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[whitespace] Saratoga is one of few cities to ban pesticides

Saratoga--It looks as if Saratoga may be ahead of other Santa Clara County cities on the environmentally consciousness scale, at least pertaining to pesticide use.

On Jan. 17, the city implemented an Integrated Pest Management Policy (IPM) to eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides on city-owned property. Other neighboring cities, such as Los Gatos and Sunnyvale, have IPMs, as well.

But Saratoga's policy includes a formal ban on high toxicity, as well as moderate toxicity, pesticides. It may be the only city in the county to have such a ban, according to officials in Saratoga, Los Gatos and Sunnyvale.

Saratoga's policy bans the use of level-one (high) and level-two (moderate) toxicity pesticides in and around city-owned facilities, including parks, open spaces and medians.

There are three tiers for toxicity and while all levels are legal, the reason for the ban is because level-three pesticides are less toxic to the environment and to human health than levels one and two, according to the city's public works director, John Cherbone.

The policy, which only applies to city-owned property, also encourages using chemical pesticides as a last resort.

Before it had a formal policy, the city did use some category-two pesticides, but it did not use any category-one pesticides on the weeds, gophers, insects, fungi and other pests that inhabit city property.

Now, according to Cherbone, the city will have to find some category-three pesticides that do the same things as the twos did.

"Twos probably do a better job, do the job faster," Cherbone said about why the city used level-two pesticides in the first place.

In both Los Gatos and Sunnyvale, city officials have chosen not to use level-one pesticides on city-owned property, but neither city has a formal policy banning specific levels.

Saratoga's policy also provides that the city post signs, with the name and active ingredient in the pesticide product, the date and the type of pest, before and after using pesticides on city property that the public uses for recreational purposes. But the city can apply pesticides without putting up signs in the event of a public health emergency.

"We're going to provide signage prior to and after the use of pesticides, no matter what they are," Cherbone said, adding that permanent signs are a possibility as well, in areas where pesticides are used somewhat regularly.

Cherbone, who wrote the city's policy, based it on San Francisco's--the only city he said he knew of that had a policy, at all.

According to City Councilwoman Ann Waltonsmith, resident Cheriel Jensen asked the city council to review the city's policy on pesticides, this past fall.

"That pushed me to say yes," Waltonsmith said. "I think we have a lot of people who have an immune reaction or are very sensitive to pesticides."

But Waltonsmith added that the policy is not only for those residents who know they are sensitive to pesticides, but it is also for those who may be allergic to something, but they don't know what.

"The rest of us are slowly absorbing these poisons, too, and our children are and the elderly are," she said. "We have to use pesticides to manage the pests in our lives, but continually look at whether there are better pesticides. Let's review it, use the minimal amount and use procedures that makes it as safe as possible. It's the best we can do right now and I know it'll be an ongoing process."

According to Matt Novakovich, who is the orchardist for the city-owned Heritage Orchard, the policy will not affect the orchard, which is a city park, since the types of pesticides used in the orchard are mainly fungicides and repellents, or pepper sprays to keep the deer away from the trees. Novakovich said he didn't use the level-two pesticides that are now banned.

"I don't see any problem," he said, about complying with the policy.
Kara Chalmers

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