Hydro One defended its use of the herbicide Garlon May 9 as the Dysart et al Environment and Climate Change Committee explores banning the company from using the substance in the municipality.
The company presented to the committee about how it uses the product to prevent trees from extending into power lines.
Transmission distribution specialist Brian Hill said they use herbicides responsibly.
“I believe that to be one of our most environmentally friendly methods,” Hill said. “We do not do spray by air. We only trash incompatible brush. We’re only looking for the trees and brush that can go into the wire.”
The chemical is toxic to aquatic life, according to a manufacturer product page. The manufacturer recommends the product be kept away from any water bodies.
Committee chair John Smith said there was concern about the impact if it flows into local waterways.
Hydro One’s use has also come under scrutiny in a number of other municipalities over the years, including Muskoka. However, Hill said they have limited alternatives.
If not using herbicides, he said Hydro One’s only option to get at the below-ground portions of the plants is removing the top layer of soil with heavy machinery.
Ongoing maintenance using tools like chainsaws also poses problems, Hill said.
“Firing up a piece of equipment that runs a diesel engine, these are polluters as well. Our carbon footprint when we go into this location is greatly reduced,” Hill said.
Hill also said there is a 15-metre minimum buffer for using the substance by well water and three meters for other water bodies. But workers are trained to increase those buffers as needed.
Hydro One superintendent of forestry services David Price said the company is trying to innovate.
“We work year after year to apply less of the product,” he said. “We don’t stop trying to find better approaches.”
Coun. Walt McKechnie said he was very impressed by the presentation.
“Our waters are the most important thing we have here with our lakes. Needless to say, you’re on top of it with the environmental issues today,” McKechnie said.
Smith expressed concern about the cumulative effect of multiple stressors to lake health, including Hydro One’s herbicides.
“It’s not just Hydro One, we got a whole variety of various toxins,” Smith said. “It’s always about short-term cost savings. It’s always about making our life a little more convenient.”
Mayor Andrea Roberts compared the herbicide use to the county using road salt, which is also harmful to aquatic life.
“The county uses the salt … we don’t have a better alternative right now,” Roberts said. “We’re being as environmentally conscious as we can. That’s what I’m hearing from you guys.”
The committee made no motions regarding the presentation.