For once I’m not talking about these ones concerning geese in parks in the rotten borough.
I’m talking instead about the highly controversial Monsanto product which contains the herbicide Glyphosate. This product has recently made headlines because of the real risk it poses to both the environment and human health. It is however a controversial subject to which the large and powerful chemical industry want to keep sewn up and out of the public gaze by lobbying the EU commission regulators. The HSE has published a guide to pesticide use.
I decided to ask a freedom of information question of Park proud Sandwell Council- who boast of 13 green flag parks- more about that in a while. I wanted to know what use they had for this chemical, which is certainly far from being “safe”, and could pose just as relevant a risk to public health and public safety, as well as to workers at the council as they tried to peddle about a certain avian species.
My questions are in green, their answers in red.
(I)Could you please reveal a list of the pesticides, herbicides, insecticides , neonicotinoids and chemicals used for weed/crop management in parks and green spaces within the borough of Sandwell.
i) Across the Authority: Grounds Maintenance uses Nomix Dual, Nomix G and Round-Up Pro Vantage 480. Bereavement Services use Round-Up Pro Vantage 480. Estate
Services, (part of Housing), have informed us they use glyphosate (total herbicide) and triclopyr (selective herbicide) based products. Sandwell Valley (Parks & Countryside) uses Round-up.
(ii) If held can you state the volume/cost of these chemicals used in 2015/16 financial year?
ii) In Financial year 2015/2016: Grounds Maintenance used 400 litres of Nomix Dual at an approximate cost of £8350, 300 Litres of Nomix G at an approximate cost of £3100 and 2400 litres of Round-Up at an approximate cost of £18250. Bereavement Services used 500 litres of Round-Up at an approximate cost of £3800. Estate Services inform us they used 240 litres of herbicides at a cost of £2000. Sandwell Valley (Parks and Countryside) use 2 litres of Round-Up per year in Sandwell Valley and local nature reserves and in May of this year, they used a further 6 litres of Round-up on two fields within the Country Park to prepare them for seed sowing. This was in line with their formal agreement with Natural England. Total costs for the areas within their remit would be approximately £60.
(iii) Are pesticides/ chemicals used near children’s play areas, areas of open water or are there any areas where they are restricted from use- and for what reasons?
(iii) Grounds Maintenance use chemicals around the fencelines of children’s play areas and do not use them near running water or brook courses to help to prevent glyphosate from getting into the water. Estate Services responded: The products have various usage restrictions, as per their product labels/licences etc, however applications on or near water (within 1m of the bank) requires permission from the Environment Agency. Sandwell Valley (Parks and Countryside) stated We aim to keep pesticide use to a minimum at Sandwell Valley Country Park as well as the Local Nature Reserves that we manage. We aim to restrict our applications to the edges of footpaths, in order to prevent grass encroachment into the substrate of paths which will detrimentally affect them. We do not spray near water.
(iv) Are they employed for use in any of Sandwell’s judged Green flag
(iv) We do not use chemicals in our Green Flag Parks unless in exceptional circumstances.
The answers here are quite eye watering in terms of both the amount of this chemical crud used in the environment in Sandwell, and also the associated financial costs to the taxpayer. The health and environmental costs, are however not considered relevant obviously! In the financial year SMBC state that they used an estimated 3,890 litres of herbicides- mostly if not all which would contain glyphosate. This equates to a staggering total £35,560 in just one financial year. The groundcare budget is particularly extravagant. Are they bathing in the stuff or selling it on 😆 😆 😆 ?
Aside from the housing teams the other different council departments all come under the control of the same parks manager. The different types of chemical used are as follows. A safety data sheet and product label for each product is given here for reference where available. It is clear that all of these products are listed as “VERY TOXIC TO AQUATIC LIFE”.
NOMIX G (contains glyphosate)
GLYPHOSATE (total herbicide) (contains glyphosate)
The manner in which these chemicals are used are of course open to interpretation by the user, and the answers from the council as to where they are used appear rather sketchy. It is however interesting to note their use in “Green Flag” parks….
“we do not use them… except in exceptional circumstances”
The Green Flag Award is the UK’s national standard for parks and greenspaces. Awards are given on an annual basis and winners must apply each year to renew their Green Flag Award status. It is interesting to note in judging criteria “4 sustainability…. Parks/green spaces should…..Minimise and justify pesticide use”
Presumably before being judged “green flag” pesticide and herbicide usage was as liberal in those parks and green spaces as they still appear to be being used in other non green flag areas. It is strange however that the body judging this ridiculous “standard” appears to be oblivious as to HOW the flag was raised and what environmental costs were risked to hoist it. Equally bizarre is that within a green flag park fence boundary no glyphosate may be sprayed, yet outside the boundary by a matter of feet, vegetation on the public footpath may be dosed.
One thing is for sure, if you use or live in a park that does not spray it with glyphosate, presumably your health risks associated with this chemical will no doubt start to reduce. I guess its therefore just a postcode lottery.