In an effort to convince the village to codify against pesticide use, the Scarsdale Forum’s Sustainability Committee released an update to its 2018 report on sustainable landscape management to protect public health, welfare, safety and the environment.
The addition to the report — released on April 30 — outlines new policies adopted by municipalities around the country to counteract their pesticide use and recent litigation that arose due to individuals who were exposed to pesticides.
At the Scarsdale municipal pool complex, the village was using an herbicide called Tenacity for weed and clover mitigation in July 2017, according to Deputy Village Manager Robert Cole. According to the product label — filed with Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 — Tenacity can be harmful to both humans and animals if absorbed through the skin and can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
In addition, the insecticide Dylox was applied to a number of local playing fields in 2015 for spot control of grub infestations. According to Dylox’s product label, the insecticide is hazardous to humans and domestic animals. The insecticide should not be used near aquatic invertebrates, where runoff is likely to occur and where birds might feed. The label further specifies that children or pets should not be allowed on treated areas until the material is sprinkled in and the grass is dry.
“These products can be directly absorbed and ingested by residents and pets on our playing fields and the grass around the pool through contact with grass that has been treated with the products,” the Forum stated in its 2018 report. “The obvious solution is for the Village to discontinue the use of chemicals such as Tenacity and Dylox at the pool complex and on Village playing fields and to find appropriate, effective alternatives.”
The village ceased pesticide and insecticide use in 2017, but a prohibition against the use of such chemicals has not yet been introduced into village law.
“Since 2014, we have contracted with a firm for organic field care,” said Cole.
The contractor for organic field care uses humates, lime, CedarCure organics and 1-2-3 NPP organics to “strengthen the soil and make the turf grass more healthy and resilient to weed growth,” he said, which is a “key strategy of our current landscaping approach.”
The report addendum includes examples of municipalities that curb pesticide use. In March 2019 Miami banned the use of glyphosate-based herbicides (such as Roundup) by the city and its contractors. That same month, Los Angeles County enacted a similar ban on the use of glyphosate on county property.
“Scarsdale can be a further leader in enacting this for our village,” said Darlene LeFrancois-Haber, the co-chair of the Sustainability Committee who also works as an internist. “It helps the health and safety of our public, it establishes us as a leader in a very important area.”
The Forum is hoping the report will be used as an educational tool for residents, while also providing facts on pesticide use to support the need to codify against the use of pesticides. Passing a law locally might also inspire change in other Westchester municipalities, according to Michelle Sterling, co-chair of the Sustainability Committee.
“We feel like we can be the domino here,” Sterling said. “You just need one town to do one of these things … and the other towns will follow.”
Westchester County passed a pesticide reduction law in 1996. An amendment to the bill in 2000 phased out the use of pesticides on county property and prohibited toxicity Category II pesticides by Jan. 1, 2001 and toxicity Category III pesticides by Jan. 1, 2002, according to the Westchester County Department of Health.
“It’s about leadership. It’s about being a positive role model. It’s about positively affecting all the other municipalities in our community,” said Sterling, who also serves on the Conservation Advisory Council.
The report does not include a provision to regulate against private use of pesticides, although the Forum would like residents to be more aware of what is being applied on their lawns.
“I think it would be terrific if this report could serve as a piece of education for the entire village, residents included,” said LeFrancois-Haber. “There is no action, requested recommendation [or] statement in this report … to mandate any kind of curb or ban on residential use.”
LeFrancois-Haber recommended using the Grassroots Environmental Education website which includes letters, calendars and contracts that residents can use with their landscapers to form an agreement against pesticide use. The co-chairs of the Forum’s Sustainability Committee also expressed an interest in being a resource for residents if they need information about pesticide use.
“Both the village board and staff are appreciative of the support and assistance members of our community display in working together toward the shared goal of a more sustainable future,” said Cole. “Not only are we experiencing a high level of [organic] program success, but our efforts are helping to encourage other municipalities in the region to adopt similar practices.”