Lawn order | Environment | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Lawn order

Banned pesticides are sold all over Metro, learns Tim Bousquet.

Thousands upon thousands of Haligonians are poisoning the environment, endangering children and breaking the law. And they're being aided and abetted by corporations that put profit above community values.

Halifax's pesticide by-law prohibits the use of pesticides and herbicides on all property in the SuperCity, from Ecum Secum to Hammond Plains, without a permit.

The law isn't complicated or onerous: the city website lists dozens of organic products that can legally (and safely) be used to control weeds and pests. More, it offers suggestions for avoiding such problems in the first place. A few people—628 last year—have received permits to use pesticides for intractable problems like chinch bug, but otherwise there's no excuse for anyone to be using pesticides or herbicides.

And yet, shelves at local garden supply centres are bursting with prohibited products like Roundup and Killex, because while the city prohibits their use, the province doesn't prohibit their sale.

I surveyed a half-dozen stores to see how they deal with the law.

At the Kent store in the Bayers Lake Industrial Park, a clerk recommended that I use Killex for my dandelions. "A couple of kids play in my yard, is this safe?" I asked. Evidently not educated about the products, she simply read the label. "It doesn't have any warnings," she said, "so I assume it's safe."

Later, Gary Glynn, the regional manager at Kent, unapologetically acknowledged that the store sells products that are illegal to use. "We're not going to be the ones to first take them off the shelves," he said, the bottom line trumping respect for the law.

When I asked about dandelions at Halifax Seed Company, the clerk also brought me to the Killex. "Is this allowed by the by-law?" I asked. "Well, the by-law says you can't use this on lawns, so if you want to obey the by-law..." he said, interrupting himself with a fit of laughter at the prospect of a customer wanting to obey the law.

There were no employees present to help me in the gardening section of the new Home Depot at Dartmouth Crossing, and potential customers wandered around between prominent displays of Roundup and Killex. I left behind an older man and woman. In one hand the man carried a bottle of Killex. In the other hand, he had the free eco-friendly fluorescent light bulbs given out by the province at Home Depot.

The nearby Wal-Mart also had several hundred bottles of prohibited chemicals on the shelf. There were a couple of teenage employees on the next aisle joking about "how lame it would be if you wanted to a Wal-Mart associate for the rest of your life," but I figured they wouldn't be of much help.

Canadian Tire on Tacoma Drive in Dartmouth had thoughtfully printed-out and laminated sections of the city website dealing with lawn care—they were stuck sideways between a few dozen bottles of Roundup. Alas, the store sells none of the suggested organic alternatives listed on the website.

Farmer Clem's is the shining exception. The clerk at the Bedford Highway tent knew about the by-law and was knowledgeable about and recommended organic solutions. The store had no illegal chemicals, and the clerk refused to recommend any.

The pesticide by-law is the law of the land. Residents can be—and are—cited and fined for using illegal products, and certainly the province should enact legislation prohibiting their sale. Still, there's no excuse for corporate garden centers to be selling, much less recommending, products that their customers can not legally use.

There's a word for such behaviour: criminal.

Who deserves a kick in the grass for this? Email: [email protected]

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