A line of dead vegetation next to CN’s rail line near the Skeena River prompted Luanne Roth to notify the Ministry of Environment. (Photo submitted by T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation)

Province investigates complaints on CN’s use of herbicide next to the Skeena

A line of dead vegetation from Terrace to Prince Rupert along the rail line sparked the inquiry

The province is inspecting CN’s use of herbicide spraying along the rail line between Terrace and Prince Rupert.

Nearly four weeks ago, Luanne Roth was driving on Highway 16 with her husband when they noticed a line of dead vegetation on the CN rail line along the Skeena River.

“Then we started looking at it very closely and we could see it was, what we thought, too close to fish bearing streams and we started taking photos,” said Roth, who is a spokesperson for the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation.

Roth filed a complaint with the Ministry of Environment, and the foundation is working with a herbicide expert who took samples. But Roth said she is still seeking information on what exactly was sprayed.

“Ministry staff are aware of the herbicide spraying along the rail line between Terrace and Prince Rupert and were on site this week conducting an inspection following complaints on significant pesticide overspray,” said David Karn, media relations for the Ministry of Environment.

The use of herbicides on public and private land is controlled by the province’s Integrated Pest Management Act. Under the act, spraying on rail lines for more than 20 hectares a year requires a pest management plan (PMP), which would specifically list the pesticides that can be used.

CN had a Pest Management Plan from May 2012-May 2017, but an updated plan could not be found. In the expired plan, a five metre buffer is required near a fish bearing body of water, or a one metre buffer for selective spraying to manage a “noxious weed” or “invasive plant.”

“We’re looking into what the legal requirements are,” Roth said, adding that she observed CN had sprayed herbicides within five metres in numerous places along the Skeena from Prince Rupert to Terrace.

CN turned down the opportunity for an interview, but provided an emailed statement saying they are reviewing the recent vegetation control activities that were performed along CN’s right-of-way between Terrace and Prince Rupert.

“Vegetation control is a vital part of safe railway operations and maintenance. As part of CN’s vegetation control program, we reach out to communities across our network, including in northern B.C. to share information about herbicide application. Our vegetation control program incorporates environmental sensitivities such as restrictions on the use of herbicides near waterways,” Kate Fenske, media relations for CN, said in an email on Oct. 16.

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Photo submitted by T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation A line of dead vegetation next to CN’s rail line near the Skeena River prompted Luanne Roth to notify the Ministry of Environment.

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