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Bid to bring pesticides back now off the table

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)

A proposal by city staff to allow parks workers and residents to battle select weeds with banned pesticides is heading back to the drawing board.

City council’s public works committee received a report on the matter Wednesday afternoon, but city spokesperson Ted Townsend said staff are now planning to do more consultation before civic politicians consider it.

The report recommended 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 also recommended 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 proposal came 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 proposed changes didn’t sit well with those who originally pushed for the bylaw.

“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 Awareness Coalition.

The Canadian Cancer Society 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,” said the society’s Brittney Parks in an April 1 letter to the city. “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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