Dover’s 2018 Organic Failure – Let’s Never Allow this to Happen Again

In February 2018 Dover unanimously passed a resolution called Commitment to Organic Land Management Practices. Sadly, this “commitment” was short-lived. Just a couple months later when it came time to choose a bid proposal, the city allowed submission of conventional bids, and then all but two members of the city council (one voted no and one absent), chose the cheapest conventional option when it came time to vote. A grave disappointment.

We were contacted by numerous residents this spring, who were shocked to see yellow signs all over the city announcing the application of several different toxic pesticides.

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All of this was in direct violation of Dover’s resolution.

On December 5th we received a response to a 91-A request made looking for documents relevant to pesticides, fertilizers and all other turf treatments used during the 2018 season. Much of what we found was no surprise.

One issue did stand out with regard to fertilizer. In addition to the toxic pesticides being used this year, the city vendor also used fertilizer containing municipal waste sewage sludge, referred to here as “biosolids.” It’s been used for the past three years according to the winning turf treatment bid proposal.

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See full proposal here: 2018GreenGrassBidProposalForTurf

It is worth noting, Acelepryn was switched to as a result of the city responding to resident concerns about neonicotinoids being used for grub control. This was not the vendor’s suggestion, in fact they opposed the need for an alternative and defended the use of neonics in an email forwarded to us by the city at the time. The ease with which the vendor takes credit for this, and misrepresents the word organic to the city is alarming. We saw this same type of deception in the bid proposal by the school district’s subcontractor.

When someone says the words “organic fertilizer”, the majority of people are expecting that this is a natural fertilizer that would be used in an organic land care program. When a vendor states that “we started using organic fertilizers” and “your program has been organic” these words are expected to mean organic management methods. What does it mean then when the vendor states they have been “utilizing synthetic organic products including a strong content of biosolids and iron”? Is this something that would be preferred or allowed in organic land care?

Luckily this is easy to answer by looking at the NOFA Standards for organic land care. Here is an excerpt from the section on fertilizer.

NOFAFertStandards

These Standards are crystal clear that along with conventional toxic pesticides, all synthetic fertilizers and biosolids are prohibited in an organic turf program. Unless we are talking chemistry, and we are referring to these fertilizers as an organic (vs inorganic) form of nitrogen while being clear that they are prohibited from an organic (method) management program, this can only be considered deliberate deception.

And in addition to the inexcusable dishonesty, the use of this biosolid containing fertilizer is very concerning because this municipal waste is heavily contaminated with things like PFAS, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals, pathogenic microbes, PCBs, triclosan and everything else that washes down the drain. Even the 9 heavy metals which are the only contaminants tested for, can build up upon repeated use. This stuff has no business being used in public areas including parks, playgrounds or athletic fields where our kids play!

We must make sure that this does not continue. The examples of city and school district vendors misrepresenting what organic is just underscores the need for supervising city and school district employees to be properly trained in organic land care so they can recognize these misleading tactics. Now that we have an organic resolution in place we ought to seek to hire vendors who have been AOLCP accredited, and follow NOFA Standards. Four day accreditation training based on the Standards is readily available to any vendor or city staff.

Fortunately, we are on the right track now as the city has accepted help from a leading organic expert and a nonprofit organization. Chip Osborne who is a board member of Beyond Pesticides is drawing up a free multi-year organic plan for the city’s turf sites and Beyond Pesticides will also be assisting the city with putting together a new bid to solicit organic turf proposals that will be based on soil tests taken this fall. This is in addition to the grant money donated by Stonyfield Farm to convert the baseball field behind Woodman Park school playground to an organic program.

As a community we have a lot to look forward to in regards to the way our public spaces will be maintained starting next year. We have an organic resolution in place now, and we no longer have to tolerate vendors peddling pretend organic programs, and using toxic compounds on our city and school athletic fields.

Dover taxpayers deserve land care services that are transparent and prioritize the health of residents and the environment.

 

 

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The Dover School District’s Empty Promises

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About a year ago, we began speaking with our new superintendent Dr. William Harbron about the treatments used on the seven athletic fields that the school district is responsible for maintaining. These sites are under the supervision of the school district’s management company, C & W Services and the sub contractor of the last 10 years Boston Co.

After a conference call with the superintendent and the now former facilities director, C & W employee Jeffrey White, a letter was received to follow up on that conversation. In one letter dated August 24, 2017 the Superintendent assured us that…

the district is treating the areas much differently than in the past and making strides in the implementation of natural turf management.” and “…Mr. White continues to make strides in this area with the natural turf management combined with other measures.”

