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---------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------------------------------------- July 13, 2000
Halifax grapples with lawn order issue
Pesticide bylaw may be hard to enforce

By Michael Lightstone

Halifax Regional Municipality won't use yard police or random grass testing to enforce its new lawn-chemical bylaw, a senior staffer said Wednesday.

Municipal solicitor Wayne Anstey said city hall will act on complaints and rely on witnesses and evidence to try to catch offenders.

Though he said the municipality "would not be actively patrolling" residential neighbourhoods, the bylaw could pit one neighbour against another.

"If a neighbour, for example, saw someone come out with a bag of (lawn chemicals) and dump it into a spreader and then start walking up and down the lawn . . . then that would be pretty good evidence of the fact that a person was putting a pesticide on the lawn," Mr. Anstey said.

"And if the (bylaw enforcement) officer then went to the residence and found the bag, from that they could" collect physical evidence and pursue a prosecution, he said.

Bylaw officers can issue violators a $100 ticket, Mr. Anstey said, or take more serious cases to court. The maximum fine is $2,000 or 30 days in jail.

Halifax regional council voted 17-6 Tuesday night to phase out lawn chemicals by April 2003. Mr. Anstey said the new rules are not in place yet because the bylaw must go through second reading at council on Aug. 15 and then be announced in local advertisements.

The law should be in effect by Aug. 19, but council has acknowledged it won't be easy to crack down on sprayers.

"We would be faced with the same difficulties as we are with respect to a lot of violations," said Mr. Anstey, referring to evidence-gathering challenges and counting on the testimony of witnesses.

"We would not be doing any chemical testing (on lawns) or that sort of thing."

Other details of Bylaw P-800, which regulates the use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides:

- An immediate ban on spraying on municipally owned property, a policy now in place.

- A public education program about the new rules to be developed by city hall staffers and implemented in the future.

- In April 2001, a registration system will allow people with chemical sensitivities to identify their homes to HRM so neighbours can't spray within 50 metres of them. Chemically sensitive people will need to send letters from two doctors to city hall.

- Also by April 2001, there's to be a 50-metre pesticide ban around schools, hospitals, churches, day-care centres, playgrounds and other public areas.

- In April 2003, a complete ban on lawn chemicals on residential properties.

Not all spraying will be outlawed. Exceptions may be made "to control or destroy plants or insects (if they) constituted a danger for human beings" or to destroy insects that have infested a property.

Three public hearings on the controversial issue were held before Tuesday's council vote.

Bylaw supporter Maureen Reynolds of Real Alternatives to Toxins in the Environment has addressed councillors twice.

She said people who use lawn chemicals will have healthier yards once the rules are in place.

"You have to start with a good topsoil, of course," Ms. Reynolds said. "You fertilize it, you water it deeply but not too often, to make sure the roots grow deep."

She said when a herbicide is applied to grass "it shortens the root . . . and as soon as you get to a dry spell, the grass is in trouble."

The group's Web site says grass should be mowed weekly but not cut too short. Grass clippings need not be removed since "they will feed and nourish the lawn for free," it says.

Wayne Sloane, owner of Bedford's Emerald Lawns, said the spraying controversy has hurt his five-year-old business.

"Right now, the customers I have want pesticides," he said Wednesday. "There's nothing that I have as an alternative for weed or insect control."

Mr. Sloane said his lawn is pesticide-free and he's using it as an experiment to see if his small business can also go that way.

"It's already affecting my customers," he said of the spraying debate. "I'm getting questioned all the time about pesticides."

Mr. Anstey said people may first notice the effect of the bylaw next April, when the 50-metre zone around those with chemical sensitivities and public places is enforced.

He said spraying can still occur outside either exclusion zone for about another three years.

"If nobody within 50 metres of you registers their property with (the municipality) . . . or you're not within 50 metres of these public facilities, then you can continue to use them up until 2003."


