Monday February 10th 2020
Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp
A temporary ban on the use of a common weed killer has led to an increase in accidents and complaints, Midlothian councillors will be told this week.
Council officials will urge councillors to reintroduce glyphosate weed killer after a moratorium was introduced last summer.
Their report says the decision to stop the spraying programme, which costs about £112,000 each year, has seen an increase in complaints, accidents involving slips and trips due to overgrown weeds, and damage to infrastructure.
They added there had been a “major deterioration” of the visual aesthetic Midlothian amenity space and “relatives’ concerns expressed over the weed growth in cemeteries, regarded as a lack of respect”.
Midlothian Council agreed to halt the use of glyphosate weed killers across its services, while it investigates concerns about its safety.
At the time, there were reports that there might be links to cancer and concern that it was harming bees.
The commonly-used herbicide is available to buy at DIY stores and gardening centres across the UK.
Councillor Colin Cassidy, who led calls for a ban, said he had seen the impact with his own eyes after a recent spraying near his home left his driveway “covered with dead bees”.
He said: “I’ve had complaints about the council spraying dandelions in the early spring. Dandelions are the first source of food for bees and bees are an essential part of the ecosystem, as everyone knows.
“In Lugton there is a very large bee colony and as soon as the sun shone, the flowers came out and our men were up there with the sprays, spraying them.”
Glyphosate is a herbicide which has been banned across several European countries and states in America amid concerns about its effect on wildlife and health.
Two US court cases saw juries rule it caused cancer last year, although America’s Environmental Protection Agency has insisted it is not a carcinogen.
A report to councillors, however, casts doubt on the research findings and points out that only one other local authority has banned its use: Highland Council.
It also reveals a trial of sweeping and cleaning pavements and streets was carried out in Gorebridge as an alternative but found that while it did improve the look, it caused damaged to sandstone walls and would require five sweeps a year.
The additional cost of sweeping was estimated at £341,914.
Officials warn councillors that “there is a risk that banning the use of Glyphosate when the weight of scientific evidence and the guidance from national and international bodies suggest the product is safe to use may bring the council into disrepute”.
And they point out alternative weed killers can be more harmful to bees than the one they had been using.
They recommend councillors reintroduce glyphosate and work to reduce the application levels.Tweet Share on Facebook