A report in the local news from last year states, “Harbron and White wrote that city and school officials invited Chip Osborne from Osborne Organics to speak with them at a seminar held at City Hall. They are using most of his suggested procedures and are moving away from synthetic products.

The Superintendent is quoted as saying, “Any chemicals used are used on a limited and restricted basis to help support the organic process. The district’s facility manager is making the safety of the fields a high priority. The facility manager continues to monitor and make modifications in order to restrict the overuse of any chemical applications and to effectively integrate the organic process.

Is this all true? Do documents from the school district actually reflect the statement that they are using suggested procedures from an organic expert and that they are moving away from synthetic products?

What do they mean by, ‘combined with other measures?’

Are the products being used by the school district’s subcontractor really helping support or integrate the organic process?

Upon looking through the school districts documentation, including invoices and the former facilities director’s own records, we have evidence that the statements being made by the school district regarding their turf management practices are demonstratively false. Conventional toxic pesticides for crabgrass, broadleaf weeds, and grubs are being used on the school district’s athletic fields.

The turf vendors proposal from this Spring promises a “100% natural organic program and services.” However, the pesticide applications will continue just the same. This does not support or integrate any type of organic process. This is not an organic program. An organic program is about far more than just using some organic fertilizer. The school district has been 100% greenwashed.

And if that alone isn’t enough of an outrage, the price of this greenwashing program is thousands of dollars more than we need to spend! The city put out a bid this spring for the school district sites. We received several submissions, two of them from accredited organic vendors. These were the two lowest and only organic bids overall.

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See bottom two “organic alternative” bid submissions – sum at right

We were informed by school district staff back in May that “The school district did not enter into an agreement from the bid that the City solicited. The school district will continue its services with Boston Company with plans to go to 100% organic in the 2019 season. Boston Company is the vendor that has been taking care of the schools since 2008…

So as discussed earlier, not only has the district been fooled into thinking that the vendor that their management company has been favoring for the last decade is giving them a 100% organic program next season, they ignored the bid that the city solicited, thereby passing up the opportunity to have a real organic program from an accredited vendor, and to have that organic program for thousands of dollars less than we are spending on what amounts to nothing but a scam. This is outrageous.

Since learning about this, the school board has been notified on multiple occasions that they have been duped into paying for a conventional program dressed up as organic at an inflated price, in addition to being asked in numerous phone calls, emails and a submitted written statement to August’s school board meeting, what it is they intend to do about the lack of direct internal oversight that led to this issue in the first place. We have yet to receive any satisfactory answer to our questions and concerns.

The school district has also been made fully aware of an offer from a nonprofit group, to have one of the top experts in the country put together a multi year organic plan at no cost just as they are doing for the city. Last summer the superintendent even indicated in an email that he would contact this expert for advice when updating school policy.  No such thing as ever occurred. And this offer for a free plan has been rebuffed. For what reason?

One would assume that it is the intention of the school board to put student health as a priority when making decisions. Should grounds maintenance be any different? After a full year of being informed again and again of a problem right under their nose, this lack of action on the part of the school district has now crossed the line into pure negligence.

Do you think Dover’s students and athletes deserve to play on fields that are managed according to our organic city policy which is intended to be protective of their health as well as that of the surrounding environment they will inherit? Do you want the school district to stop wasting thousands of tax dollars on an expensive pretend organic program? Do you think there should be a mechanism for internal accountability and oversight for our grounds maintenance? Contact the school board and let them know how you feel. The more residents they hear from, the sooner this issue will be resolved.

Click here to contact Dover School Board Members 

Update 10-25-18

Today another letter came in the mail from the Dover Superintendent. This letter is in response to questions that had repeatedly been asked regarding the districts turf management. I.e. would they be accepting the free technical assistance, whether or not they planned to have the person who oversees the turf become accredited in organic land care, and what they planned to do about the lack of oversight.

The answer to all of these questions although not being answered directly is a resounding no.

It is truly hard to fathom why the school district would knowingly violate city policy, and refuse the offer of free assistance that would save us thousands of dollars and protect the children’s health.

Read the letter here: HarbronLetter10-19-18

Referenced Documents:

SchoolDistrict_fertilizer:pesticide_2014

Boston Co invoices 2015 – 2017 (1)

Dover field chart 1

Dover field chart 2 (1) 2

SchoolTurfProposal2018

 

 

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Essential Plants To Grow In Every New England Garden (and beyond!)

