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From January 18, 2006                                                                                                        

Organic Pest Management Policy Becomes Enforceable by Health Code
(Beyond Pesticides, January 18, 2006)
Last month, the Massachusetts Town of Marblehead Board of Health voted to codify the town’s 2001 Organic Pest Management (OPM) policy as a health regulation.

By defining the OPM policy as a health regulation, the program essentially moves from a policy to a regulation. “It puts teeth in the policy,” says Wayne Attridge, Director of Public Health. “We already have a [OPM] system in place, and it’s working. That’s how we know the regulation is going to work.”

In May 2001, the Marblehead, Massachusetts Board of Health adopted an OPM policy for turf and landscape on all town-owned lands. The policy prohibits the use of toxic chemical pesticides on town property, including known, likely or probable human carcinogens or probable endocrine disrupters, and those pesticides that meet the criteria for Toxicity Category I or II, as defined by the US EPA.

“We commend the Board of Health and their commitment to pesticides as a public health issue,” said Pat Beckett, co-chair of the Marblehead Pesticide Awareness Committee and the Living Lawn Project. “This move to regulate the prohibition of pesticides on town land, including playing fields, strengthens and safeguards the Board’s commitment to organic turf and landscape management into the future.”

The 2001 OPM policy also established an advisory committee to oversee implementation of the policy, requires town employees be trained in accordance with the policy, requires all pesticides currently stored on town-owned property be properly disposed through a Hazardous Waste Collection program, and mandates yearly testing of the town's compost. Products approved by the Northeast Organic Farmer's Association (NOFA) Organic Land Care Program or of the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), which reviews the allowed inputs for USDA certified organic food, may be used on town-owned lands.

Beckett also commended the work of the Recreation, Parks and Forestry Department – the ones responsible for implementing the regulation. In 2002, Chip Osborne was elected as chair of the Department. Both the Department and Chip Osborne have received regional and national attention for providing model organic playing fields and organic turf and non-turf areas – now in their fifth year.

Despite the OPM policy, there were still some using integrated pest management (IPM), explained Mr. Attridge. As a health regulation, the Recreation, Parks and Forestry Department can enforce the OPM policy with the use of penalties if necessary.

“’Our work has spread beyond Marblehead,” says Beckett. “’Every town in suburbia faces the problem of pesticides, but now other communities don’t have to reinvent the wheel to go organic.’”

OPM is defined in the policy as "a problem-solving strategy that prioritizes a natural, organic approach to turf grass and landscape management without the use of toxic pesticides. It mandates the use of natural, organic cultural practices that promote healthy soil and plant life as a preventative measure against the onset of turf and landscape pest problems."

TAKE ACTION: Encourage your town to stop its dependence on toxic lawn chemicals and adopt sustainable land care practices that will not adversely effect humans and wildlife. For information on other communities with local pesticide policies or for a model local ordinance, contact Beyond Pesticides, Tel. 202-543-5450. For more information, join the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns or visit the Beyond Pesticides Lawns and Landscape Issue page. For additional information on the Marblehead OPM policy, contact Pat Beckett or Chip Osborne with the Marblehead Pesticide Awareness Committee at 781-631-7214.

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