amount of pesticides used by the City of Edmonton between 1993 and 2016. SUPPLIED

Sheryl McCumsey of Pesticide Free Alberta is in an open area near the corner of 77 Street and 84 Avenue on March 31, 2015. The organization made freedom of information requests for all of the application data for the pesticide Edmonton uses to fight mosquitoes, a pesticide that is only meant to be used in outlying areas, and was surprised to find records for residential areas of the city. GREG SOUTHAM / EDMONTON JOURNALSheryl McCumsey of Pesticide Free Alberta agreed the city’spolicy needs reviewing, but it missed that Dursban has been replaced withanother insecticide, Pyrate, that also uses chlorpyrifos, despite only oneknown case of West Nile virus in Edmonton that was reported in 2013.

“Why have they deliberately said they’re not sprayingDursban, but they’re spraying Pyrate?” she asked. “That’s like saying, I’m nottaking Tylenol, I’m going to take Excedrin, which is the same thing. Peoplehave been misinformed by this department repeatedly in so many ways.”

She said chlorpyrifos shouldn’t be sprayed at all, citing aletter from Dr. Meriel Watts, whose doctorate is in pesticide risk assessmentand policy.

McCumsey said the city continues to use pesticides that havenot been properly evaluated, as well as improperly using chemicals that areknown neurotoxins.

“Industry provides the science used to register products andthere are several other serious holes in how this is not a reliable way todetermine acceptable risk to the public,” she said.

Every other city in Canada uses biological controls,McCumsey said.

She said if the city continues to use chlorpyrifos, thegroup plans to fundraise for a lawyer to sue the city.

The danger to the public is not in acute exposure, but fromlong-term exposure in small amounts, McCumsey said.

The auditor’s report will be presented to the auditcommittee in the River Valley Room of City Hall at a meeting beginning at 9:30a.m.

With files from Elise Stolte

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