NEWBURYPORT — Some residents and local officials are working to crack down on herbicide use in the city through a newly proposed ordinance and proclamation to raise awareness of the problem.
Councilor at-large Greg Earls recently drafted a proposed ordinance to ban the use of glyphosate products on all city-owned land. The ordinance will be presented to the full City Council at its meeting Monday and will likely be referred to one of the council’s committees.
The ordinance, co-sponsored by council President Barry Connell, allows the herbicide glyphosate to only be used under certain exceptions and emergency waivers authorized by the Board of Health. The ordinance also imposes a $500 penalty for first-time violations and a $1,000 fee for subsequent offenses.
Glyphosate has been widely used since the 1970s to control weeds in crops, lawns and roadside and forest settings. The chemical is included in commercial products such as Roundup and Rodeo.
Earls, who keeps bees as a hobby, said he has been aware that glyphosate can damage bees’ digestive systems, though he has not clearly seen the chemical’s effects on his own beehives.
Earls said he hopes the ordinance will make city-controlled properties safer and help raise awareness of glyphosate’s potentially harmful effects so that residents will stop using it on their own property.
“People probably don’t know how bad glyphosate is, or that it is replaceable,” Earls said. “You don’t want to walk your dog on streets or sidewalks, and you don’t want your kids to play” where it has been used. “There are alternatives to it, such as vinegar.”
In a related action, the Board of Health approved a proclamation on Thursday stating the toxic nature of glyphosate products and endorsing April as “Alternative to Pesticides Month.”
The proclamation states that the Health Department will renew its “commitment to urge citizens to follow the city’s leadership, to learn about and adopt site management strategies designed to eliminate pests and pesticides” in their homes, on their property, and elsewhere around the city.
Members of the city’s Health Department could not be reached for comment Friday.
The charge to ban glyphosate has been led by local resident Walt Thompson, who last month convinced the Parks Department to ban the products in all of the city’s parks.
Thompson said he hopes the Board of Health’s proclamation and Earls’ proposed ordinance will keep awareness of pesticides on people’s minds, ultimately for the benefit of the city and its residents. He said he hopes to spend next month raising pesticide awareness by working with local artists, faculty members at the city’s schools and members of local organizations, hoping they will join the cause.
“I think this is important for people’s own personal health and well-being. By reducing Roundup we increase the quality of life in Newburyport,” Thompson said.
Connell expressed his support for the ordinance, saying that he would encourage residents to use “the least intrusive and most effective control measure possible” when fending off weeds on their property.
“Glyphosate is the cheap, easy way out on the surface, but it has health consequences that have been known for 25 years,” Connell said. “There are lots of alternatives available. We shouldn’t just reach to these chemicals first.”
The City Council is scheduled to meet Monday at 7 p.m.
To view the proposed ordinance to regulate glyphosate on city land, read the City Council’s packet for its Monday meeting, beginning on Page 16: https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/agendas/city_council_packet_03-25-2019_finalpart2.pdf
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.
More on the City Council, Page 3.