White Pass applies to use herbicide

White Pass & Yukon Route railroad is giving another kick at the herbicide can. Two years after it first applied to spray herbicide on its railway tracks in Alaska, B.C.

White Pass & Yukon Route railroad is giving another kick at the herbicide can.

Two years after it first applied to spray herbicide on its railway tracks in Alaska, B.C. and Yukon, the company is applying again.

Environment Yukon confirmed it had received an application on May 27 for the use of herbicides on the WP & YR right of way in the Yukon portion, which includes Bennett Lake.

“Some of (the proposed herbicide) are potentially toxic to aquatic life, but are an effective herbicide/weed control,” Environment Yukon spokesperson Eric Clement told the News in an email yesterday.

All of the herbicide are approved for use in Canada, he added.

WP & YR first applied in June 2014 to use herbicide on the railroad but later withdrew it after mounting public concern over the use of glyphosate, one of the chemicals in the proposed herbicide.

WP & YR is applying for a different herbicide brand this time, but one that still contains glyphosate.

This time around the company has done its homework it says: after doing research, it concluded the herbicide was safe and efficient.

“We couldn’t find any real effective alternative and this has proven to be safe,” Tyler Rose said.

The company consulted with the Alaska railroad and other companies.

“We are being encouraged by Transport Canada to use the herbicide because it is the best practice for the (maintenance of the) right of way,” Rose said.

Plants growing on railway tracks can be an issue because they prevent seeing potential track defects while roots destabilize the roadbed, he said.

Environment Yukon indicated a 21-day public review period would start later this month.

“Comments will be taken into consideration when determining if a permit should be issued for this activity, and if a permit is issued, in setting permit conditions to mitigate potential impacts,” Clement said.

The company expects to start spraying the herbicide on the Alaska portion of the railroad within the next few weeks.

The Yukon portion is about 110 miles – 177 kilometres – long but the company says it won’t be spraying through water step backs.

It’s not clear how far from Bennett Lake the company would be spraying.

At press time the application wasn’t available.

Back in 2014 the Yukon Conservation Society raised concerns about the herbicides contaminating the lake.

Glyphosate was under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency back in 2014.

In the past, WP & YR mechanically cut down the roots growing on the tracks.

But cutting down the weeds doesn’t allow to destroy the roots, Rose said.

Another technique used is to steam the weeds, but it doesn’t fit with what the company needs and is much slower than herbicide, he noted.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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