When most people think about which plants to choose when landscaping their property or planting a garden, they focus on things that appeal to them. Brightly colored blooms and foliage of plants in the local nursery entice human eyes – but of what benefit are these plants to the ecosystem that sustains us?

The majority of plants we find at the big box garden centers are exotic species from other continents. These plants have not evolved with our native wildlife, and many have been bred for such specific traits that often they have little resemblance left to the species they descended from and even less ecological value. Even plants that are invasive and will spread into wild areas are still sold by the nursery industry like English ivy, vinca and more.

So what can we do as individuals? Well, we can start by knowing what is in our yards, what we are planting, and utilizing native plants that support biodiversity in our landscapes. Many of our insect species are threatened or endangered, but we can help them by providing the plants they need to breed, thereby increasing their numbers. The greater the diversity of native trees, shrubs and flowers we plant in our yards the more wildlife we will support. This includes not just insects but amphibians, birds, bats, and other mammals. The more habitat and food we provide, the more we bring our ecosystems back into balance. This has an indirect effect on human health and even disease risk – not just on the environment around us.

If you live in the North Eastern US, here are a few plant suggestions to get you started in using your yard to support biodiversity.

Oak Tree

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When is comes to supporting insect species, the genus Quercus is a real powerhouse. A single oak can support over 500 different species of lepidoptera – butterflies and moths. The caterpillars of these pollinator species are vital to nesting birds to feed their young. A single clutch of baby chickadees need thousands of caterpillars that only native trees like oaks can provide. In addition to being a host plant to beneficial insects, oak trees have other benefits like cleaner air and water, sequestering carbon and counteracting the heat island effect. Check out this step-by-step guide on how to grow your own oak tree for free.

Milkweed

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Asclepias is the genus of plants best known for being a host plant to monarch butterfly caterpillars. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the most important host plant for monarch butterflies, meaning if you want to support monarch populations, common milkweed does it best. Of course, you needn’t plant only common milkweed, there are many varieties of Asclepias that also benefit monarchs and many other pollinators. Find milkweed native to your area here.

Wild Blue Lupine

Wild blue lupine only food Karner blue butterflys caterpillar

Lupinus perennis is rare in New England, though it is native to Eastern North America. A perennial plant in the pea family, sometimes called sundial lupine, it is the only host plant to the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Seeds are inexpensive and easy to germinate, a good source can be found here. If you live in the native range of Lupinus perennis, it is a must have ornamental flower, loved by many pollinators.

Northern Spicebush

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Lindera benzoin is a highly ornamental shrub resistant to disease and pests and has interest year-round with spring flowers, summer butterflies, fall foliage and berries. It is the host plant to the gorgeous spicebush swallowtail whose cartoonishly cute caterpillars are hard to miss and impossible not to love. It is highly attractive to many types of birds and other wildlife as well. You can purchase northern spicebush here.

Asters

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The family Asteraceae has many different kinds to choose from. They are typically late blooming, providing much needed forage for pollinators at the end of the growing season. Asters are host plant to over 100 butterfly and moth species, and are deer resistant.Tall species can be cut back early in the season to encourage a more compact growing habit in ornamental flower beds. New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), pictured above, is great for sunny locations, while the blue wood aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) does very well in shady spots. Easy to grow from seed, direct sow in late fall.

Goldenrod

goldenrod

Wrongfully blamed for fall allergies caused by ragweed, goldenrod of the genus Solidago is a bright and cheery pollinator magnet. It adds beautiful late season color to your garden, and is nicely paired with asters that bloom at the same time.  Goldenrod is host plant to 115 butterfly and moth species, deer resistant, and an absolute must have for every garden. Seeds can be sown in late fall or early winter.

Get Started Today

flowers

There are many more gorgeous North American native plants to choose from that beautify your yard with color and life. Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), wild bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) and scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma), Joe-pye weed (Eutrochium fistulosum) and many more.

Check out the book, Native Plants For New England Gardens by Mark Richardson and Dan Jaffe of the New England Wildflower Society to help you learn how to design with native plants and create a beautiful wildlife habitat in your own backyard!

