New Brunswick

NB Power's 'no herbicide list' surprises spray opponents

NB Power has placed several rural New Brunswick residents on what it terms a "no herbicide list."

Wirral resident whose property received Vison Max treatment in 2015 says option to opt out wasn't known

No herbicide list

6 years ago
NB Power gives property owners option to opt out of herbicide spraying on property. 2:14

NB Power has placed several rural New Brunswick residents on what it terms a "no herbicide list."

The existence of an option to have properties exempt from the herbicide spray program comes as a surprise to some landowners who have had issues with the utility's spraying in the past. 

"If I had known about the list I would have been the first one on it," said Cheryl Webb.

Webb lives in Wirral and her property includes sections of transmission lines that NB Power sprayed with the herbicide Vision Max last year.

Cheryl Webb of Wirral said she would have been the first one to ask to be placed on NB Power's "no herbicide list" had she known about it. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
"We didn't know," said Webb. 

"I challenge anyone to walk up and down this road, go anywhere in Hoyt and ask people if they know anything about this list." 

Webb says she and her husband did not know about the existence of the list until after their property had been sprayed and after, they say, the chemical Vision Max blew through their bedroom window while they slept last year. 

NB Power declined to be interviewed about the existence of the list, but spokeswoman Deborah Nobes provided a statement through email.

"We have shared with CBC on many, many occasions that customers are encouraged to call us with concerns and questions so that we can respond to them," said Nobes.

"We track those concerns in many ways, including keeping lists.

Document obtained from NB Power through Right to Information Act makes reference to the no herbicide list. (CBC)
"One of our options in responding to customer concerns about herbicide use is to not spray on right of ways crossing properties with land use agreements, or on property where customers have self-identified as having specific concerns that can be accommodated.

"The use of this option is determined on a case-by-case basis, in consultation between the customer and the director of the program," wrote Nobes.

"The list you refer to is simply a good way to keep track of the customers who have identified their special requirements through contact with our agents and program managers."

None of the prior information NB Power provided CBC News about the herbicide spray program included details about a "no herbicide list." 

NB Power did not mention such a list as an option for property owners during coverage of complaints about the spray program by residents during the summer of 2015. 

New Maryland-Sunbury MLA Jeff Carr said he wasn't aware of the option for residents to have their property near exempted from herbicide spraying by NB Power. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
Jeff Carr, the New Maryland-Sunbury MLA, said his constituents should take advantage of the exemption option if they have concerns about herbicide sprays. 

"I'm not sure how long this list has been available," said Carr.

"But knowledge of it hasn't been widely educated or put out there and advertised to the communities." 

Carr says he can understand the fears of those living the area given the history of sprays being used in the area in the past.  

"Not too long ago Agent Orange became a huge issue in the area, in the very immediate area," said Carr. 

"In Hoyt, Wirral areas, Geary, Fredericton Junction. So it struck a nerve and it struck a chord with the people in that area." 

Transmission line in Wirral after being sprayed with herbicide Vision Max in 2015. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
Carr said if it was his property in question he would request placement on the list.

The Crown corporation has said a herbicide spray program is necessary to prevent widespread outages.

"We selectively spray herbicides on approximately 50 per cent of our rural right of ways, most of which is on Crown lands," Nobes wrote in a separate email.

In an email to NB Power CEO Gaetan Thomas that was obtained through the Right to Information Act, NB Power's director for environment and emergency planning Charles Hickam states: "We apply herbicides, terminals, microwave sites, and most (not all) transmission rights-of way (we do not currently use herbicides on the International Power Line, but that is likely to change.)

NB Power has said the herbicide it uses is safe and has been approved for use by federal and provincial regulators. 

If you have more information on this story, please contact reporter Shane Fowler


Shane Fowler


Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.


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