Labrador group wants a ban on controversial herbicide

Derek Montague
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Day of action against Tordon 101 held in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Eldred Davis (left) and James Learning collected petitions June 7 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, asking the provincial government to ban the use of Tordon 101.

Residents throughout Newfoundland and Labrador are calling on the provincial government to ban the use of the herbicide Tordon 101, commonly referred to as “agent white.”

Tordon 101 has been used throughout the province on roadsides and transmission lines to prevent vegetation growth, even though it has been banned from personal use in Newfoundland and Labrador.

On June 7, the communities of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Stephenville, and St John’s hosted the “Provincial Day of Action on Tordon 101,” where participants gathered signatures for a petition opposing the use of the herbicide.

Three concerned groups; Friends of Grand River-Mistashipu, Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides NL, and the Social Justice Cooperative NL, organized the day of action.

Opponents of Tordon 101 claim that the herbicide contains chemicals linked to birth defects and other medical problems. They also claim that the chemicals can stay in the environment and wildlife for years after being sprayed.

Denise Cole, from Friend’s of Grand River-Mistashipu, helped organize the event in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. She is worried about the potential health an environmental problems that could develop from spraying Tordon 101, and wants the government to use alternative methods.

“If there are other options then why in God’s name are we still using this poison on such a massive level throughout the entire province?” asked Cole.

“The question begs to be asked … ‘what has been the implications of this?”

Although the Happy Valley-Goose Bay event was hastily put together, the participants were able to gather 165 signatures. Cole believes this a good start to a campaign that’s just getting underway.

“That day was a lot of sharing and interaction with a lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds,” said Cole.

“It was a great start to a campaign. It was the first day of action, but we will continue on now.”

The one disappointment of the day, for Cole, was the lack of political and community leaders at the event. She claims to have sent a number of invitations, but none showed up at Leon Cooper Memorial Park when the time came.

“I was disappointed that no leadership from our town or any Aboriginal groups or political office came, or responded to their invitations. For me, I’m very surprised that leadership is not showing any interest or feedback or anything on this,” said Cole.

“What we’re hoping to initiate now is the letter writing campaign, where we actually ask leaders to say where they stand, and non-responses count as if they’re allowing this to happen.”

Concerned resident Eldred Davis was one of the people who helped collect petition signatures for the day of action. He got involved because he’s worried Tordon 101 will poison the environment.

“It accumulates in the environment and it’s just another degradation of the environment,” said Davis.

“It’s just another unnecessary pollutant … there’s just no need of it.

“There’s other ways to cut down trees and brush and shrubs and stuff like that. It shouldn’t be done by poisoning everything.”

While collecting signatures, Davis noted that a lot of people don’t know what Tordon 101 is, and that more education is needed on the subject.

“There’s varying grades of information out there. Some people say, ‘Well, it’s a herbicide maybe it’ll kill off some of the weeds, so it’s fine,’” said Davis.

“Some people said they didn’t know enough about it and would read up on it, and I’m sure they’ll be back.”


Nalcor responds

There have been claims made by opponents of Tordon 101 that the herbicide is currently being used during the construction of the Muskrat Falls transmission line.

Marion Organ, environmental services manager with Nalcor, told The Labradorian that Tordon 101 is currently not being used on the Muskrat Falls transmission line.

She did, however, admit that the herbicide was used last year for the transmission line between Churchill Falls and Quebec.

“We currently are not using Tordon 101 as a herbicide control product here in the province,” said Organ.

“In Labrador, we did use it last year, but we’re not planning on using it in the near term.”

Organ said it is likely that a different type of herbicide will be used on the Muskrat Falls transmission line, once construction of the line is complete. But she didn’t rule out Tordon 101 completely for the project.

“Right now there are several products that are available on the market, Tordon 101 is one of them. Our intention right now would be not to use (Tordon 101), but we may be using other types of (herbicide) products.”

Organ said it’s important to control vegetation growth on transmission lines for operational and safety purposes.

“In order to maintain the reliability and safety of the line, we will have to apply herbicides,” said Organ.

The environmental services manager claims that, when Tordon 101 was used for transmission lines in the past, it was administered in a way that was safe for people and the environment.

“It’s an acceptable product to be used and it is regulated within the province and approved for use. So we use it according to the directions, with some very stringent guidelines when we do use it,” said Organ.

“We have buffer zones around water bodies … we don’t spray in when it’s raining … and we have to inform the province. Before we spray it, we have to inform them where we’ll be.”

Organizations: Coalition for Alternatives, The Labradorian

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Happy Valley, Goose Bay Grand River Stephenville Leon Cooper Memorial Park Quebec

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Recent comments

  • John
    June 14, 2014 - 00:59

    Safe for the environment? According to who? The manufacturer? DDT was promoted as safe, as was Agent Orange, as is glyphosate (Roundup). When animals in the wild get tumors, do they knock on the doors of government offices? Are their complai.ts heard? Almost everyone's life has been touched by cancer or some other disease that was once uncommon. Why add to the stress our bodies go through eliminating yet another pollutant? Don't think this doesn't end up in the drinking water or the animals we eat.