NB Power criticized for herbicide spraying too close to streams

NB Power’s herbicide spraying program is coming under continued scrutiny as residents in the rural community of Wirral say they are worried the Crown corporation sprayed Vision Max too close to running streams.

Crown corporation is not permitted to spray herbicide within 15 metres of waterways

NB Power’s herbicide spraying program is coming under continued criticism as residents in the rural community of Wirral say they are worried the Crown corporation sprayed Vision Max too close to running streams 2:22

NB Power's herbicide spraying program is coming under continued criticism as residents in the rural community of Wirral say they are worried the Crown corporation sprayed Vision Max too close to running streams. 

The concern revolves around waterways, which cross NB Power transmission lines, that appear to have no living plants at sections of their banks.

Wirral residents are concerned that NB Power sprayed herbicides too close to local streams. (CBC)
In other areas, the vegetation buffer zone is significantly smaller than it is mandated to be. 

The New Brunswick Ground Pesticide Permit states that Vision Max, the herbicide of choice for NB Power, is allowable to use — but not within 15 metres of any surface water. 

A CBC investigation revealed that several sections of stream banks that cross transmission lines have vegetation buffer zones that are less than 15 metres.

In some cases the vegetation buffer did not exist. Some parts of a stream bank have a partial buffer present with no uniform distance of vegetation.   

Brent Staeben, a NB Power spokesperson, defended the utility's herbicide spraying program in a statement.

"NB Power is confident that it has and continues to follow the Department of Environment requirements that apply to our vegetation program around stream beds and surface water," he said.

"Based on the locations and conditions at the time of application last year, we followed the guidelines accordingly." 

Vision Max is listed by its parent company Monsanto as being moderately toxic to fish, such as trout, and highly toxic to green algae.

Herbicide spraying rules

Marie-Andree Bolduc, a NB Power spokesperson, suggested the stream beds in question may have been dry during the time the herbicide was applied.  

"The company is permitted to spray Vision Max in intermittent streams and in stream beds that are dry during the time of application," said Bolduc.  

However, environmental records show that in the summer of 2014, when the herbicide was applied, the Wirral area received almost double the amount of rainfall compared to this year.

More than 335 millimetres of rainfall was recorded in the months of June and July compared to 166 mm recorded for the same time period this year. 

Stream runoff records from the Department of Environment also show much more water in the area during last year's spray period. 

The records show there was more than 175 per cent more stream runoff in the Wirral area last June compared to normal years. In addition, July and August also saw levels of stream runoff recorded at levels higher than normal. 

Citizens concerned by spraying

Charlotte Gillett, who lives in Wirral, said she doesn’t want her son hunting and fishing in those areas in fear of what the spray will do to his health. (CBC)
Local residents, including Wayne Webb, also say the streams never run dry.  

"It gets low, but it never dries up," said Webb. 

Charlotte Gillett, who also lives nearby, said she's barred her son from going into the areas that have been sprayed.

She said she doesn't want him hunting and fishing in those areas in fear of what the spray will do to his health. 

"I want him to grow up and be healthy, and not have to worry about the potential risk from the spraying on the power lines," said Gillett.

"And I want them to stop spraying period." 

NB Power says that the use of Vision Max is absolutely necessary to maintain their transmission lines and ensure safe and quick access to the remote power lines in case of an outage.

The company says the herbicide is mixed heavily with water and is essentially non-toxic to humans.