A Guelph resident is concerned about the use of the herbicide Roundup near Guelph Lake after speaking to a worker applying the chemical in the area.
Jesse Merrill explained he was driving back from dropping his son off at sailing camp for the day on Tuesday when he spotted a man spraying something on plants growing on the causeway crossing the lake.
Through what Merrill termed “a very civil conversation,” he learned the chemical was Roundup and the worker was contracted by the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA).
“Of course there’s a difference of opinion on how long Roundup lasts and how dangerous it is near water,” Merrill said. “But they were super close, he was spraying at clover and vetch and young popular saplings that were growing as close as a couple feet from the water. That definitely concerned me.”
Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate is a commonly used but controversial herbicide in Canada. Health Canada says when applied according to the label instructions, “products containing glyphosate are not expected to pose risks of concern to human health or the environment.”
Still most Canadian provinces have some restrictions on its use. In Ontario, glyphosate is on a list of chemicals banned for cosmetic purposes on home lawns and gardens “because they may pose an unnecessary risk to human health, particularly children’s health.”
Merrill said the use of Roundup near Guelph Lake where he kayaks regularly and his son enjoys playing out on the water worries him. He noted after flowing past the dam, water from the lake runs through the city.
He's contacted local MPPs and the GRCA with his concerns.
“Roundup is a known poison, it’s being used to kill plant life because it is a poison,” he said, adding he wasn’t opposed to the use of chemical herbicides outright, but felt it wasn’t necessary or safe in this situation. He explained he believed the job along Highway 124 could have been better served by other means, for example with a whippersnapper.
In an email, the GRCA said deep rooted plants, especially woody plants, can comprise water control structures, which are used for flood mitigation and to maintain river flow.
“When weeds are growing on steep slopes through gravel and riprap, like the area at the Guelph Lake Dam where the contractor was observed working, manual cutting of woody vegetation would result in additional woody brush growth; therefore making this method ineffective to control weeds. In addition, it is unsafe for workers to be traversing the rocky/gravelly slope repeatedly carrying sharp cutting tools versus a backpack and spraying,” the GRCA said in part, adding that a backpack sprayer allows for targeted spray and the herbicide is not spread over the entire area or spayed directly over water.
“The GRCA tries to use natural or organic products whenever possible, such as herbicidal vinegar in certain conditions. However, these products are often less effective when weed conditions are severe. The decision to contract out this work to a licensed pesticide applicator is made after consideration of these alternative solutions,” the GRCA continued.
The hired contractor is knowledgeable and experienced in the proper use of herbicides and has the additional accreditation required for chemical application on dams, the GRCA said.
According to the GRCA, the area around Hwy 124 is typically sprayed around once per year or once every second year, depending on weed conditions. On Tuesday, 600ml of Roundup Transorb was applied to the area, a typical amount of spray for the site, the GRCA said.
The nearby Guelph Lake Dam and Kaine Hill Dam are also sprayed with about 100-150 ml of the chemical per site, the GRCA said.
Alison Sandstrom, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com