• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Innisfil resident raises concerns about spraying for phragmites

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In Council Watch
Sep 26th, 2018
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Great Lakes Phragmites photo

The following letter has been sent to the Town of Innisfil Council by resident Angela Gravelle

Attention: Mayor Wauchope and Members of Town Council

Your Worship and Members of Innisfil Town Council

My name is Angela Gravelle, I am a resident of the Town of Innisfil and I am a concerned property owner and taxpayer.

During the week of August 13th I became aware that the Town along with the County of Simcoe engaged a 3rd party contractor for the purpose of applying/spraying certain chemicals (pesticides) on Wilkinson Street.

Based upon your original map it was clear that a significant number of applications of this pesticide were to be made along Wilkinson Street with the express purpose of killing various stands of invasive phragmites.

I will say that unfortunately despite the best efforts of the contractor there were areas along Wilkinson Street that were inadvertently missed or omitted during that process. Unfortunately for me and my neighbours I suspect that it will now subject us to the possibility of another application of these chemicals in the foreseeable future.

Members of Council, in conversations with a number of my neighbours it appears that no one on our street received any direct notice that the application would be made. There was no posting of signs along the roadways to alert residents of the pending actions or any mail drop to the impacted households. From the best information that I have it appears our only notice was by way of an advertisement placed in the local weekly newspaper. It appears that few, if any of the impacted residents were made aware of the actions you were undertaking.

I’m not disputing the municipality’s legal jurisdiction to undertake certain control measures for the benefit of the community. What I do dispute and challenge is the process in which you undertook this activity. Unfortunately, it appears that your staff has not had much of a communications plan to address this initiative or any ability to deal with the very real concerns that I am raising. Despite my best efforts to elicit information respecting the nature of the application of the pesticides in question I have not had any satisfactory answers provided.

Let me elaborate on my concerns.

The recently adopted Source Water Protection Planning regime attempts to raise awareness across the province about our drinking water sources and to protect our health.

I know that I don’t need to educate this council as to the regulatory framework which establishes protection zones and safeguards for the protection of public water systems. Clearly the program is designed in a way to provide various levels of security and assurances against the potential of future contamination.

As most of us travel throughout this province we encounter the various road signs which draw attention to residents that their actions in these zones can have a detrimental impact on municipal drinking water supplies/sources. That education process is beginning to make some headway in some communities.

I am also aware that there are a number of strategies along with that regulatory framework that requires the approval for various activities on lands that are located within a designated distance from those key sources of drinking water. Those measures are in place to; protect public health, avoid the cost and need to clean up contaminated water, reduce the costs of water treatment and ensure a long-term environmental safety plan.

Again, I don’t dispute those reasons – as a matter of fact I believe that everyone should be entitled to those safeguards – they make a great deal of sense. As a matter of fact your own Town web site notes you have a “Multi-Barrier Approach” when it comes to safeguarding public drinking water sources.

It states a commitment to:
1. SourceWaterProtection-protectingLakeorgroundwaterusedfordrinkingby taking action to reduce contamination threats. This approach can also reduce the amount of treatment required to clean the water.
2. WaterTreatmentBack-up-Watertreatmentsystemsaredesignedwithback-ups at all stages.
3. SecureWaterSupplyNetwork–Ensuringnetworkintegrityandchlorinelevels are sufficient to protect the water from contaminant threats while it travels to the furthest downstream user.
4. Samplingandmonitoringprograms-Monitoringwaterqualityatthesource,the treatment plants, and throughout the town to ensure that the drinking water from all taps is safe.
5. Prepared Response Plan – Having a detailed plan for responding to water quality issues found despite all of the other barriers.

Please note the emphasis added to the above is mine, in order to draw your attention to the gaps in your program.

So it is clear that as a municipality you consider these actions important and again I too think these actions are important. Obviously you want to ensure and safeguard the water supply for those residents who rely upon the Town for their drinking water.

But when it comes to those residents who DO NOT have access to municipal water and rely upon their own private wells, you seem to apply a very different standard.

