By BRONWEN SCOTT
IT’S NOT JUST the TNRD. The city pesticide issue shows Kamloops councillors need to demand full disclosure from their administration as well.
The City has been using a suite of pesticides, one of which has the same ingredients as Agent White, a toxic brew of picloram, hexachlorobenzene and 2,4-D. City staff used this chemical cocktail in a tot lot, as well as on playing fields, parks, roadsides and other areas throughout the city.
The Canadian Cancer Society lists pesticide exposure as a potential cancer risk and says, “Although the links between pesticide exposure and cancer are not yet conclusive, the body of evidence is persuasive enough to warrant protective measures to limit or eliminate public exposure to pesticides wherever possible.” This is called the precautionary principle, for those of us who would rather not take a chance on our children’s long-term health.
B.C. law takes the same stance. Licenced pesticide users like the City have to try non-toxic alternatives first, using pesticides only as a last resort.
This process, integrated pest management (IPM), depends on good record-keeping: what weeds are present, their state of growth, what’s been tried, what worked, what didn’t, and so on.
City administrator Jeff Putnam maintains that the City does practice integrated pest management, but in fact, the City more than tripled its pesticide use since 2018, chose pesticides as a first option for 150 urban roadsides last year, and is so casual about pesticide use in public it didn’t even bother to post many areas it sprayed.
Why are the same administrators who pushed for a cosmetic pesticide ban for residents so adamant that the City be allowed to use unlimited amounts of pesticide for the same purpose?
When I began three years ago to try to get information from the City about its pesticide practices, I was misled, passed from person to person with no results, and made to submit FOI requests for information that the City’s own FOI officer said should be publicly available and freely given.
Finally, after Coun. Denis Walsh raised the issue with City CAO David Trawin, I got a phone call from City Hall this past February. The caller wouldn’t give me her name, telling me to call her “Operator 2.” What is this? 007? Why all the secrecy at City Hall?
It’s almost like City administration wants to hide its chemical dependency, like they’re ashamed of it. Residents haven’t been consulted about city-wide pesticide plans since 1999. When was council last informed?
Councillors seemed surprised to hear of the City’s escalating pesticide use, the health and environmental effects of the pesticides selected by civic operations and the ways the City has broken various provincial and federal laws.
I know I was surprised to hear administration justify its pesticide program by saying someone might sue the City if they trip over a weed.
I get that the powers behind the horseshoe think dandelions don’t fit Kamloops’ “Tournament Capital” tag, but this is 2021 — there are lots of alternatives, and wouldn’t pesticide-free playing fields be a draw on the tourney circuit? Shouldn’t we at least think about practicing integrated pest management to reduce pesticide use, especially since the provincial government says we have to, and science says we should?
What about this year? Will council allow the City spray program to continue as usual? There won’t be organized sports this spring due to COVID, and City fields were treated last year with a restricted pesticide that stays active for five years, so there’s low risk of litigation for dandelion mishaps.
How about a moratorium on pesticide use until we have an Integrated Pest Management Plan in place? Given the toxicity of the pesticides widely used by the City last year, the sooner we use safe alternatives that work for our purposes and terrain, the better.
Bronwen Scott is a Kamloops environmentalist with a special interest in how pesticides are used.