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Pemberton, Squamish councils criticize CN pesticide use

Sylvie Paillard CN Rail is once again angering Sea to Sky residents for polluting their communities.

Sylvie Paillard

CN Rail is once again angering Sea to Sky residents for polluting their communities. The railway company is going ahead with an unpopular vegetation control plan despite two communities' resolutions to fight their use of chemicals.

"We will inform them [communities] as to our practices and what our procedures are," said CN spokesperson Jim Feeny. "But there are guidelines, both federal and provincial, that are in place and we will abide by those. What this is all about is safety. If we leave vegetation to grow on our right of way, that poses a potential threat, which is why we do not tolerate it."

The plan extends to May 31, 2011 and uses both mechanical and chemical methods to control vegetation on tracks, rights-of-ways, crossings, station grounds, yards and buildings throughout the province.

"I've studied pesticide and herbicide contamination at both University and on my own and no matter how 'safe' the manufacturer claims the product to be the reality is we just don't know what the long-term effects are going to be on the environment and on human health," said Edith Tobe who sits on the Squamish Estuary Management Committee. "I think the time has long gone when people did not know any better as to the effects of pesticides and herbicides on the ecosystem. We have so many different means available to us today, not the least is manual brushing."

Pemberton council expressed their disapproval in a motion last week requesting CN use only mechanical or less toxic forms of vegetation control.

Now Squamish council has made their disapproval known in a motion passed unanimously on Tuesday (June 20) "strongly requesting" CN use alternative methods of vegetation control in their five-year pest management plan. Council also approved a motion to partner with Whistler, Pemberton, the Squamish Lillooet Regional District, Lillooet, Squamish Nation and Lil'Wat Nation to pressure CN.

Squamish made similar waves several years ago when BC Rail's pest management plan came under attack. The district was able to get some concessions, such as "no-go zones" around waterways, but those methods were not adopted by CN, said Feeny.

Now CN's plan is causing concern among local watercourse advocates.

"I would like dearly to be able to have the confidence that the rail lines keep well back of all watercourses, but I have no such assurance," said Tobe.

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