- Report Published -
|Pesticides and Fertilizers in the Urban Environment|
|Virginia Cooperative Extension Service|
|HJR 62 (1990)|
|The 1990 Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution Number 62 (HJR62) to direct the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia Cooperative Extension Service to study the application practices of lawn chemicals and household and garden pesticides in residential properties and to develop a plan to reduce potential impacts of household and garden pesticides and lawn chemicals in urban environment.|
The extension Service Committee on HJR62 reviewed the existing background and situation in Virginia, conducted surveys to establish a base of Virginia data, and hereby reports the findings of the study. The findings are followed with a set of recommendations which represent the survey results and the knowledge of the committee members and Extension agents in 65 local Extension Units.
The use of pesticides in the urban environment is a sensitive issue due to the perceptions by the general public that all pesticides and chemicals are harmful to the environment and to public health, that their use is unnecessary, and that the applicator, whether they are a professional applicator or amateur, is poorly prepared to conduct such applications. These perceptions are not all unfounded, however, they are not totally accurate and in most cases instill an unwarranted fear among the public at large. It would be an understatement to say that this issue is controversial.
Public opinion has initiated a number of government studies including, most recently, a study by the General Accounting Office (GAO) to determine the safety and practices of lawn care companies; a non-occupational pesticide exposure study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and, a national EPA survey of pesticides and fertilizers in drinking water. The results of these studies do not put the issue to rest -- that will never happen as long as there are differences of opinion. However, they do indicated within the statistical limitations of the studies that for the most part the problem is not at the point that warrants public hysteria or outrage. The problems associated with the industry and possible impacts on the environment are manageable within the existing legal system and within a reasonable period of time.
The studies associated with HJR62 were not as sophisticated as the government studies and have their limitations. They did indicate trends and needs associated with the way Virginia deals with this issue. Many of these trends will need to be changed, while others are not a problem. In addition, there are a number of needs of a monetary and regulatory nature that must be implemented to bring about change. the findings and recommendations of the study are as follows:
Most homeowners and professional applicators use granular fertilizers and liquid pesticides to treat lawns for various pest and nutritional problems.
The Commonwealth should expand HB279 (House Bill 279 is a new tax law which establishes an income tax credit of 25 percent of the cost of purchasing improved equipment for more precise pesticide and fertilizer application) to also include pesticide and fertilizer applicators that use new technology in the form of advanced chemistry, packaging, and handling equipment and facilities that reduce chemical exposure, waste, and provide environmental protection. Examples include: new low-rate chemicals; slow-release encapsulated formulations; returnable or refillable containers; water soluble packets; soil immobile and non-persistent chemicals; application equipment based on injection and closed system technology; advanced mixing, loading and calibration devices and systems; jet rinsers; new storages facilities; and, rinse and waste minimization stations.
The Commonwealth should greatly increase funding for research and Extension programs in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to support the development and dissemination of alternative pest control programs.
The Commonwealth should provide tax incentives to promote the implementation of alternative pest controls by homeowners and professional applicators alike. A similar program is being conducted in Virginia for multiflora rose control.
Most homeowners and some professional applicators are using unprotected home water supplies to fill and apply pesticides and fertilizers, or apply chemicals in a manner that could jeopardize surrounding water sources due to run-off.
The Commonwealth should mandate that anti-siphon devices be installed on all accessible home water supply outlets in order to protect municipal water supplies and local aquifers from contamination by chemicals, wastes and microorganisms entering water systems through back-siphoning.
The Commonwealth should mandate that professional pest control companies and lawn care services not be permitted: to use unprotected water supplies to dilute chemical tank mixes; to clean equipment at a customer's site; or, to leave chemical or chemical containers behind at a job site, whether the sit is a residence or commercial site.
The Commonwealth should continue to take measures to reduce the amount of nitrates and pesticides in areas where water supplies are vulnerable to leaching and run-off from lawn and garden chemicals. Currently, much of this work is being done through the Chesapeake Bay initiative, however, benefits need to be extended to other parts of the state. Education plays an important part in this effort. All Homeowners and applicators should be informed of making proper selection of pest controls in order to reduce the risk of contamination from improperly used pesticides and fertilizers. both groups should also be encouraged not to apply pesticides and fertilizers prior to or during periods of heavy rainfall or watering.
Most homeowners are not fully aware of the amount of nitrogen they apply to their lawns annually, do not read pesticide labels adequately, and are unaware, or do not have an opportunity to obtain further information and education on these subjects either from their local chemical supplier, through the Extension Service, or from other sources. Most obtain some information through newspaper articles.