Why? Why should you not hold yourself to those same principles you consider important in securing your own water resources yet apply a different standard and disregard the safe water supply of residents who have to rely upon their own private wells. Especially where you and your partner, the County of Simcoe has introduced pesticides into vulnerable areas where we draw our drinking water supply?

Why am I suggesting that you have a double standard? Frankly the research I have read on the subject of the pesticides more specifically the chemicals that you have applied in this program raises a number of concerns. There is compelling arguments suggesting that we should be concerned about these chemicals.
– The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer determined that the chemical was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
– The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment has expressed their concern about the long-term health effects of exposure to low levels of glyphosate.
– Health Canada has announced that it will require manufacturers to update commercial labels for products containing glyphosate to include statements such as:
• Re-entry into the sprayed areas should be restricted to 12 hours after its
application in agricultural areas.
• The product is to be applied only when the potential to spread to areas of
human activity such as houses, cottages, schools and recreational areas, is
minimal.
• Instructions for buffer zones to protect areas beyond those targeted as well as
aquatic habitats”
– In August of this year, a California Superior Court ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million to a former school district groundskeeper who cited Roundup’s likely role in contributing to his cancer.
– The Canadian Cancer Society states it is against the use of cancer-causing pesticides.

For your benefit my research did not stop with the internet, I also made inquiries with several different “RMO’s” (Risk Management Officials under the source water protection program) in jurisdictions outside of Innisfil.

I reached beyond the Innisfil boundary so that I could get unbiased assessment of the application of the pesticides in question. As a result of those inquiries, I committed not to disclose the names of the individuals or the organizations they are employed by. However, when I presented the case to those RMO’s and asked them if they would grant approval for the use of those same pesticides in a similar application within a vulnerable area of a delineated source water protection area I was met with a resounding NO!

Yet, this Council being charged with ensuring the security of the drinking water supply showed no regard for those of us whose private wells are in close proximity to the areas where these pesticides were applied.

Is the security of our drinking water less important to you because it is a private well?

Is the Town suggesting to the thousands of residents in Innisfil who do not have access to the Town’s drinking water supply that our health and wellbeing is not important? Are you suggesting that we are second class citizens and somehow in the grand scheme of things we are unimportant?

When the concerns are raised the only response we receive is – we don’t do chemical testing for private wells, we don’t know the exact ingredients used in the pesticides, you need to contact the 3rd party contractor. That would be the same contractor who I assume is following the terms of a contract that was awarded under this program.

Let me refer back to your Multi- Barrier Approach: Where was your consideration of protecting our wells when you were contemplating the introduction of these pesticides into a vulnerable area where we draw our drinking water supply? How are you ensuring the integrity of our drinking water supply after you contracted someone to spray pesticides in close proximity to our wells? What’s your back-up plan if and when our wells show evidence of contamination by these pesticides? Why aren’t you stepping up and taking responsibility for your actions and offering to test the wells of those residents who may be impacted by your actions? What is your response plan when it comes to these concerns?

Are you prepared to take on the leadership responsibilities arising from your actions or are you simply going to wait for some lawsuit and class action process to unfold?

I understand the concerns respecting the nature of invasive plant species and the impact they may have on local fauna and wildlife habitat. Council if we are given the choice to allow the phragmites to stand in roadside ditches or to threaten our drinking water supply I think that you will find that most of your residents would opt to keep the phragmites rather than sacrificing our health or alternatively the weed should have been dug out.

At least give us the option rather than imposing measures that you would not impose on your own drinking water supply. Stop playing games with the health of your residents. Please step up to the plate and take responsibility stop placing the health of your residents, our environment and our wildlife in jeopardy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Angela Gravelle

One Response to “Innisfil resident raises concerns about spraying for phragmites”

  1. Ann says:

    By spraying the ditches with Roundup, Lake Simcoe is also being polluted because the storm water from those ditches empties into the lake.
    Spraying pesticides is not the answer, but just a quick fix for now. Innisfil and Simcoe County should be more responsible in protecting the environment and our health.
    Roundup must be banned because it’s a carcinogen!

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