City continues spraying Roundup
THE SONOMA CITY COUNCIL last addressed the continued use of Roundup on the bike path in 2001.
Frequent users of the Sonoma bike path have noticed a glaring stretch of yellow and brown grass alongside the north side of the path, going east from Second Street West.
The dramatically burnt stretch of weeds and grass is about 3-to-4-feet wide and goes on for approximately a quarter mile before ending at a section maintained by Scandia Landscaping (which has a contract with the city to landscape the Plaza, but maintains its section of the bike path on a volunteer basis).
Scandia does not use any chemicals in any of its weed and pest control efforts, said its owner, Conny Gustafsson. The section in question is maintained by the city, though.
Interim Public Works Director Wayne Wirick confirmed that the city did apply Roundup ProMax to the area at the end of January, during which time it posted notices making people aware of the application.
The signs were posted only during the day of the application so people could stay away if they so chose (the chemical can be irritating to skin and harmful to pets if ingested when freshly applied, but is not harmful after a short period of time – as little as an hour, according to Wirick).
The herbicide, containing glyphosate (N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine) and developed by Monsanto, has been embraced by farmers, is the most used herbicide in the United States and is the only one used by the city. Glyphosate inhibits an enzyme vital to plants’ survival. It needs physiologically active leaves to work, and so kills existing vegetation quickly, but does not inhibit future growth.
Wirick said the city sprays the chemical herbicide on a yearly basis as needed. If left unattended, the vegetation in some areas would become a fire hazard, he said. The City Council determined Roundup to be the most cost-effective method of maintaining public space.
“The city’s selective and limited use of the product on the bike paths and in city parks was fully vetted in 2001 by a special Integrated Pest Management Committee created by the City Council,” said Wirick. “Public Works staff continues to follow the pesticide and herbicide use limitations set forth in the list adopted by the City Council in 2001.”
In that 2001 report, Tom Lanier, weed ecologist at University of California at Davis told the City Council’s Integrated Pest Management Committee,“Roundup is far less toxic to humans than some other products,” and recommended its use as a viable and more cost-efficient alterative to hand-pulling.
The council unanimously agreed to continue using Roundup, but limited its use to application along the bike path and some city parks (it is not used in the Plaza), and the matter has not come up for consideration since.
The limited use approved by the council allowed a maximum application of 18 gallons of Roundup in any one year, and further included the directive that city staff work “toward further reduction by exploring various alternative methods.”
Warick said the yearly one-time application of Roundup is far less costly to the city than the alternative, which would be hand-pulling or weed-whacking vegetation, he says.
He estimated those alternatives would need to be done several times throughout the year and cost four to five times as much. A 1.67-gallon jug of Roundup Promax costs around$100, though exactly how the cost analysis would break out is unclear.