Despite a controversial new cosmetic-pesticide ban hanging in the air, Manitoba used more chemicals to kill weeds along rural roads, in parks and school grounds and on fairways than it did two years ago.
Last summer, approximately 202,000 litres of concentrated pesticides were sprayed on publicly used land, according to a database created by the Winnipeg Free Press, which was given access to roughly 280 spray reports submitted to Manitoba Conservation. That’s up slightly from 2011.
THE GREENIESWell under one per cent of all pesticides sprayed last summer were of the "green" variety, such as Fiesta, Eco-Clear and landscape oil. Only two pesticide permit-holders used those products. Red River College mostly used the big three green products -- Fiesta, EcoClear and landscape oil -- to keep dandelions and other broadleaf weeds at bay. But, the college also used 22 litres of chemicals banned in Ontario such as glyphosate. Meanwhile, Seven Oaks General Hospital did the same, using mostly Fiesta and EcoClear but sneaking in four litres of Roundup.The Assiniboine Park Conservancy is using nothing but Fiesta on its lawns this summer, after a successful test run last year. Park staff also tried horticultural vinegar around the new Qualico Family Centre, but found it made the place smell like french fries.BIG USERS• Manitoba HydroThe Crown power company's usage increased by 10,000 litres to about 61,000 litres in 2013. Most of that was a wood preservative used to keep power lines in good shape, but the company also spot sprays with all the classic weed killers such as Par III and Roundup to keep vegetation down near power lines and in yards where they could be shock or fire hazards, making it hard for crews to access downed lines or damage system reliability.• City of WinnipegIt's tricky to tease out what Winnipeg sprays because so much of it is bug-related and changes from year to year. When it comes to weed killer used in parks, retention basins and on golf courses, the city sprayed more than 5,700 litres, all of it chemicals banned in Ontario for cosmetic use. The city says it's waiting for the formal regulations before figuring out how it will deal with Manitoba's looming cosmetic-spray ban next summer.• RailwaysCombined, CN Rail and CP Rail used about 36,000 litres of weed killer, more than twice what they used in 2011 and nearly all of it banned for cosmetic use in Ontario.• SchoolsThe River East Transcona School Division sprayed about 400 litres of weed killer on school grounds, and the Interlake School Division sprayed about 225 litres. Those were tops among 14 school divisions that used weed killer last year, nearly all of likely to be banned next summer.• Golf coursesAt 927 litres, it used by far the most liquid pesticides of any golf course in the province, in part because St. Charles is among the largest at 27 holes. It's main product was Instrata, used by all golf courses to control snow mould and other fungi. Instrata's active ingredient is banned in Ontario, but golf courses are exempt from the ban there, as they will be in Manitoba.• Dursban banIn a mosquito-obsessed province, the fate of Dursban matters. It's among the restricted chemicals in Ontario and is about to be delisted for use as a larviciding tool by the federal government. Last summer, the city used more than 6,700 kilograms of Dursban to larvicide, but only outside city limits. That was up considerably from 2011. The city says this is the last summer it will use Dursban. Next summer, the insect control branch will be larviciding with only biological products.• Carman tops in malathionWinnipeg's malathion use gets all the headlines, but it was a small town that fogged mosquitoes the most last summer. Carman used 794 litres of the fogging agent in 2013, eclipsing the 720 litres used by Winnipeg. That's no fluke. In 2011, Carman also used more malathion than Winnipeg. Carman's fogging trigger is much lower than Winnipeg's, and town administrator Cheryl Young said the town fogs pretty continuously over the summer. There have been no worries raised in town about the health and environmental effects of the chemical. In fact, said Young, ratepayers are often pushing the town to do more.• Bee niceNew research suggests a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids could be partly to blame for the dramatic decline of bees. In July, Ontario said it would look at restricting neonicotinoids, which are mostly used by farmers. Manitoba's pesticide permit-holders used relatively little bee-killing neonicotinoids. Only the St. Charles Country Club used about a litre of Arena, which contains clothianidin. And, the Neepawa Golf and Country Club used a few milligrams of imadacloprid. There is no way to fully track how much individual farmers and private users sprayed.» Winnipeg Free Press
While the database doesn’t include farms or private homes, it does cover permit-holders such as Manitoba Hydro, municipalities, golf courses, and school and health districts.
An additional 190,000 kilograms of weed and insect killer in solid form were also used. That’s up 66 per cent from 2011, and included relatively harmless products such as wood preservative and natural larviciding products used to kill mosquitoes.
This spring, the province passed its version of a cosmetic-pesticide ban that covers homeowners’ lawns as well as daycare, school and hospital grounds. The ban begins in 2015, but there will be a grace period.
Manitoba hasn’t yet released the list of banned products, but it will likely echo Ontario’s, which includes common active ingredients such as 2,4-D, glyphosate and mecoprop and brand names such as Par III, Tordon and Vantage as well as in Roundup.
The looming ban has some worried that people will find alternative methods to get their hands on pesticides, essentially pushing the products underground where they won’t be regulated.
“Everyone knows a farmer around here and has the opportunity (to source pesticides,” said one Brandon homeowner, who pulled a jar of clear liquid that he said was Roundup from his garage.
“The difference is: Does everyone know the proper way to use the chemicals? That’s what I think is more scary. Will people quit using this stuff, I doubt it. It will just be used the wrong way.”
Nearly three-quarters of all the liquid pesticides used by permit-holders last summer are ones likely to be banned next year for cosmetic use. But, it’s unlikely the province will see a huge drop in what pesticide permit-holders spray.
Most of the major users are golf courses, which are exempt from the ban. Or, they are weed-control districts, tasked with controlling noxious weeds such as knapweed, purple loosestrife and leafy spurge along rural roads and ditches to keep those from wafting into farmers’ fields, crowding out crops and damaging yields. Most of the work of weed-control districts will continue despite the cosmetic-spray ban.
Still, rural weed-control experts are worried about the fine print, and are waiting for more details from the province.
“There’s concern over whether it will impact our ability to address new invasive species,” said Kent Shewfelt, president of the Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association.
Shewfelt wonders what will happen if, for example, a particularly virulent patch of noxious weeds is spotted on a baseball field. Will the weed-control district have the ability to use the traditional chemicals to destroy the patch, even though it’s in an area where the cosmetic ban applies?
Most towns and RMs also haven’t begun to consider how they’ll deal with the cosmetic ban, which will likely force them to stop spraying for weeds on baseball diamonds, in parks and perhaps along ditches leading into town.
Shewfelt, who also runs the Louise-Roblin Weed Control District, says green products such as Fiesta can be used to replace big brand-name herbicides such as Premium 3-Way. But, Premium 3-Way costs less than $50 per hectare while Fiesta costs more $1,300 and often needs to be reapplied a few times. That could have a serious impact on municipal budgets, especially smaller, rural ones.
A spokesperson for the department said the legislation is expected to take effect in January 2015 — although exactly what it will look like is still being discussed.
“As the government conducts consultations and develops regulations, the final list of banned products will emerge,” he said. “Again, the final list is being developed. The proposed restriction list will be focused on weed control products but will not include insect control operations.”
There will be a grace period to give businesses time to adapt to the changes.
“We will work with the key stakeholders and other government departments to ensure the provisions of the legislation are understood and how compliance can be ensured,” the spokesman said. “This will provide time for homeowners, retailers, landscaping and lawn care professionals, and others affected to switch to low-risk products. Through a combination of public education and retailers altering their supply, we expect that the public will understand and comply with the regulations.”
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 5, 2014