Cosmetic lawn pesticides will have to leave Kingston for greener pastures—they’re no longer welcome here.
City Council voted last month to ban cosmetic pesticides starting October 2008.
Cosmetic pesticides are chemical or biological substances used to destroy insects, plants and fungi, in order to maintain the appearance of a lawn or garden.
All lawns—classified as grassy surfaces and their associated shrubs and flowers—will have to be treated with non-synthetic pesticides instead of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, which kill weeds, insects and fungus, respectively.
Sydenham district councillor Bill Glover voted in favour of the ban. He said the ban was imposed for public need, public health and community reaction, among other reasons.
“At any of the public meetings you would have heard some very compelling first-hand accounts of health problems stemming from pesticides,” he said.
Physical Plant Services (PPS) Operations Manager Brian Scovill said PPS has been taking initiatives against cosmetic pesticides for several years. “We used to use pesticides, but several years ago, there was a joint decision made in plant services to find alternate methods,” Scovill said. These methods include organic overseeding and topdressing in high-traffic areas like Agnes Benidickson Field. Topdressing initiatives use soil and dirt to replenish nutrients through a small manure spreader. Overseeding involves spreading fertilizer over grass to ensure its healthiness.
Scovill said it’s hard to keep up organic methods in areas that get a lot of use, but PPS used pesticides only once last year, during an aphid infestation. With the ban in place, students may notice more dandelions around campus when the warmer weather comes along, he said. “We previously used herbicides on the interlocking stone around campus which kept the dandelions at bay. You’ll see more weed growth now because we’ve stopped using these chemicals and are becoming more organic.” Dave Swinton, PPS grounds manager, said pesticides and other chemicals are less expensive and provide better physical results. “Organic methods require more intensive labour,” he said. “Procedures like aeration, organic topdressing and overseeding take a lot of time and effort.”
Swinton said grassy regions often pose problems.
“Weeds are often stronger than our methods. Plus, seeds get moved around when people walk through lawns, making fertilizers less effective.” He said people don’t always understand what it means for a lawn to be “healthy.” “We’ve had to change the perception of workers and the public to accept that a green lawn doesn’t always mean a healthy lawn,” he said.
AMS Sustainability Co-ordinator Maryam Adrangi said it’s good to know Kingston is taking an interest in supporting environmental issues. “Often, the problem is that people do not necessarily know how to maintain a healthy lawn, so they use a lot of pesticides to make it look healthy … when it really isn’t.” Although Ontario is already set to implement a pesticide ban around the same time the Kingston bylaw comes into effect in October, Adrangi said the bylaw is a step in the right direction.
“It forces those who would have otherwise used pesticides for cosmetic purposes to learn how to maintain their lawn properly,” she said, adding that the ban prohibits people from using harsh chemicals when they may not even realize they’re doing so.
Adrangi said it’s important for students to be aware of the upcoming ban.
“Everyone should realize that even though their lawn may be their own property, other living things are affected by contamination, too.”
—With files from Kerri MacDonald
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