Pressured by local environmentalists, the city of Charlottesville has adopted a formal pest management program.
While the program codifies practices already in place, it doesn’t address the recommendations of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club, which had called for the increased use of organic products and a reduction in the use of pesticides.
“This, I’m afraid, is not furthering us or getting us closer to a non-chemical policy,” said the Sierra Club’s Barbara Cruickshank.
For the past 10 years, the city’s parks and recreation department has implemented an integrated pest management approach for maintaining parks and school grounds. The City Council adopted the system as policy at its meeting Monday night.
“It’s a program I voluntarily instituted based on the values of the community,” said John Mann, city landscape manager. “This leads us further ahead to achieve those goals.”
Albemarle County and the city of Charlottesville previously adopted integrated pest management programs for the interiors of their school buildings. The county adopted a safer-chemical policy for all county-owned parks and school grounds in 2008.
Integrated pest management encourages natural pest control practices and using pesticides only as a last resort.
City staff said adopting the use of organic and natural products or eliminating pesticides altogether would require additional funding and staff.
The Sierra Club’s John Cruickshank said there should be a waiver process for pesticide use and pre-approval should come from the city manager. He said the policy lacked inclusion of preventative steps for city-owned buildings.
“Please approve a policy that will truly protect the people of Charlottesville, that would include a commitment to reduce pesticide use,” he told councilors.
Councilor Kristin Szakos said if the city ruled out synthetic chemicals completely, it could end up increasing the level of danger to the public’s health in some situations.
Councilor Kathy Galvin said that in some maintenance situations there would be no way to control invasive species without chemicals.
Sierra Club member Jackie Lombardo told the council there are other methods that do exactly the same thing as pesticides that would eradicate pests in a safer manner. She said the club has garnered 1,000 signatures on its integrated pest management petition.
“All who signed the petition agree that the integrated pest management policy must include stopping the use of unnecessary products that are classified by the Environment Protection Agency as carcinogenic or neurotoxic,” Lombardo said.
Lombardo said there should be more transparency of when pesticides are used and it should be reported on the city website.
Mann said the city staff would put all of the information online, including research updates, so the public can be informed appropriately.
“We will list sites and areas where chemicals are used and why,” said Mann.
Brian Daly, parks and recreation director, said a committee composed of city staff, a member of the parks and recreation advisory board and a member of the tree commission will review the integrated pest management program on an annual basis and produce an annual report.
“The report will summarize previous year’s actions and provide for recommendations in the next year,” he said.
Daly said they would mark where applications have been made for 24 hours following any application and will provide a 24-hour advance notice of applications on school property. All integrated pest management records will be kept for three years and made available for the public to view at any time.
“We have a database that tracks use by location, quantity, product and place,” Daly said.
“This city is beautiful but there is room for improvement,” said Lombardo.
The resolution adopted by City Council included a commitment to “reducing overall pesticide use and eliminating pesticide use in and on city school grounds and in city parks when feasible.”