City may reconsider spraying Roundup
Use has declined in recent years
Many Sonomans who frequent the bike path reacted strongly last month to the vast swath of dead grass stretching about a quarter mile, starting at Second Street West, the result of the city’s yearly application of Roundup. The winter spraying called into question the city’s continued use of the herbicide, a matter the City Council last addressed in 2001.
In 2001, a special Integrated Pest Management Committee vetted the usage of Roundup (in addition to other herbicides and pesticides), and recommended its limited and conditional use. The City Council then unanimously approved the recommendations, and Public Works has followed the enacted guidelines ever since.
Roundup is not allowed to be used on the Plaza, which is maintained by Scandia Landscaping through a contract. According that 2001 report by Integrated Pest Management Committee, “Roundup is approved for limited use in other City Parks, other landscape and easement areas, and along the bike paths under the following conditions; an appropriate number of signs shall be posted; Roundup will be used for targeted treatment of areas inaccessible to large mowing decks, along fence lines, adjacent to bike paths, cracks in hardscapes, utility access easements, for fire prevention, and areas too dangerous for hand methods; City staff will continue to use mulch and other methods of weed control where practical and economically feasible.”
At the time, the City Council instructed city staff work “toward further reduction by exploring various alternative methods.” For a time, the city had employed an “Adopt-a-Highway”-type program, whereby local businesses volunteered to maintain segments of the bike path, but this program seems to have petered out over the years without dedicated management.
The limit set forth in 2001 for the amount of Roundup was 18 gallons, the amount used the previous year, and set as the maximum amount allowed in any one year.
Monsanto, maker of Roundup, has changed the formula considerably since then, and introduced more concentrated products in the Roundup line, such as Roundup ProMax, the product used by the city. Its active ingredient is glyphosate (N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine).
To treat dormant turf grass – as in the case of the winter application of Roundup along the bike path – Monsanto recommends 5 to 44 ounces of ProMax per acre. Monsanto further states in a brochure, “With its more concentrated formula, one gallon of Roundup Promax contains the glyphosate acid equivalent of 6 quarts of Roundup Pro.”
The Roundup product approved in 2001 was Roundup with a glyphosate 41 percent content. Roundup ProMax is listed at 48.7 percent glyphosate.
Parks Supervisor Terry Melberg said the city sprayed a total of 6.82 gallons of Roundup in 2011, just 1.25 gallons in 2012, and just a little more than half a gallon to date this year.
Given the recent attention brought by the dramatic yellow-brown stripe along the bike path this year, Mayor Ken Brown had hoped the Community Services and Environment Commission would address the issue at its meeting this week, but the matter was not brought up at the commision session Wednesday night. Brown said he planned to meet with the city manager to get an update on usage and plans for weed control in the future. “I’m willing to bring it up at the City Council meeting on Monday,” Brown said.