Group Raises Concern Over Township Pesticide Use
"Another Way To Healthy Lawns" brought concerns over pesticide use on the township's playing fields and green spaces to the November EPA board meeting.
- By Kyle Bagenstose
Few would argue against the statement that Upper Dublin residents value their green spaces. Whether it be a walk through one of the township's many parks, or a soccer game on one of the various playing fields, there is a certain pride in outdoor Upper Dublin.
However, one group of residents, known as "Another Way to Healthy Lawns," is concerned about pesticide use in the township and recently brought those concerns to a meeting of the township's Environmental Protection Advisory Board.
"We're a small, volunteer group that wishes to educate our neighbors and elected officials about the dangers of pesticide use," said Helen Colvin, a member of the group. "[We’re concerned] about lawns, school playing fields and local parks.
Specifically, Colvin said that the group was concerned about a chemical known as glyphosate, the active ingredient in products such as Round-up, being sprayed on the playing fields of Upper Dublin. Colvin said that the chemical is suspected of causing problems such as physical illness and ecological damage.
However, a US EPA fact sheet on the chemical expressed low levels of concern.
"Glyphosate is of relatively low oral and dermal acute toxicity," the sheet said. "EPA's worst case risk assessment of glyphosate's many registered food uses concludes that human dietary exposure and risk are minimal."
The study also said that the chemical presented a "minimal" risk to ecosystems.
However, Colvin expressed concern that the chemicals in popular products can cause problems such as stomach pain, bloody noses, and pneumonia.
"Mondauk Park was recently sprayed with weed and feed– three days later, several dozen children played their weekly soccer games on those same fields," said Colvin. “This is what our children are playing on every day, what our pets romp and roll and sniff around in every day.”
Colvin said that the group hoped to start conversations that would lead to the township re-evaluating its contract for bi-annual pesticide application with Moyer Indoor and Outdoor lawn care, to a more environmentally friendly alternative. She said the group also wanted to ensure compliance with township policies.
However, Colvin said that she couldn't be entirely sure exactly which products were used on which fields, and also recognized that many of the fields were maintained by the school district and Ambler borough. Part of the group's visit was to seek answers to those questions, Colvin said.
David Dunn, chairperson of the EPA board, told Colvin that the township approved an Integrated Pesticide Management (IPM) policy in 1997 that stipulates pesticide sprayings as a last resort.
"They only apply the weed and feed in the spring and fall, for the grass," said Dunn. "People want to play on nice grass, and the [township] is accommodating that based on the policy that exists now. The policy would have to be changed, and it would be part and parcel to increasing costs."
Dunn also said that the township goes beyond the state requirement of notification within 500 feet, by notifying everyone on a township list of people possibly affected.
Alternatives would be to manually pull the weeds, which would dramatically increase costs, Dunn said, or to use an organic alternative. However, he said previous research showed organic alternatives could cost up to 35 percent more.
Minutes from the June, 2011 Board of Commissioners meeting show that $4,095 had been paid to Moyer Indoor & Outdoor for a pre-emergence pesticide application.
However, Colvin said the costs could decrease significantly if it were put out to bid by the township, and also said that the ground would require less and less treatment over time as the soil "got stronger." The two organizations also thought that soliciting parents involved in the youth sport organizations that use the fields could be a viable source for funds.
"Our hope is that the townships and municipalities and Temple Ambler will consider weaning themselves of these chemicals and try to use an organic compound and spot treatment where necessary,” Colvin said. “So eventually the soil will heal itself, and then you'll all be leading by example.”