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Vegetation Management at Hydro: What you should know about herbicide use

September 5th, 2019
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Vegetation growth along our right-of-ways and properties, such as power lines, access roads and terminal stations, is a safety concern to both Hydro crews and the public.

Trees are excellent conductors of electricity – when they grow too close or fall into power lines, trees can cause public safety risks like contact with high voltage power lines, fire, and power outages.

How do we manage vegetation?

Under Hydro’s Vegetation Management Plan, several methods are used to control vegetation in order to maintain the safety and reliability of our lines including manual brush clearing, tree trimming and the selective use of herbicides.

Why use herbicides?

Given the over 7,000 km of lines that must be maintained, as well as geographic and terrain challenges, manual clearing and tree trimming must be combined with the selective application of herbicides. Repeated cutting of hardwood species such as alder increases the stem density and root mass and only provides short term control. Selective herbicide use helps to greatly reduce potential power outages, fire hazards, and safety risks.

The goal of Hydro’s vegetation management program is to remove the vegetation that poses potential dangers (such as spruce, fir, juniper, birch, and alder) and promote the growth of low growing species such as grasses and berries.

How and where do we spray?

The application of herbicide products is a highly regulated activity by Health Canada. Hydro takes great care to adhere to all regulations and application guidelines. The type of products used and how the products are applied is done according to regulations that are in place under the Pesticide Control Act to ensure the protection of Human Health and the Environment. For example, operators must be licensed and must adhere to buffer zones near bodies of water, private land, wells, and residential areas.

How will people know we are spraying?

Newspaper advertisements are published prior to spraying activity.  In addition, signage is posted in any areas that have been sprayed – on every access point to the treated area on the transmission line and on every 5th tower/pole in the treatment area. We also require that Town Councils be notified if the application of herbicides is done on our transmission and distribution line right-of -ways within town boundaries.

Can you eat the berries from sprayed areas?

Herbicide products are mixed at very low rates and most of the spray (over 99%) is water. By applying the products according to the strict regulations, risks to human health and the environment are avoided. If a person were to eat sprayed berries there is no need for concern, however as a precaution people may wish to avoid consuming treated berries.

What areas were sprayed this year? (summer 2019)

  • On the west coast along transmission line right of ways in the areas between Massey drive, Bottom Brook, Doyles and Lloyd’s River.
  • Near several of our hydroelectric facilities and access roads including Upper Salmon, Granite Canal and Bay d’Espoir
  • In central NL along the distribution line right of ways between South Brook and Roberts Arm and along distribution right of ways near Nipper’s Harbour

Are there other safety concerns?

Although power line right of ways and access roads are often popular for recreational activities (like berry picking) people should use extreme caution when accessing right of ways either on foot or via ATV. These are not public roads and real hazards do exist, such as guy wires.

Where can I get more information?