Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why would herbicide be applied in February?

good morning everyone

I'll post the Hydro One notice when we reconfigure it into a form this blog will accept. But here's letter sent - always copy such to all the opposition parties for maximum fuss! Best regards to you, Why's Woman


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chris Bentley

Constituency Office 8-11 Base Line Road East
London, ON N6C 5Z8 Tel: 519-657-3120 Fax: 519-657-0368


Dear Minister Bentley,

I request that you, as my member of provincial parliament, contact the Ministry of the Environment which oversees Hydro One to inquire why herbicide is being applied in February.

Notice in the paper – what prompted the question

The January 25/11 issue of the London Free Press had, on page B2, a Notice of Herbicide Application, stating that “Hydro One Networks Inc. – Foresty Services” would be “commencing Forestry line clearing operations” in the Transmission corridor from Hamilton to London (City of Hamilton, Brant, Oxford, Thames Centre and the City of London). The work is to “include selective treatment of undesirable vegetation that would, if left alone, grow into the conductors.” This work, set to occur February 1 through February 28, 2011, is the application of herbicide to remove “undesirable Vegatation (brush and sucker growth from stumps).

Pollutant or waste of money?

My first thought on reading the notice – my thought as a gardener - was that herbicide application in the middle of winter is strange: there’s no vegetation around. This is too early for application directly to a pruning cut on a shrub or tree. To use some terminology of the pesticide industry, the vast amount of herbicide will not reach any sort of “target vegetation” because there will be snow cover and minimal plant growth activity.

The ground is frozen in our area during a usual February. Growth is not occurring. (see * later in letter) I foresee herbicide travelling far from its target with any thaw, reaching watercourses where it becomes a pollutant and a health hazard.

Also, given the above, surely an application of herbicide by Hydro One during February is a waste of money and staff time?

Questions that arise about the herbicide Garlon RTU

I am not learned in the chemistry of synthetic pesticides. I’ve simply done some on-line research.

The herbicide being applied is Garlon RTU. Made by Dow AgroSciences, its Material and Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is found at:

From simply scanning the information on the MSDS, I note that the Emergency Overview information states: “ May cause skin and eye irritation. Toxic to aquatic organisms and birds.” Further, referring to degradation and persistance: “Material is expected to biodegrade only very slowly (in the environment). Fails to pass OECD/EEC tests for ready biodegradability.”

The important ingredient in Garlon RTU is something called Triclopyr acid. An FAQ text from DowAgroScience concerning Garlon RTU ( says that “Triclopyr acid has a very low toxicity to aquatic organisms. When formulated as Garlon RTU, it has a higher toxicity, but in water it rapidly degrades from Triclopyr BE ester to Triclopyr acid, which is virtually non-toxic to aquatic organisms.”

MSDS sheets are referred to by people in health and safety as credible guidelines about materials/products. The MSDS sheet for Garlon RTU presents the herbicide in a much more serious light than the Dow FAQ sheet. I am concerned when an industry presentation lessens effects of a product.

The Dow FAQ sheet also says that “Garlon RTU contains 144 g/L of the active ingredient Triclopyr BE ester (Triclopyr)” and that Triclopyr “is a plant growth regulator that mimics growth hormones found exclusively in plants. When applied to the bark or the cut surfaces, Garlon RTU is able to penetrate the bark and cambium region easily and enters the plant’s transportation system to move into the stems and roots. It then initiates rapid mature cell growth, which causes cell walls to rupture.

This information raises the question of why this herbicide is going to applied during a time when the plants it will be used on are not growing. *The Dow FAQ sheet itself has a cartoon on it: the sun shines down on a cut branch on a trunk and the grass is around the little tree – the implication of the cartoon is that the Garlon RTU is not something to apply in the winter.

Action to take

In this letter I am not commenting on the merits – or lack of merit – of synthetic herbicides generally. The point here is that attention should be paid to spraying herbicide at any time, and especially if it is being sprayed at the wrong time and will result in pollution of watercourses and bad financial management. Who gives the orders and monitors things?

I request that you, as my member of provincial parliament, contact the Ministry of the Environment which oversees Hydro One to inquire into the matter of this herbicide application. I also request that someone let me know what you find out.


Deb Matthews, MPP Health, Ontario Liberal

Minister of the Environment for
Ontario, John Wilkinson
Hydro One, Laura Formusa, CEO

Toby Barrett, Ontario Progressive Conservative Environment critic
Mike Schreiner , Green Party of Ontario
Peter Tabuns, New Democratic Party of Ontario, Environment critic

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