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Portsmouth Splaine to ask city to stop using toxins Pilot program currently testing organic products

Portsmouth Herald - 8/21/2017

PORTSMOUTH - Assistant Mayor Jim Splaine will introduce a motion at Monday's council meeting calling for the city to "stop using toxins" for weed control and property maintenance.

"We need not continue to use toxins in weed and pest control programs," Splaine said in a memo to his fellow city councilors. "There are natural alternatives, and we must commit to use alternative methods."

"If it's a toxin, it's dangerous," Splaine said in an interview last week.

Specifically, his motion calls for the city to commit to "stop using toxins in public places, to encourage toxin-free properly maintenance for all new developments and to provide education to businesses and residents about organic property maintenance and natural alternatives for weed control."

His motion, which is scheduled to be discussed at Monday's City Council meeting, comes two months after he called on City Manager John Bohenko to stop allowing a city contractor to use herbicides containing glyphosate, which he said risked the heath of Portsmouth residents.

The World Health Organization ruled in 2015 that glyphosate "probably" causes cancer.

Glyphosate is used in the popular herbicide Roundup and in Rodeo, which the city had routinely used on sidewalks, fields and roads to kill weeds until recently.

At the time, Department of Public Works Director Peter Rice said he checked with the city's contractor, who confirmed they are no longer using any products with glyphosate.

Bohenko and Rice said the city is moving toward using all organic products and city staff began conducting a pilot program on a section of sidewalk at Pease International Tradeport to check how effective organic products are.

Splaine also asked the Conservation Commission to give the City Council their opinion on the issue.

The commission reviewed the city's weed control program at its June meeting, according to a memo from Steve Miller, chairman of the commission, to Mayor Jack Blalock and the council.

In it, the commission states that "the long-term cost of pesticide use can harm the soil ecosystem, they kill non-target species, they move up the food chain harming many non-targeted species, and ultimately can harm humans."

"The commission encourages the city to aggressively pursue the use of natural alternatives and approaches such as integrated pest management," they state in the memo.

The commission also stressed that in addition to the city setting an example, "it is also important for residents and businesses in the city to understand these tradeoffs when managing their property."

"An outreach campaign to educate Portsmouth citizens on the use of pesticides and the alternatives available to property owners would be equally important given the ready access to pesticides at yard and garden centers," they stated in the memo.

Splaine urges his fellow councilors to "commit our staff to implement non-toxic natural strategies for weed and pest control, immediately."

"We cannot continue to poison our soils and our air, nor continue to spend taxpayer funds on unnecessary toxic products," Splaine said.

The regular portion of Monday's Council meeting, which will be held in City Council Chambers in City Hall, is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.


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