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Rodent Problems Must Be Managed Responsibly

Neighborhoods in the downtown area of Dover have been dealing with an influx of large numbers of rats this summer. Residents are naturally concerned with getting these populations under control. It’s important to do so, as rodents can carry disease, and cause damage to property. But often overlooked is that the measures we use to control these pests are equally important.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a system of management that considers the whole ecosystem in deciding on how to manage pests. It focuses on habitat modification, sealing and structural repairs, sanitation, and least toxic control options with a minimal reliance on pesticides. Using IPM is an important strategy for the health of the public and the environment. IPM is cost effective, reduces the use of toxic materials and better pest control is achieved.

While commonly used, and even being recommended by some city officials in news reports, rodenticides (poison baits) are not considered a least toxic option in an IPM program. Just because a product is regulated by the government (think cigarettes) it is not an assurance of safety. Poison baits are very toxic. Tens of thousands of cases of direct poisoning are reported every year. At highest risk are children under five and pets. Our pets, along with wildlife are also at risk of secondary poisoning. What this means is that the poisoned rodent doesn’t die right away, but is slowed down and makes easy prey for neighborhood cats, dogs and wild predators. Surely, people are concerned about their children and pets, but why should we be concerned with the effects on other non-target species?

Scientific research has shown that diverse populations of predators like fox, opossum, and raccoons help to reduce the numbers of rodents in an ecosystem, thereby reducing the number of Lyme disease infected ticks. This means predator diversity equals lower Lyme infection rates. In Strafford county, where the infection rate of black legged ticks is more than 60% we are in dire need of a proper balance of predators and prey.

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Photo by Diana Dumais

Birds of prey like owls and hawks are also at risk of secondary poisoning including sublethal effects that make them more susceptible to disease and accidents. Raptors are a part of the solution to rodent problems, and are encouraged as a part of rodent control programs with documented success. By killing and harming our beneficial predators, we indirectly cause an increase in the number of rodents, worsening our problem. What then, can we do to manage our rat problem in a safer more effective manner?

Prevention of pest problems is the best place to start. Follow these three basic steps. Seal: To permanently keep rats and mice out of structures, all possible entry points must be sealed. Clean: Sources of food and water must be eliminated, indoors and out. Trap: To address a current infestation, snap and electric traps can be used. Do not use glue traps and never use poison baits. For detailed instructions, visit Safe Rodent Control Resource Center.

Dover residents must work together to resolve the rat problem in a safe and effective way. By using IPM techniques, we can prevent future infestations and solve the issue for good, while protecting our children, pets and wildlife from being poisoned.

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An Open Letter To The Joint Building Committee

We all want our children to be healthy, and playing team sports is an important part of that. We need to be sure that the playing surfaces we choose are the safest for our young athletes and for the environment they will inherit from us.

The Sustainable Dover initiative adopted in 2005 is designed to assist the city in decision-making, policy development, and city planning. Part of the framework specifies taking action to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, chemicals and other manufactured substances that can accumulate in nature, and activities that harm life-sustaining eco-systems. We applaud this initiative, but worry that it was not referenced when making the decision to install a synthetic turf field at the high school.

Synthetic turf is a fossil fuel intensive product. It is treated with toxic chemicals like flame retardants. The most common infill, crumb rubber, contains at least 92 chemicals, 11 of which are known carcinogens, and heavy metals like lead, sometimes at high levels. The CDC has concluded that there is no reliable evidence for a safe level of lead. Lead has been found in numerous samples of synthetic turf fields—even after the industry promised to stop using lead to dye the plastic grass. Lead is known to reduce IQ points in children.

Synthetic turf must be replaced 8-10 years on average. The most common method of disposal is in a landfill. Pieces of plastic grass and infill migrate into our environment and watershed. Studies have found that synthetic turf poses a threat to biological organisms, and zinc has been found at levels above EPA Fresh Water Standards. Due to the variability in toxic contaminants found, one study has called for the testing of every artificial field to measure its risk to players, especially children.

Children are most vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemical exposure. Players absorb chemicals they come in contact with through their skin, and by accidental ingestion. Chemicals are inhaled through dust or volatilization. Because athletes respiration rates are faster, they intake more of these chemicals. Often, small children sit on the sidelines of these fields where they can put their hands, infill, or grass pieces in their mouths.

Synthetic fields get up to 70 degrees hotter than the surrounding air. On warm sunny days temperatures can range from 120 to 180 degrees. Playing on synthetic turf can melt shoes, blister hands and feet, and induce dehydration and heatstroke. This ‘heat island effect’ has many negative impacts on the surrounding community, as well. According to the EPA, impacts include increased energy consumption; elevated emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases; compromised human health and comfort; and impaired water quality.

