Richmond appears set to pass an ordinance next month that would ban the use of some pesticides by city workers and adopt strategies that reduce the use of chemical agents.
A divided City Council on June 5 voted 4-2 to approve the first reading of a new ordinance requiring the city to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles in maintaining city lands.
The council could pass the new law at its July 3 meeting.
"There are a lot of good reasons to do this, and there's no evidence that it's going to bust any budgets," said City Councilman Tom Butt. "This is smart policy."
The new law would ban city agencies from using known carcinogens as listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and materials containing organophosphates or carbamates, which are known groundwater pollutants. Even more important than the outright ban, said Richmond Parks and Landscape Superintendent Chris Chamberlain, is codifying the principles that the city will use in controlling pests and vegetation growth.
"The key is that we guide how we make decisions with smart preferences toward nonchemical or less toxic approaches," Chamberlain said. "That will mean a mixture of mechanical, nonchemical approaches and, when necessary and feasible, less toxic chemical options."
While the council majority in favor of the ordinance appears solid -- they requested no changes to the proposed law at the June 5 meeting -- skeptics say the move will cost
"I'm looking at a shortfall in the city of Richmond's budget right now, and so I have to seriously question whether this is the time I need to be adding more costs to our operations," said City Councilman Corky Booze, who joined Nat Bates in voting against the ordinance.
Booze said he supports portions of the ordinance, like prohibiting any pesticide use near playgrounds, picnic areas and riparian areas, but that the current proposal goes too far in banning proven, low-cost products in favor of expensive alternatives.
During the City Council meeting, parks and landscape officials acknowledged that nontoxic weed control solutions were several times more expensive than conventional products, but maintained that costs could be controlled with a blend of mechanical weed control, better vegetation planting options and use of nontoxic products.
"This ordinance really just solidifies what we've already been doing for the last 20 months," Chamberlain said.
He added that his department, which manages more than 600 acres of city land on a $4 million annual budget, has reduced its use of carcinogenic pest control products by about 40 percent over the last two years.
"In 2009 we had 32 chemicals in our inventory, and now we have four or five," Chamberlain said.
Richmond, would join a growing minority of California cities and counties to pass such an ordinance. The cities of San Francisco and Berkeley, along with Marin and Contra Costa counties are among the jurisdictions that have passed similar rules adopting IPM and ceasing use of certain chemicals, according to Californians for Pesticide Reform, an anti-pesticide watchdog group.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726. Follow him at Twitter.com/roberthrogers