BC Rail spraying 

Tracking herbicide use BC Rail's plans to spray along tracks meets opposition Julia Greenlaw lives so close to the BC Rail tracks her house shakes and rumbles when trains pass by. She doesn't mind the noise, you get used to it living on the west side of Alta Lake, she says. What she does mind are BC Rail's plans to kill broadleaf weeds along the tracks using a number of herbicides including Roundup, Krovar and Glean. In a recent pesticide application permit, BC Rail outlined their plans to spray the chemicals along their main line from the Garibaldi townsite to D'Arcy starting April 1, 1995. "My major concern is the fact that these plans seem to roll along, if nobody says anything they'll (BC Rail) do what's cheapest and easiest for them," Greenlaw says. "If they don't say they have money to spend on alternatives, nobody asks them to." Greenlaw, a member of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, says she has watched forestry companies use Roundup, which has an active chemical ingredient called Glyphosate, to kill competitive second growth in cut blocks. AWARE mounted opposition to plans to apply Glyphosate in cut blocks in the Soo Valley, but were unsuccessful in stopping the application. Although all of the regulatory hoops have been jumped through to get the herbicides approved, she says the chemicals in the herbicides have not been studied long enough to know if they have any long-term effects. "They can do all the tests they want, but in the end we are not going to know any long-term effects of this for decades," she says. "The chemicals buildup in organisms over time." Greenlaw says BC Rail should be coming to Whistler and all of the communities along the line where spraying is going to take place in order to show people where the chemicals will be. "There should be a public hearing before any spraying takes place so we can find out when and where the spraying will take place," she says. "If it's not possible to stop the use of chemicals, then it should be possible for the public to be informed. Even though the chemical components of the herbicides have been regulated and tested, Greenlaw says the surfactants used to bind the chemical compounds together are not tested or regulated at all. The Material Safety Data Sheet for Roundup says it is composed of 41 per cent Glyphosate, 44 per cent water and 15 per cent surfactant, which is not described. "The specific chemical identity is withheld because it is trade secret information of Monsanto Company," the data sheet says. Ron Kobylnyk, manager of the Ministry of Environment's pesticide management program, says the surfactants are somewhat of a mystery. "It is true that there hasn't been long-term studies on some of the surfactants, but they have been used in a number of other herbicides before. But (federal) health and welfare has deemed them not to be particularly toxic," Kobylnyk says. "The best situation is no pesticide or herbicide at all, but for now they are a necessity." Officials from BC Rail and the provincial Ministry of Environment say all the regulations are being followed through the application process and plans are in the works to get people in Whistler involved in the process leading up to the application. John Clarke, supervisor of vegetation management for BC Rail, says they have looked at alternative methods of controlling vegetation along rail lines, but nothing effective has been developed. Clarke says the herbicide is applied using a boom mounted on a three-ton truck adapted to travel on railway tracks or roads. They have to maintain a strict 10 metre "herbicide free" zone around all bodies of water. "There is a very straightforward set of policies and procedures we follow while applying any type of herbicide or pesticide," Clarke says. "We are certainly very up front with what our plans are, we're not trying to hide anything." Clarke says the CPR has experimented with steam to kill railside vegetation, but they are "still at the development stage and the process is not sophisticated enough." All of the herbicide free zones will be clearly marked prior to spraying and Clarke says he is in contact with the municipality to inform them of the spraying plans.

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