New Brunswick

NB Power's herbicide 'essentially non-toxic' to humans, wildlife

Dozens of rural New Brunswickers are upset about NB Power spraying herbicides on and near their properties, but the utility says the products are "essentially non-toxic to humans and wildlife."

"It takes a lot of convincing that it's safe," says PC MLA Jeff Carr of herbicide spraying.

Dozens of rural New Brunswickers are upset about the spraying of defoliants on and near their properties and communities by NB Power. 2:13

Dozens of rural New Brunswickers are upset about NB Power spraying herbicides on and near their properties and communities.

But NB Power says the products it uses are approved by a branch of Health Canada and are "essentially non-toxic to humans and wildlife."

Areas underneath high electrical lines have been scorched brown by the use of plant-killing chemicals and it has many people in Wirral, Tracy, Hoyt and Fredericton Junction on edge. 

"I'm just watching a community being poisoned," said Shane Kelly, whose family lives near the sprayed areas.

"It makes me sick and it makes me scared." 

So when we talk again spraying again it takes a lot of convincing that it's safe. Some will never be convinced.- PC MLA Jeff Carr

Dead plants, grasses and foliage can be found beneath a high-line in Wirral that residents say was sprayed last fall. The trunks of alders can be snapped in half simply by brushing up against them.  

"It's disgusting," said Peter Hogan who lives next to the areas sprayed with defoliant. 

"I see no difference between this and Agent Orange." 

On Monday afternoon, nearly two dozen upset residents gathered at the office of Progressive Conservative MLA Jeff Carr in Fredericton Junction to discuss methods of how to get NB Power to stop using herbicides in their areas.

NB Power has targeted areas underneath high electrical lines with plant-killing chemicals, such as Vision Max. The spraying has angered residents in Wirral, Tracy, Hoyt and Fredericton Junction. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
The gathering was emotional. Some of the people in the meeting broke down crying, stating they were terrified of what was being sprayed in their water, air and soil. 

"They have every right to be concerned," said Carr.

"It's scary, especially given our history with sprays." 

Vision Max, an herbicide developed by giant Monsanto, is one of the herbicides NB Power says it uses in the area.  

According to the products safety data sheet, Vision Max is considered harmful if inhaled and if it comes into contact with your skin. The product's safety data sheet says to take off contaminated clothing, rinse skin immediately and call a poison control centre or doctor for treatment advice.

Abides by regulations

About two dozen concerned citizens packed into an office to meet Tory MLA Jeff Carr on Monday to express their anger over NB Power's defoliant spraying in rural areas. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
Jennifer Graham, a communications officer for the Department of Environment and Local Government, confirmed that Vision Max is listed as an approved herbicide that NB Power is authorized to use.

NB Power says its transmission vegetation management program follows all regulatory requirements for herbicide application.

The Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency, a branch of Health Canada, is responsible for licensing and approving the use of any pesticides in Canada.

And the New Brunswick Department of Environment regulates the application of the products through an annual permitting process, officials said.

"The product is applied by licensed applicators at labelled concentrations considered essentially non-toxic to humans and wildlife," according to an emailed statement by NB Power.

"It is water soluble, mixed at 96 parts water to four parts product, with approximately two litres applied per acre," the statement said.

Products are applied when wind is minimal and there is no rain. Signs are also posted indicating the type of product used and the date of application.

But the sections of sprayed high-line are only a few kilometres from Base Gagetown, an area synonymous with Agent Orange.

Dozens of residents have received compensation from the Canadian government for health issues as a result of the agent.

In 2007, $100 million was allocated for Canadians that were harmed by the defoliant at or near Base Gagetown.  

"It impacted every family in the area in some shape or form," said Carr.

"So when we talk about spraying again it takes a lot of convincing that it's safe. Some will never be convinced."


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