Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ketchum adopts no-pesticide policy

City prohibits chemical applications in playgrounds

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum adopted a policy Monday limiting itself to almost no use of pesticides and herbicides in controlling weeds and bugs on city-owned land such as parks and baseball and soccer fields.

The City Council unanimously agreed to the policy at the request of Pesticide Action Network of Blaine County, a local action group that worked with city staff to draft the policy.

The policy in no way controls what people do on their own land.

Kathryn Goldman, the group's campaign director, said she'll now use Ketchum's policy as a model for lobbying the valley's other four cities, Blaine County and the School District.

The policy doesn't flat-out prohibit all chemicals but limits their use as a "last resort" to manage infestations, meaning using them on a concentrated area and not a swath of land. The policy also outlines a notification process if it comes to using chemicals, posting signs 72 hours in advance of application.

However, children's playgrounds will not see one drop of any chemical pesticide. The policy lists alternative natural pesticides, including mint oil, citric acid, cinnamon oil, rosemary, sesame and even dried blood.

Jennifer Smith, director of Ketchum's Parks and Recreation Department, manages public land and said the policy doesn't change her practices much but memorializes the department's conscious attempts to avoid chemicals.

"We live with dandelions," Smith said, adding that the department reverts to weed pulling and "soil amendment," meaning keeping the soil healthy to prevent weeds from taking hold.

Goldman said she approached Ketchum first because of the city's attitude toward pesticides.

"We always said we'd start with Ketchum and work our way around the community," she said. "Ketchum sets an example for the entire community to learn from."

No public comment was heard at the meeting opposing the policy, only support, and the council was all for it.

"This is easy for me," said Mayor Randy Hall, mentioning his child who crawls around in the grass.

Studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—available on its website—suggest that children are more likely to have adverse reactions to pesticides because their internal organs are still developing and pesticides can interfere.

"There are 'critical periods' in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual's biological system operates," the EPA asserted in a January 2002 report.

Plus, children may be exposed to pesticides more than adults because of their behaviors, such as playing on the floor or on the lawn where pesticides are commonly applied, or putting objects in their mouths. The EPA reports the adverse effects of pesticide exposure as ranging from mild symptoms of dizziness and nausea to serious, long-term neurological, developmental and reproductive disorders.

"I'm all for the policy," said Councilman Baird Gourlay. "We ever going to get goats?"

"That's next," Smith replied.

Grazing goats can be used as an alternative to chemical pesticides for controlling the spread of weeds.

Trevon Milliard:

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