A failing grade for South Bruce Peninsula when it comes to the environment

The following information on the continuing saga of Sauble Beach environmental safety was recently submitted to Saugeen Times by concerned residents.

The Town of South Bruce Peninsula (TSBP) was found guilty last week on two charges of destroying habitat of an endangered species. Just days before the verdict, the beach at Sauble was sprayed with toxic herbicides on what the mayor has referred to on her facebook page as “invasive vegetation that includes phragmites, willows and others”.

Apparently, the Town is moving from bad to worse. While applying herbicides may be “legal”, it is beyond responsible, ethical or environmentally safe. These dangerous chemicals are being banned throughout the world because of their toxicity and carcinogenic properties and there are warnings especially about applying near water sources due to the damage to aquatic life.

According to sources, a recent spraying was undertaken on the beach from October 1st – 4th and the warning signs now line the beach.

Photos by Ana Vukovic

Companies, such as hydro electric suppliers, continue to use these dangerous herbicides to clear right-of-ways because it is less expensive than sending out crews to hand cut. Recently, one township in Haliburton however, has banned the use of a herbicide in their municipality because of its toxicity.

The phragmites growth on the beach at Sauble is still minimal at this stage and could be manually controlled to stop its spread as they are doing in Saugeen Shores. In addition, residents of nearby Oliphant have also banded together as a team to environmentally fight the phragmites.

The willows at the north end of Sauble however, are a different issue in that they were introduced as a result of foreign rocks and soil brought in to build the break-wall at the mouth of the river and the introduction of fill and boulders placed on the beach to support road access for cottages during the last high water levels in 1986. Many cottagers are also very critical of the resulting dunes and growth in front of their cottages not realizing the value that the dunes play in preventing sand erosion and even the protection of their cottages.

It was the past TSBP beach ‘grooming’ with heavy equipment to remove the willows that resulted in the destruction of the Piping Plovers habitat that, in turn, resulted in the two recent “guilty” decisions.  Additional application of the herbicides to the willows is for cosmetic reasons only.

Indicating that the willows and recent ‘nestings’ of Piping Plovers are causing harm to the Town’s economy is surely inaccurate given that Sauble has seen an unprecedented explosion of visitors recently that has, in fact, resulted in traffic and parking chaos along with litter and washroom usage due to over-crowding.

Recent Provincial cuts to environmental protections have weakened the protection mandates of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests, Ministry of the Environment and conservation authorities, creating reduced safety for the environment.

For those whose sandpoint watering is within feet of the herbicide application, bottled water may be the only solution.