Mayor Foy and Town Council Members
Town of Chapel Hill
405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514-5705
Dear Mayor Foy and members of the Town Council,
Please accept this review of the Town’s Integrated Pest Management Program in response to the citizen petition submitted to the Town on October 3, 2005, as well as the memorandum from Town Manager Calvin Horton prepared for the council in response. Because the memorandum mentioned the Agricultural Resources Center’s role in the development of the Town’s policy, I have taken the liberty of preparing this brief review for your consideration.
First, I would like to commend the Town and Mr. Horton for making sincere efforts to reduce the use of potentially hazardous pesticides in Chapel Hill. While there is still more to be done, as the petitioners point out, the Town has taken significant steps, and those should not go unrecognized. However, the Agricultural Resources Center has several concerns about the Town’s compliance with both the letter and spirit of its Least Toxic Pest Management Policy (1999), which I have summarized in the attached document.
The Agricultural Resources Center would like to make several recommendations for changes to the IPM program in order to improve compliance with the policy and reduce pesticide exposure risks to Town residents, particularly children. I am available to meet with the Town Manager, IPM Coordinator, or other Town officials at your convenience, and offer our services in either providing or helping the Town to obtain technical support to meet its pesticide reduction goals. As a first step, we recommend that the Town Manager and IPM Coordinator undertake a formal and thorough inventory of pesticide use in order to prioritize reduction strategies, beginning with sites where children, the elderly, town workers and other vulnerable populations are at highest risk of exposure.
Many thanks for your attention to this issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me with concerns or questions. I hope that we can be of further service to you in your efforts to make Chapel Hill a safe, attractive place for residents and employees to live, work and play.
Fawn Pattison, Executive Director
cc: Town Manager Calvin Horton
Mrs. Julie Vann
Review: Town of Chapel Hill Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program
Fawn Pattison, Executive Director, Agricultural Resources Center
January 27, 2006
The Agricultural Resources Center has reviewed the Town of Chapel Hill’s Least Toxic Pest Management Policy (1999), FY 2004-05 IPM/Pesticide Report, and the Town Manager’s memorandum to the Town council and mayor of 11/21/2005. That review has given rise to several observations and concerns.
The Town’s pest management policy states that it applies both to Town employees and to private contractors who work on Town-owned properties. Based on ARC’s evaluation of the IPM/Pesticide Report, it is apparent that several of the contractors used by the Town, such as TruGreen ChemLawn and The Bug Man, either are not aware of the policy or simply choose not to comply with it. It is incumbent upon the Town to select contractors who are willing and able to comply with this policy, and then to ensure compliance. Bid requests should make potential contractors aware of the Town’s expectations and requirements for least-toxic pest management.
Based on the memorandum, it is clear that while some departments, such as housing and fire, are successfully relying on least-toxic pest management, other Town facilities are instead relying on regular pesticide applications for pest control. The Town is to be commended for its reliance on least-toxic pest control in public housing, where large populations of children, women of child bearing age and the elderly are at risk of exposure, and should use that department as a model for other Town facilities.
In the memorandum pyrethroid pesticides are erroneously characterized as a “plant-based pesticide.” In fact, pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that can pose hazards to human health and environmental quality. This raises the concern that Town staff may not be adequately trained to administer the pest management program or implement the town’s pest management policy. Proper training and understanding both of pesticide hazards and alternative pest management practices will ensure a cost-effective IPM program that poses fewer risks to public health and the environment, and fewer liabilities to the Town.
The Town has made great strides by using least-toxic pest management in Public Housing. As goals are set for pesticide reduction, the locations where vulnerable populations are at risk of exposure should be prioritized for attention. Areas frequented by children, pregnant women, the elderly, and sensitive environments such as wetlands, should be targeted first for pesticide reduction.
Of particular concern is the Town’s widespread use of herbicides on playing fields. While the memorandum characterizes pesticide applications on playing fields as “infrequent” and “selective,” the applications include high-risk chemicals such as dicamba, MCPA, 2,4-D, and mecoprop (active ingredients in the pesticides applied to the athletic fields). These are high-hazard chemicals with no place in a child’s environment. The Agricultural Resources Center is available to provide toxicity profiles and recommendations for alternatives to these chemicals at your request, and recommends looking to the Town of Carrboro for an example of tough, healthy playing fields managed without the use of any such hazardous materials.
As mentioned above, many of the pesticides listed in the IPM/Pesticide Report are hazardous and unnecessary. High-hazard pesticides are particularly inappropriate when they are being used for “cosmetic” purposes, or in areas where children or other vulnerable populations are at risk of exposure. The Pesticide Report lists dozens of chemicals for which alternative products and/or management practices are readily available and cost effective. In order to comply with the Town’s own policies, and to protect the environment and health of its staff and residents, it is incumbent upon the Town to systematically eliminate the use of these materials.
Several questions came to mind after reviewing the Town’s Least Toxic Pest Management Policy. The policy designates an IPM Coordinator for the Town who is responsible for record-keeping and compliance with the policy. Who is that coordinator? Has that coordinator provided the Town Manager and the Town Council with specific annual goals for pesticide reduction as specified in the policy? What are those goals? Have they been met? Without answering these basic questions, it will be difficult for the Town Manager or the Council to evaluate the effectiveness of the Town’s pest management policy.