Durham resident crusades against pesticides
Durham resident Terry Bourret has been taking a stand about the use of pesticides on municipal property.
“Momentum is building on this issue,” said Durham state Sen. Ed Meyer, who has been a longtime supporter of legislation that would discontinue widespread pesticide use on municipal property.
For Bourret, this issue hits close to home. Bourret and her husband, Don, have been vocal advocates against pesticide use ever since their dog, Murphy, died due to complications she stated they believe were caused by pesticide exposure.
Bourret does not use pesticides in her yard, but after three veterinarians suggested that her dog’s illness may be related to pesticide exposure, she realized that the issue may have been caused by “pesticide drift” from neighboring property.
“We did not really appreciate the fact that our dog had been put at such high risk from pesticide and herbicide drift,” Bourret said.
“Murphy worked as a therapy dog in hospice etcetera and gave great comfort,” she added.
Bourret has written articles and letters to legislators, and is trying to convince others to do the same.
“We posted an article when Murphy died and it got hundreds of hits,” Bourret said.
People are busy, and using pesticides is an easy way to get a weed and bug free lawn, Bourret said. She said she believes that “there will be a day when people will look, as my husband and I do, at perfect weed and bug-free astroturf-like lawns as odious, even heinous.”
The National Pesticide Information Center argues that “pesticides can be beneficial” but acknowledges that they “have the potential to hurt your pet if they are not stored and used properly.”
According to NPIC, pets need to be kept away from fresh pesticide applications, and exposure can be dangerous if the pesticides get in food bowls or on beds or toys. Pets may even dig up poisoned bait intended for moles, NPIC stated.
Bourret has sought to organize involvement to get a law passed to prevent pesticide use by municipalities.
The bill in question – Connecticut State Senate Bill 46 – would have extended an existing ban on pesticide on playgrounds and school grounds from kindergarten to eighth grade to include all schools, including athletic fields used by high school students.
“There is increasing scientific evidence of pesticides being harmful, particularly to young children,” Meyer said. He added that he supported a prior bill that would have banned pesticide on all public grounds, including parks.
“That was not acceptable to the majority so we drew up a more narrow bill,” Meyer said. “It would not apply to flowers, bushes, and sidewalks, but it would still apply to athletic fields.”
The bill faces “strong opposition,” Meyer said, but he believes a groundswell of “grassroots support” is building for a reduction in municipal pesticide use. Durham’s other state senator, Len Fasano, was unavailable to state his opinion on the issue when his office was reached.
“The opposition first comes from the pesticide industry that wants to sell their products and feel this bill would hurt their profits,” Meyer said. “There is also some opposition from groundskeepers that have not yet tried to go organic.”
The bill may also face opposition from municipal officials who want to keep budgets down and believe going pesticide-free would be more expensive.
Meyer said that there have been studies done that have shown that although organic grounds keeping is more expensive in the first two years, it is estimated that costs are later reduced by 30 percent.
“You build a stronger lawn and thereafter you don’t have the cost of the expensive pesticides,” Meyer said.
Although the bill did not come up for a vote this session, Meyer is optimistic about the future of this kind of legislation, which he expected will be re-filed next session