Opposition to herbicide spraying is growing in Nova Scotia's Annapolis County where protestors are camping out on land slated to be sprayed and municipal leaders are calling on the province to stop the forestry practice.
Protestors say they were inspired by the actions of a small group in Burlington, N.S., earlier this month, which resulted in a forestry company cancelling its plans to spray a 46-hectare site.
Nova Scotia Environment has given the go-ahead for herbicides that contain glyphosate to be sprayed on 42 sites across the province. Three of the sites in Annapolis County cover about 377 hectares — one near Eel Weir Lake and two near Paradise Lake.
Warden Timothy Habinski said those lakes are connected to the local communities' source of drinking water.
"That's extremely troubling," he told CBC's Information Morning on Tuesday. "There's 900 residents in Lawrencetown whose health is potentially affected by what we do in the next couple of weeks."
His council sent a letter to the Department of Environment and the Department of Lands and Forestry last week urging the province to place an indefinite moratorium on glyphosate spraying in Annapolis County.
Glyphosate is used in the forestry industry to kill deciduous trees, allowing the softwoods sought by harvesters to grow unhampered. It's also used widely by farmers to keep weeds out of their crops.
The herbicide is approved by Health Canada, which said last year it does not consider the chemical to be a cancer risk if it's used as it's supposed to be.
But Habinski said the federal government has failed to provide enough evidence that glyphosate is safe, and he wants more scientific study done on the impacts on people's health and the health of the environment.
"We had this study dating from 1970 that appears to be the federal government's final word on the topic, and it shouldn't be. There's more information, better information available today," he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Environment declined an interview request, referring questions about glyphosate to Health Canada.
Health Canada also declined to do an interview and instead shared links to information about glyphosate on the agency's website.
Nina Newington, one of the protesters who was camped out at Eel Weir Lake on Tuesday, said people have been on the site since the weekend and they won't leave until "we stop the spraying of this land."
She said there are about three people at each site right now, but she expects more will join her.
"We expect that the spraying might happen next week and we will ramp up our numbers as we get closer to that," she said.
Newington said she's encouraged that Annapolis County council agreed unanimously to send a letter to the province asking for a moratorium on glyphosate spraying.
"We are facing a climate and ecological breakdown at this point," she said. "It is pure madness to be mowing down forests and then spraying them with poisons to stop the regrowth of the natural forest."
Land owned by Harry Freeman and Son Ltd.
The three parcels of land slated to be sprayed are owned by Harry Freeman and Son Ltd., a lumber company based in Greenfield, Queens County. Owner Richard Freeman didn't respond to requests for an interview.
Several of the other sites approved for aerial spraying are in Cumberland County and are owned by J.D. Irving Ltd. The three sites in Annapolis County are slated to be sprayed by Century Forestry Consultants.
The company's co-owner, Scott Maston, told CBC News earlier this month that the spraying is "extremely controlled."
Maston said there are strict conditions in order for the company to spray including that winds must be less than 10 kilometres per hour. The helicopters are also loaded with precise GPS files to avoid overspraying.
Habinski said spraying has become such a common part of how forestry is done in Nova Scotia that it will require a groundswell of grassroots opposition to change things.
"There's a benefit to the [forestry] industry in doing this kind of spraying, but the moment there's a potential risk to human health that has to be weighed very, very seriously by all levels of government," he said.
"As a community, we have to be starting to ask for greater accountability from all levels of government."
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