Here's how Halifax regional councillors voted Tuesday on the new lawn-chemical bylaw:

Those in favour were Mayor Walter Fitzgerald, Deputy Mayor John Cunningham, councillors Peter Kelly, Bob Harvey, David Merrigan, Graham Read, Bill Stone, Russell Walker, Sheila Fougere, Sue Uteck, Graham Downey, Jerry Blumenthal, Clint Schofield, Condo Sarto, Jack Greenough, Harry McInroy and Ron Cooper.

Opposed were councillors Steve Streatch, Keith Colwell, Bruce Hetherington, Reg Rankin, Steve Adams and Jack Mitchell.

Coun. Gordon Snow declared a conflict of interest and didn't vote.

For today's online edition visit the The Halifax Chronicle-Herald Online at

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City bans residential pesticides
Prohibition will be phased in over four years

By Bill Power and Barry Dorey / Staff Reporters
The Halifax Herald Limited
July 12, 2000

Pesticides will be banned in Halifax but it will take four years for stringent new bylaws to go into full force. Councillors voted 17-6 in favour of a four-year phase-in after a marathon debate that consumed much of council's last session before a four-week summer break.
The wording of the new law was changing right up until the moment councillors voted on it and will likely continue to evolve as the total ban approaches Jan. 1, 2003. And while Coun. Graham Read (Purcells Cove-Armdale), who pushed for an aggressive ban, admitted some disappointment in the "watered-down" version that council approved - a 50-metre spray exclusion zone around people with environmental sensitivities rather than 100, for example - "at least we got it through." "I don't think 50 metres is really good enough, but it will provide at least some relief to some people," he said following the verdict, which saw supporters embrace and give thumbs-up signals to councillors.
During debate, most councillors said they had difficulty with the enormity of the pesticide-use controversy and questioned the municipality's ability to enforce the new bylaw. Coun. Steve Streatch (Eastern Shore-Musquodoboit Valley) said the mountain of information presented on the issue reflected its complexity and made him uncomfortable supporting a ban.
Enforcement would create huge problems, he said. "Are we prepared to see respect for our bylaws destroyed if and when the implemented bylaw cannot be enforced?" But Coun. Jerry Blumenthal (Halifax North End) called for support of the proposal. Better to err on the side of caution, he said. "Don't forget that 20 years ago people thought DDT was safe," he said, referring to the insecticide now banned in many countries. "We have enough evidence to support a ban of these products and that's what we should do."
Deputy Mayor John Cunningham (Dartmouth Centre) said the flood of information only showed that council was out of its league trying to implement and enforce a ban, when the required expertise and scientific facilities are in the hands of provincial and federal governments.
"Our only tool is the public hearing process," he said. Coun. Jack Greenough (Westphal-Waverley Road) said "no one wants to turn back. There's something inherently wrong when one person has to leave their home" because a neighbour insists on spraying chemicals. Coun. Sheila Fougere (Connaught-Quinpool) made it clear she supported the ban wholeheartedly. "If there are problems with the bylaw, then it can be amended later, but it is certainly a step in the right direction," she said.
Lawrencetown resident Herman Pye was among those who opposed the ban. A single bee sting could be fatal because of his allergic condition, he explained. "All I want is the same protection provided the people with allergies to the sprays," he said before the final decision. "There should be some mechanism in place for special cases." He requires pesticides to rid his small property of the flowering weeds that attract bees. "Walking into a yard with bees for me is the same as other people swimming in a pool full of piranha," he said. Bylaw supporters had flocked to Halifax City Hall during past months to tell council it should err on the side of caution because of health concerns and eventually outlaw residential pesticide use. Lawn-care industry representatives had asked council to establish a mandatory notification system, in which neighbours would be warned in advance of any spraying.
The controversy surrounding lawn pesticide use in metro goes back more than two years. Council had asked the province for permission to regulate chemical spraying and in April 1999 received clearance to do so under the Municipal Government Act.
City hall's own pesticide advisory committee could not reach a consensus on the issue and two factions submitted contradictory reports.
With Michael Lightstone

For today's online edition visit the The Halifax Chronicle-Herald Online at