Council talks pesticides
- Published: August 14, 2014
At their Aug. 4 meeting, Village Council members began a dialogue on how to address pest and weed control on Village property in light of the temporary moratorium on herbicide and pesticide use that Council put into place last year after an overuse of an herbicide at the Gaunt Park pool.
The discussion was the first part of a two-step process, according to Council President Karen Wintrow, who described an immediate need to deal with Village property currently overgrown with weeds. However, Council also needs to have a longterm Village policy on herbicide and pesticide use, after a discussion that Wintrow suggested could take place in the spring. The longterm policy could include both guidelines for herbicide use on Village-owned property and guidelines for private property.
However, initially Village staff is having difficulty with the aftermath of a year without weed control, according to Wintrow.
“The Village has a lot of property, most of it rural, and a lot of weeds have been a problem for staff,” she said.
Electric crew head Johnnie Burns also told Council that he is concerned about safety issues for his staff due to the overgrowth around the electric substation.
In the end, Council agreed with a recommendation from Village Manager Patti Bates to allow the immediate application of a product approved by the USDA for use on organic farms. Streets and Recreation crew head Jason Hamby will select one of four USDA-approved products, from the manufacturers Bayer, Safer, BioLink or BioSafe, and application will take place in early morning hours so that it dries before public use of the property. Areas to be sprayed would be either fence rows or downtown sidewalks rather than large lawn areas, according to Bates.
Council members agreed that there is a need for immediate action that’s doable in light of having a staff already stretched thin.
“We need to try to balance being gentle on the earth with the reality of having a small staff,” Council member Lori Askeland said.
However, Council members also agreed on the need for a long-term policy, and Marianne MacQueen urged Council to make use of villagers who are knowledgeable about environmentally sustainable practices.
“We have such a wealth of resources in town,” she said. “I’d like to use the resources we have.”
MacQueen agreed to organize a group of village experts, who will accompany staff to Village-owned property in order to help educate them on sustainable practices. Council also expressed interest in re-activating the Village Energy Commission, which was recently de-activated, in order to help guide Council on the herbicide/pesticide issue.
The pesticide ban was approved after an incident in June of last year when, in an attempt to eradicate bees, Village staff applied the product Escalade 2 full strength on the grassy area around the Gaunt Park pool. The pool remained open for two days before Village staff realized the error and closed the pool. At the time many villagers expressed concerns over possible health effects on children using the pool, and general dismay that the Village was using pesticides on Village-owned land.
The potential health effects on children, including damage to brains and endocrine systems, was the main concern expressed Monday night by Nadia Malarkey, a local landscape designer and environmental activist.
“This is a big issue,” Malarkey said, stating that the incident in 2013 “showed how little we know about chemicals.” And while villagers were very concerned about the Village’s use of pesticides at the pool, they are exposed to far more toxic substances from their neighbors’ attempts to eradicate weeds, she believes. Malarkey urged Council to consider the effect of local pesticide use on the public water supply.
“If we don’t have clean water, no one will want to live here,” she said.
Malarkey encouraged Council to make use of the 2001 Wellhead Protection Plan as a “blueprint” for a Village policy, since that document emphasizes the importance of educating the public on the use of chemicals. The document is available online at www.yso.com.
Joan Edwards encouraged Council to forewarn villagers if herbicides are used near their homes.
However, harsher chemicals such as Roundup may be necessary on hardy, invasive species such as honeysuckle, master gardener Macy Reynolds told Council.
“Sometimes you need to allow a little bit and use it as judiciously as possible,” she said.
Council will move ahead quickly to address the overgrowth on public land, and will revisit the long-term policy at a future meeting.
In other Village business:
• Council unanimously approved a resolution that declined to repeal the ordinance to fund the Center for Business and Education, or CBE. The vote was necessary in order to move ahead with the referendum on the public funding of the CBE, which will next be submitted to the Greene County Board of Elections by Aug. 6, the deadline for getting the issue on the November ballot.
• In response to a concern from villager Kate Hamilton, Council agreed to take part in a public discussion on police department activities, including its current membership in the Greene County Regional SWAT team and the Drug Abuse Task force. Council member Brian Housh will speak with the Human Relations Commission, or HRC, about sponsoring such a public discussion in the near future.
Other items on the Aug. 4 Council agenda will be in next week’s News.