Our Response to Lanark County’s 2018 Spray Program

Starting in mid-May, Lanark County used Clearview herbicide along County roads in an effort to control wild parsnip. Once again, as for the two previous years, there has been insufficient notification of this program. The small ad in the local newspaper still left residents in the dark. As well, the opt-out options were not advertised. Those who signed onerous opt-out contracts last year were not notified that a renewal was necessary. Several individuals, including an organic farmer who opted out last year, had their properties sprayed without their knowledge. This was due, in part to a lack of communication from County and township public works departments.

This year, Lanark County initiated a different spray program to manage vegetation along the guardrails, several of them adjacent to water and significant wetlands. No notice was given that approximately 45 kilometres of guardrails would be sprayed. The guardrails were treated with two different herbicides, Arsenal Powerline and VP480. The active ingredient in Arsenal Powerline is Imazapyr and in VP480 the active ingredient is glyphosate. This is concerning since most of the sprayed guardrails had no wild parsnip, nor poison ivy and were sprayed during turtle nesting time. Lanark County is home to several species of turtles, several of which are threatened. An inspector from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change visited several of these sites and is reviewing the situation.

Last year, members of Friends of Lanark County met with Public Works to suggest that all areas where County roads intersect with water be mapped out and protected from herbicidal spraying, and that wild parsnip at those locations be controlled manually by volunteers or staff. The new spray program along the guardrails appears to disregard resident concerns to keep pesticides away from our waterways.

Eileen Barbeau, a member of the Friends of Bolingbroke Road Adopt a Road Group, commented,“In the recent press release by Lanark County, no mention is made of the labour-intensive manual control program that is being undertaken by numerous volunteers. The Adopt-A-Road program involves residents who provided and are still providing many hours of labour in this regard. They are the ones using the alternative management strategies that protect our water and our pollinators. They not only remove parsnip, they are also required to pick up the litter along their section of the roadways.”

These hardworking people are not acknowledged in the County’s Press Release.

The press release describes spot spraying methods, however this term requires clarification. Does this mean spraying individual plants from a backpack or does it mean spraying larger areas with a wand which also kills all of the plants in the area. This year’s “spot spraying” was clearly the second description, which resulted in damage to broadleaf plants including milkweed and clover.

As far as lack of success in previous years of mowing, repeated, targeted and well timed mowing was not attempted. Instead of giving money to out of area contractors and pesticides manufacturers from the United States why not hire local people to manage vegetation with equipment and manual techniques?

Lanark County encouraged the townships to join their program and several of the participating townships boom sprayed their roads this year. Did these townships reduce their use of herbicides? The combined chemical burden on aquatic life, pollinators and insects needs to be considered.

Until the Vegetative Management Plan is overhauled and guided by a mission statement based on environmental protection with zero contamination, Lanark County cannot become a leader in environmental stewardship. Individuals concerned about our community often wonder what they can do to be heard. Local elections are coming up. Residents can use this opportunity to challenge candidates on where they stand and they can decide who they will vote for.