With over twenty people in attendance to support a no pesticide ordinance at the July 3, 2017 Common Council meeting, Middletown voted to join several other progressive CT towns that no longer allow toxic pesticides on their municipally-owned fields, parks and grounds.
Coordinators of a push to eliminate use of toxic lawn chemicals from Ecoin (Environmental Collective Impact Network) took their cues from towns like Branford and Cheshire, which have followed a nontoxic regimen for their fields, parks and grounds with great success for many years.
Leading up to this ordinance many hundreds of Middletown residents signed petitions asking that the practice of using toxic lawn chemicals on our city fields and grounds be stopped. Pesticides, including insecticides and herbicides, are poisons, not only for lawn pests and weeds, but also for people, pets and our planet. The range of known harmful effects associated with human exposure to certain lawn-care pesticides includes cancer, asthma, reproductive problems, liver and kidney damage, and nervous and immune system disorders. Our children are especially vulnerable with their small and rapidly developing bodies.
These chemicals have also been associated with increased cancers in dogs. They kill beneficial insects and bees, and contaminate fish and other wildlife as they make their way into the environment and are passed along through the food chain. Many of these chemicals contaminate our soil, rivers and streams, and groundwater, affecting our drinking water.
On an educational field trip to Branford last year, Common Council members, Public Works staff, and Mayor Drew saw firsthand how lush, beautiful and healthy fields and green spaces can be by using proven non-toxic techniques for planting and maintenance. When the soil is built up naturally, root systems are stronger and grow deeper, and more durable, healthy turf grass is the result. Natural turf care expert Chuck Sherwood explained and demonstrated how earthworms provide aeration, microbes process nutrients, clover adds nitrogen, and fungi promote nutrient distribution. Ironically, these same beneficial soil organisms and plants are the target of commonly used lawn pesticides.
The time is right to make the switch. The Parks Bond provides an excellent opportunity to construct fields suitable for non-toxic maintenance by starting with the right soil composition and depth, and proper drainage. Many Common Council members stressed the need for staff training on the new turf care methods, and the Board of Education has retained Chuck Sherwood as a consultant for school fields.
Thank you to Mayor Dan Drew, Middletown’s Common Council, Public Works & Facilities Commission, Twenty-first Century Committee, and Public Works Director William Russo and Deputy Director Chris Holden for taking this important step and showing that the health of our kids and the environment are a priority!
The Environmental Collective Impact Network (Ecoin) is a coalition of local nonprofits and city commissions that supports more sustainable practices by government, businesses and local residents. Meetings are held on the first Monday of each month, from 5 to 6 p.m., at the deKoven House, 27 Washington Street in Middletown. Members of the public, city staff, and elected officials are invited to attend.
By Rebecca MacLachlan, Ecoin Member