Hutchings Environmental Bulletin Vol. 2

August 16, 2012

Onward through the fog! This week’s Environmental Bulletin will look at the controversial highway herbicide spraying program, drilling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and low salmon returns.

Tordon 101: “No more dangerous than salt”?

The provincial government has begun a highway spraying program to kill off roadside plants moose like to munch on, thus reducing moose-vehicle collisions. The chemical the government wants to use is Tordon 101, otherwise known as Agent White.

Agent White is the code name for a powerful herbicide used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. The name comes from the white stripe painted on the barrels to identify the contents.

Some science: Agent White is a 4:1 mixture of 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and PicloramPicloram is sold under the name Tordon 101.

The picloram component of Agent White was contaminated with carcinogens hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and nitrosamines. Agent White was synthesized by the Dow Chemical Company.  Dow Chemical was forced to re-certify Picloram in 1985 after greatly reducing the amounts of both contaminants. Click here for product information.

Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson

Transportation Minister Tom Hedderson has gone on record to say that this stuff is no more dangerous than table salt and Vitamin A. His comment drew massive criticism. Non-toxic methods such as brush cutting have been suggested.

Bay of Islands Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce said that the provincial government ordering this spraying is hypocritical. According to a 2011 government press release, cosmestic spraying on household lawns using 2,4-D has been banned. Joyce is concerned with the birds that eat the shrubs, and the effects of leachate on the waterways and salmon rivers. He wants the program stopped and an alternate way to handle the problem.

What do you think of the herbicide spraying program, and what alternatives can you suggest? 

Gulf of St. Lawrence Drilling

This spring’s fat federal omnibus budget bill contains legislation allowing resource companies to drill in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In Corner Brook’s backyard, the Gulf of St. Lawrence has diverse ecosystems and a rich geological composition.

Halifax-based Corridor Resources Inc. has received a license to develop the Newfoundland portion of the Old Harry deposit. The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, which is responsible for evaluating Corridor Resource Inc’s proposal by July 2013, will have no way of assessing any potential environmental risks. The budget revoked the requirement for environmental assessments of exploratory drilling.

The Humber River is among the semi-major tributaries of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

The Humber River is among the semi-major tributaries of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. St. George’s Bay and the Bay of Islands are some of the Gulf’s arms.

The Government of Canada maintains national parks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence estuary such as Gros Morne National Park.

Gros Morne National Park with its rich geological makeup is a part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence estuary.

The Gulf is the world’s largest estuary, home to more than 2,000 species of marine wildlife. Ecosystems can be potentially devastated by the impacts of seismic surveys and drilling.

What are your concerns on this issue?

Low salmon returns at counting fences

Salmon ladder on the Corner Brook Stream Trail.

I read in The Western Star that this angling season has been affected by the low water levels and warm water temperatures that have led to rivers being closed to angling. In these conditions, salmon are less likely to expend the energy it takes to rise.

The Atlantic Salmon Fishway Counts can be found here: DFO Salmon Counts

Have you been out angling this year? What were your observations?