GENEVA — In February, the city’s Green Committee urged Council to ban the use of synthetic applications on the more than 180 acres of landscaped city property, in particular sprawling Lakefront Park on the shores of Seneca Lake.
Last week, Council made it happen, unanimously approving a ban on synthetic fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, which many environmentalists believe are harmful to humans, pets and wildlife, as well as Seneca Lake.
The resolution’s passage took place after a marathon Council session focused mostly on a series of police reform measures that started Wednesday evening and carried over until about 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
The sponsor of the legislation, Ward 3 Councilor Jan Regan, said Monday that she was surprised to see the vote still take place, given the length of the meeting. But the resolution passed with little discussion, other than a caution by Ward 2 Councilor Bill Pealer that synthetic doesn’t necessarily mean an application is dangerous or ineffective. Pealer ultimately voted in favor of the resolution.
Regan said the Green Committee did detailed research when it recommended at Council’s February meeting that the city end the use of synthetics, adding that they are not used widely by the Department of Public Works.
Sara Britting, a member of the Green Committee, expressed her thanks for passage of the ban.
“As a member of the Geneva Green Committee and one who collaborated with Anne Hoyt (a fellow member) on the research and writing of the memo outlining the long-term harmful impacts of synthetic pesticides on our ecosystem and presented to Council in February, I am very glad to hear that City Council supports this important ban,” she said by email Monday. “It’s just the beginning, as we hope informed businesses, citizens and municipalities around Seneca Lake (and all lakes) will follow suit. Our plummeting bird and insect populations, especially our pollinators, depend on this.”
The resolution acknowledges that “the use of fertilizers to maintain the health and appearance of grass and plantings as well as pesticides (herbicides) to control weeds and invasive species is a necessary component of this care and upkeep” and that “synthetic pesticides and fertilizers can be more efficient and less labor-intensive than their organic counterparts.”
However, said the resolution, pulling from the Green Committee’s memo on the topic, “scientific literature reflects growing alarm over their impact on human and ecological health. … With widespread evidence of the harm of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to people, pets, soil and water, the DPW is urged to eliminate their use and investigate and adopt safer eco-friendly alternatives and practices.”
The resolution states that “scientific literature consistently identifies exposures to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers as detrimental to (the) environment and human health …. and these chemicals have been shown to have long-term toxic impact on our lakes.”
The resolution outlines a number of objectives:
• The city will develop an inventory of all “city-managed lands and a comprehensive list of pest-management issues for those lands and use its resources to develop a management plan to improve the health of soil and landscaped areas.”
• The city “will use irrigation, mechanical weeding and compost application, aeration, proper seeding and mowing, soil testing, appropriate fertilizer application and application of eco-friendly pesticides with the least negative impact effect on the environment.”
• Certain synthetic pesticides can be used in limited circumstances if they are deemed the only option, and they will be applied in accordance with guidelines such as those advocated by the Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell AgriTech. Chemicals such as the herbicide glyphosate, or Roundup as it’s known by its brand name, will be restricted to targeted use.
Regan pointed out that the city’s new composting facility, which should undergo construction soon, will provide the DPW with an organic fertilizer source.
She said Cornell’s Integrated Pest Management Program is a key player in the city’s effort to transition toward more environmentally friendly landscaping treatments.
“Geneva has some great resources to make this change,” she said. “All of these components are things to be proud of and are moving Geneva forward in a healthy way.”