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Weeding Out Pesticide Policy Kinks

City Slates Session On Proposed Changes
The Capital Times :: COMMUNITIES :: 1C
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
By Pat Schneider The Capital Times

The use of pesticides on city property would be curtailed and reporting improved under a new policy that goes to public scrutiny Thursday.

A listening session on a proposed revised pest management policy will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 1625 Northport Drive.

The policy went under review by the Ad Hoc Pesticide Task Force on Pesticide Use Policy after complaints last year about pesticide use at city tennis courts. The term pesticides is used to include both insecticides and herbicides .

Suki Wachtendonk, who has wrangled for two decades with the city over what she claims is its indiscriminate pesticide use, said the Recreation Center is so awash in pesticides that neither she and her husband nor any chemically sensitive citizen will be able to attend the meeting.

Under the current policy on pesticide use, "enforcement is not in existence," Wachtendonk said. "Pesticides are everywhere."

The draft policy bans the use of pesticides to control dandelions and other broad-leaf weeds on city-owned lawns, general park lands, median strips, and roadsides. Current policy calls only for "restricting" the use of pesticides on city properties and doesn't mention city-owned lawns.

Pesticide use on athletic fields that users are not required to reserve or pay a fee to use also is banned under the proposed policy.

The policy will apply to all city property, from parks and golf courses to public housing and buses, said John Hausbeck, an epidemiologist with the Public Health Department.

The Parks Division already uses chemicals only as a last resort, Superintendent Jim Morgan said this week.

His department gets more calls about not using chemicals to control weeds than calls raising concerns about using them, Morgan said.

"People with perfect yards who live around parks are not happy to see dandelion seed blowing around," he said. "They are using chemicals and want the city to do the same."

In 2002, some 13 pounds of pesticide active ingredients were used at east side parks, and some 12 pounds of pesticide active ingredients were used at west side parks, according to the division's pesticide report.

City golf courses in 2002 received more than 1,100 pounds of active ingredients of various pesticides, according to the report.

A golfer at the pro shop at Glenway Golf Course with his 10-year-old son said Tuesday he likes the course to be weed-free, but the city should not use any more pesticide than is necessary.

"I always have (my son) wash his hands as soon as we're done," said the golfer, who would not give his name.

Hausbeck said that only a handful of complaints about pesticide use by the city have been forwarded to the health department over the past decade, but forwarding of complaints from individual departments has been spotty.

Reporting on pesticide use, as currently required, has been most comprehensive in the Parks Division, Hausbeck said. He said he was "disgusted by report data" from some other departments.

The revised policy sets down specific requirements for annual pesticide use reports by all city departments.

The reports would be analyzed by a new subcommittee of the Public Health Commission, which would flag any questionable practices.

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