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Daily News Blog

14
Sep

Stamford, CT Passes Organic Land Ordinance Restricting Toxic Pesticide and Fertilizer Use on Public Property

(Beyond Pesticides, September 14, 2021) Last week, Stamford, CT became the latest U.S. City to pass an organic community ordinance, restricting toxic pesticide use on public spaces in favor of safer, natural land care practices. The ordinance, championed by Nina Sherwood of the Stamford Board of Representatives with strong support from Stamford Mayor David Martin, is an outgrowth of years of research and coordination within city government. Advocates note that strong support from both national, state, and local groups like Pollinator Pathway Stamford helped make the case at public hearings. “By garnering support for the public hearing, many Stamford Pollinator Pathway members, Stamford residents and organizations from around the country let their voices be heard,” said Melanie Hollas, co-chair of Pollinator Pathway Stamford and a Stamford Parks and Recreation Commissioner. “Today, I am proud to be a Stamford resident and want to thank everyone, including Beyond Pesticides, for all their hard work to make this goal achievable.”

Ms. Hollas describes the ordinance as, “a comprehensive easy to use system to help employees shift from long-term usage patterns of chemicals to products, and more importantly practices, that create a healthy ecosystem along with beautiful landscaping and usable sports fields.” The ordinance recognizes the dangers of non-organic pesticides registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with glaring data gaps, little oversight, and an increasing lack of public accountability. In the face of EPA inaction to protect local communities from toxic pesticides, Stamford’s ordinance allows only the use of materials permitted within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program to be used on publicly owned property. These products represent the least-toxic, yet still effective pesticides on the market. In further recognition of EPA’s lax approach to pesticide regulation, Stamford established a list of “permanently banned products” that include the highly toxic substances glyphosate, 2,4-D, 1,3-D, the neonicotinoids, and chlorpyrifos, none of which are allowed under federal organic law.

The ordinance provides for few exemptions. City employees may apply to the Director of Operations to apply a prohibited pesticide but must show that: i) attempts to address the pest problem have already utilized organic products, ii) the attempt was unsuccessful, and that iii) a prohibited product will be effective. If approved to use a prohibited product, the applicant must also have a plan to prevent recurrence of the pest problem utilizing an organic approach. Otherwise, prohibited products can only be used in the case of an imminent threat to public health or the environment, as determined by the city’s Director of Health. Products listed as “permanently banned” are only permitted to be used at the city’s municipal golf course, by the fire department when engaging in public safety activities, and to manage invasive species under state law.

City agencies are tasked with providing the Mayor and Stamford Board of Representatives a written report on the use of pesticide products in the city each year.

Stamford is the latest community along the Eastern Seaboard to pass a strong pesticide reform ordinance and be added to Beyond Pesticides’ Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform. Its passage follows recent policies enacted in Maui County, HI, New York City, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Baltimore, MD, and Portland, ME. Stamford’s policy is also an approach quite similar to restrictions enacted at the state level to protect Connecticut schoolchildren from toxic pesticides. Connecticut has one of the strongest school pesticide bills in the nation. The state already bans toxic pesticide use on all municipal playgrounds, and allows only minimum risk pesticides to be applied on school grounds.

Unfortunately, cities in Connecticut cannot ban pesticides on private property due to the state’s regressive preemption statute. Recognizing this, efforts are ongoing within the state to overturn this provision.  

In addition to toxic pesticide use, Stamford’s policy recognizes the dangers posed by fossil-fuel based synthetic fertilizers both to the climate, and local waterways, due to nutrient runoff. Like the ordinance recently passed by the Maui County Council, and the ordinance update enacted last year in South Portland, ME, local communities are increasingly recognizing that natural land care policies must address both toxic pesticides and toxic fertilizers in order to achieve sustainability and ensure the natural cycling of nutrients critical to resilient organic practices.

As Stamford advocate Melanie Hollas notes, “One person really can make a difference.” Help turn your community into the next Stamford, Maui, Portland, or New York City by starting your own local movement. Use Beyond Pesticides resources on our Children and Schools and Tools for Change webpages to help make your case to local leaders. Reach out at [email protected] or 202-543-5450 for one on one assistance with your advocacy efforts.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Stamford, CT Board of Representatives, and author’s personal communication with Melanie Hollas of Pollinator Pathway Stamford

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