Herald News (Hackensack)  [Printer-friendly version]
July 11, 2006

CHEMICAL-FREE ZONE

[Rachel's introduction: The New Jersey Environmental Federation, a
statewide coalition, is pressing municipal and county governments to
minimize (or abandon entirely) the use of chemical pesticides in
public parks. It's working.]

By Ashley Kindergan

CLIFTON -- Sunbathers, dog walkers and small children can frolic on
the grass in city parks this summer without worrying about dangerous
chemicals. The city has become one of just a handful of state
municipalities to sign on to an initiative that bans pesticide use in
parks.

The New Jersey Environmental Federation, an environmental advocacy
group, lobbied Clifton earlier this year to participate in its
statewide effort to eliminate the use of pesticides for pest and weed
control in parks. Jane Nogaki, program coordinator for the NJEF, said
that Clifton was one of only a few other municipalities around the
state to pass a resolution touting the program's ideals. Others
include Brick Township, Chatham, Irvington, Ocean City, Pine Beach and
Burlington County, Nogaki said.

According to the group, 4 million pounds of pesticide are used in the
state every year. Exposure to pesticides can cause birth defects,
nerve damage and cancer, according to the federal Environmental
Protection Agency. Risk from pesticides depends on the level of
exposure and the specific type of pesticide.

"We want to reduce exposure to pesticides, particularly to young
children where they play," Nogaki said. "Our campaign is to reduce
pesticides in every venue in New Jersey, but we focus on parks because
that is where children play."

The city has used pesticides sparingly and practiced environmentally
friendly pest control for many years, but officially banned pesticide
use in April, according to Al DuBois, Department of Public Works
recycling coordinator and a former environmental commission member.

City Manager Al Greco said the county, which handles insect control
for municipalities, has sprayed for mosquitoes "intermittently" in the
past and would again when public health concerns required it.

By banning the pesticides altogether and putting up signs in city
parks declaring them "Pesticide-Free Zones," DuBois said he hopes
residents will think twice before using the chemicals on their own
lawns, a practice over which the city has no control.

"As more and more people enter the parks, it becomes an educational
tool," DuBois said. "Maybe they'll say, 'I have a landscaper who does
it every year, and do I need to do that?'"

Nogaki and other no-pesticide proponents say there are safer ways than
chemicals to control weeds, insects and vermin. Prevention is the most
effective tool, which means keeping grass cut low, removing standing
water and hand-pulling weeds. Organic pest control methods such as
vinegar-based solutions are also effective.

At least a few government bodies in Passaic County have similar
policies. Passaic Director of Public Works Ted Evans said his workers
do not spray herbicides and pesticides in city parks. Paterson
Superintendent of Parks and Shade Trees Tony Vancheri said his workers
only used common weed killers sparingly, but preferred to simply
remove diseased trees or resod grassy areas whenever grubs show up.
Passaic County does not spray pesticides for the purposes of weed
control in county parks, said spokeswoman Dolores Choteborsky. The
county does provide mosquito control by spraying insecticide every
year, said county Health Department spokesman Stephen Summers.
Ringwood is also discussing implementing a pesticide policy, according
to borough Clerk Kelly Rohde.

Reach Ashley Kindergan at 973-569-7164 or Kindergan@northjersey.com.

Copyright 2006 North Jersey Media Group Inc.