Residents near NB Power spraying want better notice

Homeowners in Wirral, Hoyt, and Fredericton Junction say the only official notice about herbicide spraying they've ever seen from NB Power were small signs posted on the transmission line land after the herbicide Vision Max was applied.

Rural residents say NB Power didn’t do enough to notify them of herbicide spraying in their area

People in Fredericton Junction area want better notice of herbicide spraying on NB Power lines. 2:33

Homeowners in Wirral, Hoyt, and Fredericton Junction say the only official notice about herbicide spraying they've ever seen from NB Power were small signs posted on the transmission line land after the herbicide Vision Max was applied.

Wayne Webb of Wirral says he and his wife awoke to the sound of heavy spray trucks early on July 11.

NB Power lines that were sprayed with herbicide run through Wayne Webb's property. (CBC)
"Machines woke me up around 5 a.m. or shortly after and I come down the road and they were spraying my power line here," said Webb.

"I never dreamed they'd do this so close to our homes," said Cheryl Webb. 

"We only live about 400 feet from this line."

The couple say they own the land the NB Power transmission line is on, and though NB Power has right of way, they never saw a warning about the herbicide spraying.

Wayne Webb was only given an explanation of what the crews were doing after he spoke to a woman in an NB Power truck guarding access to the area being sprayed.

"I asked her about my berries and she told me that I could eat them in 24 hours," said Wayne Webb.

Anyone with half a brain knows you don't spray chemicals on berries and then eat them 24 hours later.- Wayne Webb

"But anyone with half a brain knows you don't spray chemicals on berries and then eat them 24 hours later."

Deborah Nobes, a NB Power spokesperson, wrote in a statement that "notices were published in English and French newspapers in advance of the treatment."

The newspaper ads are in accordance with the spraying permit requirements NB Power has from the province.

CBC News searched dozens of back issues of papers before finding the English notice in the Telegraph Journal. It was published on May 16, almost two months before the July 11 spraying in Wirral, and located after NB Power provided information on where to look.

The NB Power notice states in part, "The program this year will take place from June 22nd to August 7th, 2015."

It does not name all of the communities that would host spray teams or list specific dates when spraying would take place.

Rick Doucett, NB Power's manager of transmission, vegetation and environmental support, said the utility is looking at making improvements to its public notification protocol in light of the concerns being expressed.

"What we have done since we've been discussing this is we're looking at out public notification criteria and how we're going to get this information out to people in a more user-friendly format," said Doucett.

"We're going to be looking at a strategy to get the public notification out in a more widespread fashion."

Cheryl Webb says she would have done whatever she could to stop herbicide spraying on NB Power lines near her home had she known about it. (CBC)
At a meeting earlier this week in Fredericton Junction between two dozen concerned rural residents and MLA Jeff Carr, CBC News asked all those present if they had ever received a warning about spraying or read a newspaper ad about the planned treatments.

None of those in attendance said they had.

Cheryl Webb said had she known the herbicide program was approaching, she would have tried to stop it.

"I would have parked myself down here or laid on the road," she said.

"I would have done whatever I could to keep them from spraying. I would have not allowed it. I would have sat down here and called my neighbours and we would have stood in front of them. Anything to get them to stop."

Community fears have been directed at the usage of herbicide Vision Max.

NB Power has approval from the Department of Environment and Local Government to use the herbicide despite its main ingredient being recently classified as a probable carcinogen by the research branch of the World Health Organization.

Nobes's statement says the product is approved by the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) a branch of Health Canada and properly administered on the transmission lines.

"The product is applied by licensed applicators at labelled concentrations considered essentially non-toxic to humans and wildlife. It is water soluble, mixed at 96 parts water to four parts product, with approximately two litres applied per acre."