City of Edmonton faces environmental charges over herbicide spraying incident

Edmonton City Hall. Emily Mertz, Global News

The province has charged the City of Edmonton with seven environmental offences that are “pesticide-related,” according to a news release issued by the Alberta government on Friday afternoon.

The city is facing six charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and one count under the province’s Pesticide Sales, Handling, Use and Application Regulation.

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The charges are related to events that occurred on May 11, 2016 and between May 11 and Sept. 9, 2016, the release said.

The province wouldn’t expand on what the exact circumstances were, but court documents show the charges surround:

  • releasing a substance into the environment “that may cause, is causing or has caused an adverse effect” and not reporting it once it happened,
  • release of that substance in an amount, concentration or rate at which may cause “a significant adverse effect,” and
  • the use, supply, handling, application, transport, display, storage or disposal of a pesticide that was likely to cause an adverse effect.

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A spokesperson for the city declined to answer questions as to the location of the alleged offences and what product was used.

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“As the specifics of the incident are the basis of the case currently before the courts, we are unable to comment further at this time,” Jamie Hanlon wrote.

Deputy city manager Gord Cebryk later sent a statement on the matter to Global News late Friday afternoon.

“We acknowledge that pathways at Todd Landing/Todd Court in Terwillegar Towne and Hector Road in Haddow were inadvertently sprayed with Hyvar® X-L by a city crew on May 11, 2016, resulting in unintended damage to vegetation in the area,” the statement read. “Following the incident, we conducted an internal investigation into the incident. We subsequently closed the affected pathways from early November 2017 to early December 2017 to excavate, dispose of and replace portions of soil along the public pathways.

“We also notified nearby property owners, local schools and community leagues of the remediation work and the herbicide — both prior to the closing of the pathways and after they were opened.”

Cebryk wrote that before reopening the pathways, the city carried out a “comprehensive analysis of the area and confirmed there was no trace of herbicide or other contaminant.”

“The city no longer uses Hyvar® X-L for any purpose, having discontinued its use after the incident in May 2016,” he wrote. “Furthermore, we have taken several steps to prevent a future incident such as this from occurring again. This includes the development of enhanced training programs for staff, as well as digital geographic tracking of herbicide use based on the city-wide pesticide audit recommendations for the 2019 season.”

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The city is scheduled to be in court on Sept. 28.

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