It’s spring. The dandelions are blooming in the lawn, and you’re thinking of reaching for weedkiller.
But in four Greater Victoria municipalities, it’s illegal to use certain weedkillers if you do not have a permit. And you are unlikely to get a permit if you’re spraying weedkiller for cosmetic reasons.
Weedkillers such as Roundup (star ingredient: glyphosate) and Killex (star ingredient: 2,4-D) can’t be applied without a permit in Victoria, Esquimalt, Oak Bay and Saanich. The councils of the four municipalities cited health concerns when they imposed the bans. There’s disputed research that says glyphosate and 2,4-D can cause health problems.
(Other Greater Victoria municipalities may be on the ban list, but I found no indication of that. I phoned the 13 municipal halls and checked the 13 municipal websites, and only those four appear to have weedkiller bans. Call takers at several municipal halls didn’t know what I was talking about when asked if they had a weedkiller ban. Please alert me if I’ve missed one. )
Despite the partial ban, you can easily buy weedkiller, and other restricted pesticides, in all four of the municipalities that limit their use. But the pesticides are often in a locked display, and you have to find an employee to get access. Under provincial rules, the employee is compelled to give you a verbal warning about the dangers of pesticides and offer basic instructions. However, when I’ve asked if they know if some places ban spraying, they’ve tended to have an inkling of bans, but not specifics of where they are in place.
I’m guessing that people are mostly obeying the weedkiller ban. I live in Saanich, and there are a lot more dandelions blooming than in the pre-ban days. Also, I’m not smelling the distinctive sour reek of 2,4-D.
There are fines if you ignore the ban. In Saanich, for example, the fine range is $250 to $10,000. (Saanich is re-assessing its pesticides bylaw.) Victoria lists a fine range of $250 to $1,000.
The bans largely rely on the honour system, or on neighbours tattling. Victoria’s website, for example, has a phone number where you can report people who are illicitly using a pesticide.
What can you do to keep the weeds down and the bugs at bay if pesticide use is restricted? Here are suggestions from the Capital Regional District.
Or: convert your lawn to a native-plants meadow; cover it with gravel, and artful clusters of cobblestones, boulders and low-water plants; plant a vegetable garden.