(Beyond Pesticides, October 19, 2009) The “green” movement continues to sprout throughout New Jersey, as Hamilton Township joins other municipalities in the state that have made their parks pesticide-free zones and have adopted an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for managing town property. Responding to the request of local members of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, Hamilton Township recently passed a resolution adopting the Federation’s model pesticide reduction policy.
The policy establishes Pesticide Free Zones for 50 feet surrounding township playgrounds, picnic grounds, pavilions and rest areas, dog parks and ballfields, as well as 300 feet from any stream bank, pond, lake or natural wetland. It also requires the implementation of an IPM program for all township buildings and grounds.
Hamilton Mayor John F. Bencivengo endorsed the policy, stating that it is a great way to educate the public about pesticide use, and ensure that the township continues on its path of “pesticide free zones” in its parks, municipal building and library. Schools in New Jersey are already required by law to follow IPM plans using non-toxic methods first and conventional pesticides only if the non-toxic methods are ineffective.
“It is easy to manage a lawn without harmful chemical pesticides,” said Jane Nogaki, program coordinator for the Federation. Cost-effective and environmental friendly alternatives to pesticides include mechanical pulling of weeds, mulching areas properly to prevent weeds, planting native plants that do not attract insects, and reducing or eliminating lawns to cut down on the need for watering, fertilizing, and mowing.
“[The] Township’s IPM Policy incorporates focusing on long-term prevention and will give non-chemical methods first consideration when selecting appropriate pest control techniques. The Township will strive to ultimately eliminate the use of all chemical controls,” states the policy. “Integrated Pest Management activities will consist principally of using native plant species and biological controls to encourage natural land management. Manual/mechanical controls, such as pulling weeds by hand or mowing, will be the first choice for management of invasive or undesirable plant species when and where most feasible. Other low impact pest management tools are also available for use when manual or mechanical controls are impractical. The use of pesticides should be reviewed and limited so that they are not applied unnecessarily or as a matter of routine. Where plant, fungal or insect pests become otherwise unmanageable by the various low impact pest management methods, pesticides may be used as a control method of “last resort.” When pesticide use is required, public notification shall be made.” In addition, pesticides may not be used for aesthetic/cosmetic purposes.
According to the policy, low impact management tools include native plantings, hand weeding, cutting and mulching, and products containing vinegar or citric acid, corn gluten, neem, horticultural oil, potassium soaps of fatty acids, boric acid, diatomaceous earth, microbe based insecticides (Bt), non-pesticide pest traps and biological controls (predator species).
Many scientific studies indicate that pesticides threaten the public’s health by increasing the risk of cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, kidney disease and other ailments. These chemicals can also poison animals, pollute local streams and rivers and seep through the ground into our underground aquifers. Every body of water tested in New Jersey exhibits evidence of pesticide contamination, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey. Children are especially sensitive and vulnerable because of their rapid development and behavior patterns.
Currently, New Jersey uses about four million pounds of pesticides annually for lawn care, mosquito control, agricultural production, and golf course maintenance.
Hamilton Township joins 31 other communities in New Jersey that have designated Pesticide Free Zones in parks including Burlington and Cape May Counties, and the townships of Bernards, Chatham, Cherry Hill, Collingswood, Asbury Park, East and West Windsor, Hightstown, Montclair, Ocean City, Dennis, Colts Neck, Hazlet, Neptune, Red Bank, Pine Beach and Wall Townships.
“We also need residents to do their part in reducing pesticides in our environment and keeping our air, water and land safe from toxic chemicals,” said Ms. Nogaki. “Residents can participate by making their own property a “Pesticide Free Zone.”
The passage of pesticide-free and pesticide reduction policies are taking place around the country. For example, the New York State Parks recently passed a similar policy that also establishes pesticide-free zones. In addition, Chicago City Parks has reduced pesticide use by 80 percent in their parks, many of which are pesticide-free; in the Northwest U.S. there are more than 50 parks; as well as in communities throughout Massachusetts, Maine, New York and Connecticut. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as new policies and programs are continually being implemented by local and state government entities as well as schools and homeowner associations. For a fuller list of examples see Beyond Pesticides activists tools pages.