A grass field stays naturally cooler through evaporation – keeping athletes safe and mitigating impacts of the heat island effect. Grass fields are identified as the only known safe alternative to synthetic fields by numerous independent public health organizations. Toxics Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, are just some who recommend natural grass for playing fields.

As a group dedicated to protecting public and environmental health we can only advocate for the known safe alternative – an organically maintained natural grass field. By utilizing organic land management practices according to what is now city policy, we can more than double the current use of our existing grass field to 1000 hours of use per season, at a mere fraction of the cost of a synthetic field. 

We firmly oppose the installation of a synthetic field, because of the unacceptable environmental and health hazards they present. In the event that the committee decides to go against the advice of independent public health experts and to reject the safest option for our children, we ask that the options of crumb rubber and EPDM be removed because of the known hazards they pose. We can’t advocate for any infill alternative over another because they have not been tested for safety and are currently unregulated. Despite deceitful marketing tactics, there exists no infill certified by the USDA or any third party as organic. Information on synthetic turf from three public health groups has been provided in print form to the committee by our group in recent weeks. Infills are discussed therein, as well as safety claims and a detailed cost comparison. We strongly urge the committee to make the choice that is in line with city policy, and is safest for Dover’s athletes and for our environment – organic natural grass. Thank you.

Click here to send a message to the Joint Building Committee – Say No To A Synthetic Turf Field At Dover High School

References and resources:

Video of the event we co-hosted with Non Toxic Portsmouth on artificial turf versus organic grass athletic fields is available to watch in its entirety. Speakers include Rachel Massey, Toxics Use Reduction Institute, University of Massachusetts, Lowell and Chip Osborne, Osborne Organics.

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Eight+Benefits+of+Natural+Grass

Crumb rubber field coming to Dover High 

Meet the ‘rented white coats’ who defend toxic chemicals

EHHI Synthetic Turf Report: Industry’s Claims Versus the Science Summary of Findings

Artificial Turf A Health Based Consumers Guide by The Children’s Environmental Health Center of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai 

Artificial Turf – Selecting Safer Alternatives for Athletic Playing Fields by Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMass Lowell 

Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research, High Surface Temperatures 

Synthetic Surface Heat Studies by Brigham Young University 

Tire Particulate, Synthetic Turf, and Children Dr. Stuart Shalat

Plastic planet: How tiny plastic particles are polluting our soil

Sports Turf Alternatives Assessment: Preliminary Results
COST ANALYSIS by Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute 

THE 100-YARD DECEPTION
A six-month NJ Advance Media investigation found FieldTurf, the top U.S. maker of artificial sports fields, made millions selling high-end turf to taxpayers in towns and schools across N.J. and the U.S. after knowing it was falling apart. 

The Latest FieldTurf Issue Is Nothing 1,000 Gallons of Glue Won’t Fix

Commitment to Organic Land Management Practices (search ‘organic’)

Sustainable Dover

 

 

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2018 Curbside Weed Control

Despite the unanimous vote  by the Dover city council for a Commitment to Organic Land Management Practices this February the vendor will be spraying glyphosate based herbicide along the curb lines of our downtown area streets, sidewalks and parking areas on or around the first week of June, July, August, and September.

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City staff chose option A. The product is listed on the bid is Roundup Pro.  The right-of-way special permit lists Roundup Pro Max and Rodeo, both glyphosate based herbicides, and Reward herbicide active ingredient diquat dibromide. Recently, along with Non Toxic Portsmouth, we identified steam weeding as a cost effective and safer option to using herbicides. Since this is something the city must look into and test before making a purchase, we proposed that in the interim, the city ask that the vendor uses horticultural vinegar as it is a less expensive and least toxic option. Horticultural vinegar or acetic acid is listed by the Bio-Integral Resource Center, a non profit IPM organization, as a least toxic chemical control of weeds on their directory. It is also listed as compatible with organic land management.

Sadly, the vendors rebuffed this suggestion, and we have yet to hear anything more. We find this unacceptable, as we should not be allowing the vendors to dictate policy to us under any circumstances. The city decided on a grub control product back in 2014 and instructed that be used instead of neonicotinoid insecticides – why can that not be done here? Dover is violating their own policy by choosing to use Roundup Pro.

During the recent turf bid discussion, the Director of Community Services was kind enough to offer residents the ability to ask to opt out of curbside weed control in front of their homes. He speaks about it here at 50 minutes.

