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Pesticides could make return

Using pesticides on residential and city land for cosmetic reasons has been banned in Richmond since October 2009. - Peter Organisciak photo (via Flickr)
Using pesticides on residential and city land for cosmetic reasons has been banned in Richmond since October 2009.
— image credit: Peter Organisciak photo (via Flickr)

Homeowners could again soon be allowed to arm themselves with pesticides to fight certain weeds if civic politicians back new changes proposed at city hall.

City staff will suggest Wednesday that pesticides should be permitted to kill so-called noxious weeds—typically non-native plants such as thistles, the common reed and giant hogweed. Staff are also recommending exempting chelated iron from the list of banned products, a "low-toxicity pesticide" touted as a green alternative to control broadleaf weeds on residential and city-owned land.

The changes come 19 months after the city adopted its pesticide use control bylaw, banning the use of products such as Killex, Roundup and Weed "N" Feed for cosmetic use.

But the bylaw changes aren't sitting well with two groups that originally pushed for the bylaw.

"We feel that Richmond has a strong bylaw that does not require any amendments. We are concerned that the city is considering amendments due to the cost of alternate methods. Health and safety don't seem to be a factor in the decision for an amendment," said Michelle Li of the Richmond Pesticide Coalition.

In an April 1 letter to the city, the Canadian Cancer Society's Brittney Parks said other cities, such as Vancouver and Burnaby, control invasive plants with manual removal.

“As you know the Canadian Cancer Society is very concerned about the use of pesticides, which can contain carcinogens, for the purposes of enhancing the appearance of lawns," she wrote. "We encourage the City of Richmond to maintain the integrity of this bylaw.”

The bylaw applies to all residential and city land, except for West Richmond Pitch and Putt. But it doesn't cover railway lines, which are routinely sprayed with pesticides and regulated by the province—not the city.

East Richmond resident Joanne Fisher's property backs onto railway tracks. Fisher contacted the Review concerned rail companies are no longer required to notify nearby homeowners before spraying rail right-of-ways.

"They had to tell the public before what day they would spray the tracks. So if you live adjacent to the tracks like I do, you can keep your doors and windows shut and your pets inside."

Canadian National Railway spokesperson Warren Chandler said weed control and pesticide use are necessary to keep rail lines in safe operating condition.

"All vegetation control products that are used by CN are approved by the appropriate regulatory agency, and they are applied by fully trained and qualified personnel," he said.

Chandler encouraged residents with concerns to call its public inquiry line at 1-888-888-5909 or e-mail the company through its website.

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