New pest policy considered

Nov 9, 2009, 13:22 PM by User Not Found

By Jonathan Morales
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 11/05/2009 12:33:04 PM PST

The Acalanes school district will soon implement a pest management policy, but for now parents and district officials differ on what that policy should include.

On Wednesday, community group Parents for a Safer Environment (PfSE) brought its concerns to the school board, saying the proposed integrated pest management plan doesn't go far enough to eliminate harmful chemicals, and lacks an avenue for community input.

District officials in charge of implementing the policy say as a result of the group's concerns they have already eliminated the use of all but two herbicides.

"We didn't have a policy in place. We will sometime soon," said Chris Learned, associate superintendent for business services. "So I think it is a safer environment as a result of their volunteers."

The proposed plan states that when pest problems arise, the district will consider a full range of alternatives to pesticides and herbicides. If chemicals are used, the district would give "preference to those chemicals that pose the least hazard to people and the environment."

The policy would direct a staff member, maintenance director Steve Fishbaugh, to serve as pest management coordinator and to implement the policy.

Parents, however, say the policy's statement that the district will use the "least toxic pest management practices" is too broad.

They want a list of approved and banned chemicals included in the policy, and a community advisory committee that can look at other agencies' studies and regulations and provide recommendations to the district.

One of the chemicals on the district's approved list, Best Turf Supreme, contains chemicals known to be a human developmental toxin and a possible human carcinogen, said Susan JunFish, an environmental health scientist and director of PfSE.

"It's very important that the community have an opportunity to contribute to a plan, to a sensible plan, so that it is not only effective and financially feasible but also least toxic and safer for the community," she said.

The district does have a list of approved chemicals that is provided to parents every August, Learned said. An administrative regulation like the pest management plan, he said, would not be the place to include that list.

Best Turf Supreme, he said, is used as a fertilizer, not a spray. The district's other approved herbicide, Roundup Pro, is used in spray form.

At the board meeting Wednesday, Learned expressed his concern that setting up a committee could prevent the district from taking quick action to control pests when problems arise.

"My concern about having a committee is it would literally gridlock our ability to take care of things," he told the board.

Carol Shenon, a Campolindo High School parent, said the goal isn't to hamper the district, but to provide the best information possible to balance the district's policy needs with the health of students.

"If we can just sit down and have this group and develop this, let's use what other schools and communities have done," she said. "Let's not start from scratch."