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.
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!