Are you on the spray route? Here is the list of streets that are usually sprayed, however residents whose streets were not on this list have spotted contractors spraying in the past, so please keep that in mind. Spraying has occurred late in the fall season as well. Click on the photos to enlarge.

 

We ask residents that if you do opt out that you consider being willing to manage your own curb line to help the city by hand pulling or weed whacking. A propane torch (flame weeder) would also do the trick when used responsibly. Please note that it would be illegal for a resident to spray any type of herbicide without a special permit from the state. Please exercise caution when removing weeds, especially near busy roads.

To opt out of spraying, contact Community Services at (603) 516 – 6450.

 

 

 

 

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Organic Policy Needs Work on the Seacoast

This is a joint Op Ed written with Non Toxic Portsmouth, published by Foster’s Daily Democrat on April 11th offering our assistance to the cities of Dover and Portsmouth with their organic land management programs. 

Since last September, both the Portsmouth and Dover city councils have passed resolutions calling for the end of the use of conventional toxic pesticides and for using organic land management practices instead. For this we celebrate! But it is now time to implement this new policy by incorporating it in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2019 budget, and both cities are badly missing the mark.

Their bids and budget proposals for FY19 for sidewalk weeding, turf and grounds maintenance do not follow organic land management practices and propose expensive product swaps instead. They even to go so far as choosing the use of toxic pesticides like Roundup Pro for curbside weeds in Dover. Non Toxic Dover and Non Toxic Portsmouth oppose these costly product swaps and toxic pesticides, and call for using proven steam technology to kill weeds on roadsides and sidewalks.

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There remains a basic misunderstanding about what “organic” land management means by the administrations of both cities. Organic land management focuses on soil health and supporting biological systems to grow plants and manage pests, not on scheduled product applications. Neither city has anyone on staff that is accredited in organic land management, as demonstrated by their budget proposals. Of the 10 pesticide companies that Portsmouth sent their RFPs to, none of the companies had anyone on their staff who was an accredited expert. Last October, we and our supporters, offered to pay for the cost of training to get city staff in Portsmouth accredited in organic land management – but were rebuffed. That offer still stands – and shall be extended to Dover as well.

Today, both cities also lack a multi-year plan for an organic land management program. We propose that Osborne Organics, the top organic consulting firm in the country should be the obvious choice to draw it up. If Dover and/or Portsmouth commit to having an organic land management plan created, we have arranged that the cost of the plan would be covered 100%.

Further, we strongly support the use of steam technology for weeding of curbsides and brick sidewalks. We have done extensive research on the technology and obtained firm bids on the cost. Over 1,000 jurisdictions in the world use saturated steam to both kill weeds and to sanitize sidewalks, park benches, and trash cans. We have recommended a U.S.-made machine that can be purchased for less than $24,000, and can arrive here with training in 3 weeks.

This is a tremendous savings over Portsmouth’s product swap budget proposal to use an organic herbicide at a cost of $164,560, instead of Roundup/Rodeo/glyphosate ($45,000 budgeted in FY18) to kill weeds on sidewalks.

Granted, a lower risk herbicide product is a big improvement over the former more toxic choices, but it is clearly more expensive and not in line with an organic land management approach which prioritizes least toxic cultural controls and alternatives first. Water certainly fits into the least toxic category (you can drink this weed killer!) and is the best choice for public health and will protect our watershed from potential runoff.

Additionally, steam weeding is far more efficient, cost effective, and significantly reduces cost over time. Why? Well traditional pesticides and swaps only kill the plant until the next seed geminates, but saturated steam both kills the plants and the seed bank, which are the weed seeds buried in the soil. A single mature crabgrass plant can produce 150,000 weed seeds! So saturated steam’s ability to reduce the seed bank increases productivity over time, as the weed seed bank is reduced, and less weeds grow. And it doesn’t take any special training or an expensive pesticide license to operate the machine – a seasonal college student for a cost of $8-9,000 can operate it.

And there’s a way to reduce costs even more, and a great marketing opportunity for either cities or green local businesses. The big water tanks on the backs of these machines are like moving billboards. The city could use the space to encourage citizens not to use pesticides, or at the right price, this could be an advertising opportunity for a new or existing business. Please contact us if you are interested in being a sponsor. More importantly, contact the City Council in Dover and Portsmouth and tell them no product swaps – we want to utilize only organic land management practices, like steam weeding, that save taxpayers money!

 

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