The Commonwealth should fund four (4) integrated pest management Extension agent positions to be placed in four metropolitan areas (Northern Virginia, Richmond/Petersburg, tidewater, and Roanoke/Lynchburg) to educate the public and professional applicators in new pest controls and pesticide safety.
The Commonwealth should significantly increase funding for the Extension Service to develop environmental and chemical safety educational programs and materials for delivery to the public at the point-of-sale of home and garden chemicals, supplies, and plant materials. The Extension Service should work closely with the industry to develop and deliver this program.
The Commonwealth should significantly increase funding for the Extension Service to expand its existing program to provide the mass media with more information to promote the safe and proper use of pesticides and to encourage the use of alternative pest controls.
The Commonwealth should require that each retail agricultural, home, lawn and garden chemical outlet have sales personnel certified as pesticide applicators in a special retail dealer category. there should be at least one person certified and available to the customers during regular business hours. This would provide customers with a source of consistently reliable information about the products they are buying; something that is not often available at many outlets of home and garden chemicals.
Most professional pesticide and fertilizer applicators do not provide the customer enough information about the chemicals they will apply in and around a potential customer's home.
The Commonwealth should mandate that the professional applicator be required to: provide detailed information to the client about chemical safety, identity, and characteristics; see that the client removes or protects vulnerable materials, animals and persons from areas prior to treatment; notify the client when the treatment will take place and when it will be safe to enter treated areas; advise the client of any restrictions or limitations regarding watering procedures, clean-up, or re-use of treated areas; and provide a phone number and the name of a contact to call if they have any questions about the treatment. These requirements and an explanation of how they will be met should be provided in printed form to prospective clients prior to their commitment to any initial services and annually for continued services.
All pesticide applicators, professional and amateur, need more information and educational opportunities to reach a certain competency level in the necessary use of all pest controls and fertilizers in the residential environment.
The commonwealth should significantly increase funding for the Virginia Tech Extension Pesticide Applicator training Program to deliver programs to all applicators who seek training and information. the existing program is inadequately funded to support the needs of the public. Part of this funding should be used to expand the current efforts to deliver a statewide continuing education program for pesticide applicator training by satellite directly to business, community colleges, and other facilities to educate applicators on proper use and handling of pesticides and alternative pest controls. The satellite training program is the only one of its kind in the country and over the past several years has been received by over 25 states on eight occasions and has trained over 5,600 pesticide applicators. The expanded program should involve multiple contact hours and professional accreditation.
The Commonwealth should fund one (1) additional faculty position in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech to provide pesticide applicator training directed at clientele in the urban environment - both homeowner and professional pesticide applicator. This position should also include an adequate operating budget to allow for the development of educational materials and programs to support this effort.
The Commonwealth should provide funding to expand the current research being conducted at Virginia Tech to develop computer-based, prescription-form pest control recommendations. The current efforts involve the use of CD-ROM and expert system technology to manipulate large pesticide label databases in order to deliver accurate pest control recommendations to the public. The ultimate goal is to deliver pest control and fertilizer recommendations in a prescription form directly to the user or local Extension office by computer. This research is part of a USDA-Extension funded National Pesticide Information Communication Project (NPICP), a multi-year effort to enhance pesticide information delivery through use of advance communications technology. NPICP is part of the Virginia Tech Pesticide Information Program.
The Commonwealth should provide a tax incentive to businesses to build or renovate space for on-site classroom instruction, or who install satellite receiving equipment, videotape recorders, monitors, computers, and other audio-visual equipment for the sole purpose of use for employee continuing education. These facilities would allow for direct instruction to pest control technicians and supervisors to encourage best management practices and safety in handing pesticides and fertilizers.
The findings and recommendations of this Committee indicate a number of needs which cannot all be adequately served under the constraints of the current system. If the Commonwealth is to take action to change public behavior when dealing with pesticides and fertilizers and to adequately protect the public and the environment, then a number of steps need to be taken to address this issue. It isn't the purpose of this report to provide a shopping list of needs at Virginia Tech, however, the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is the primary source of pesticide and pest control expertise and research in Virginia; its programs in pesticide and pest management are recognized nationally. The overall opinion of the Committee is that the situation within Virginia is caused by misinformation and miscommunication of the issue by the public, pesticide applicators, government officials, and the news media. There are many areas where improvements can be made which could make a significant impact on the situation in order to improve the quality of life in Virginia. These changes have been the focal point of this report.