Pesticide incentives set 

The Department of the Environment wants less overhead when it comes to other city departments using pesticides, so it’s taking steps to make using light chemicals easier.

When a ban on pesticide use was passed in the 1990s, any city department planning to use harmful chemicals for weed or insect abatement on city property — including parks, medians and sidewalks — was required to post a sign three days prior to any spraying and keep the sign posted four days after the chemical was used.

That requirement could become more lax if departments choose lighter, less-toxic chemicals such as soaps or oils. Instead of posting warning signs three days prior, a sign would only need to be placed the day of spraying. Legislation allowing the change was introduced to the Board of Supervisors this month.

“Logistically, it saves time,” said Chris Geiger, municipal toxins reduction coordinator for the Department of the Environment. “It seems really minor, but if you have a landscape manager going all over The City putting up signs, it’s easier to use the less harmful chemical.”

Geiger said San Francisco officials have long supported minimal use of harmful pesticides. Departments are required to first make an area inhospitable to pests. If that does not work, departments must use nonchemical control such as weed removal or goats. A last resort to remove pests or invasive plants is chemicals.

Exemptions for pesticides are in place because The City must be realistic that use can be banned, Geiger said.

He said use of pesticides for invasive plants on Twin Peaks was safer for the soil because pulling the weeds would damage the ground and native plant life.

Department of Public Works spokeswoman Christine Falvey said the proposed legislation does not affect operations.

“DPW uses the least-toxic alternatives and minimizes the need for any herbicide by planting in such a way to minimize weeds,” Falvey said. “We use herbicides that are on the Department of Environment’s approved list.”

However, Marion Moses, director of the nonprofit Pesticide Education Center, said she hopes the exemptions don’t make it easier for city departments to use harmful pesticides.

“Of course I’m in favor of restrictions on pesticides,” Moses said. “I just hope the exemptions are realistic and there’s not going to be a loophole.”

Rating chemicals

Products screened by the Integrated Pest Management program:

High hazard

  • Bioweed
  • Dipel 2x worm killer
  • Orange Guard

Medium hazard

  • Round Up
  • Oust
  • Wasp Freeze

Low hazard

  • Aqua-Reslin
  • Gourmet Liquid Ant Bait
  • Roach X
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