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Inspired by San Francisco, North Miami hopes to reduce pesticide use

North Miami wants to discontinue use of pesticides on city property.
North Miami wants to discontinue use of pesticides on city property. ldixon@miamiherald.com

Spraying pesticides on North Miami property will soon be a thing of the past.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a plan that calls for a gradual reduction of pesticide use on municipal property and a study of potential alternatives. Supporters believe it’s the first plan of its kind in South Florida.

North Miami’s resolution follows San Francisco’s 1996 integrated pest management plan. The plan does not call for an outright ban of pesticides and herbicides — and does not apply to private property — but city staff and residents hope to see a significant reduction in their use by next year.

“Rather than reinvent the wheel, we looked at other cities and what they had done,” City Attorney Jeff Cazeau said.

The city enacted a pesticide ban for employees and vendors in the District 3 area after residents voiced concerns to Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime. Laura Hill, president of the NoMi Neighbors homeowners association, said she and other neighbors asked about some of the pesticides the city used and were concerned that they could be harmful, particularly to children, if the practice continued.

City staff then decided to explore existing efforts to reduce pesticide use and found the San Francisco plan.

“I’ve been working on this for about a year or a year and a half,” Hill said. “I didn’t even think it was going to happen.”

Some residents said they worried about the additional costs and manpower the city might have to account for by using fewer pesticides to treat landscaping such as medians and parks. The 2017 budget includes about $700,000 for landscape and turf maintenance, a program that currently includes the use of pesticides.

“Who is going to go out there and remove the weeds, who is going to pick up the garbage? We don’t have the staff,” said Kenny Each.

But supporters said they think the change is worthwhile if it can potentially prevent harmful effects, including any impact on the city’s waterways and canals.

“I don’t believe we’re not looking to get rid of the weeds, I think we’re looking at a safer way to get rid of the weeds,” said Ron Platt.

Much of the discussion centered on the use of products, like Roundup weed killer, containing glyphosate. The chemical’s toxicity and potential carcinogenic effects have been the subject of debate in the scientific community.

Staff members in every department will be trained on pesticides and alternatives, and the city will hire a consultant to evaluate and execute the plan. Signage will also be placed in areas where the city is currently spraying pesticides and herbicides.

“I hope that all the departments read the guidelines and make sure that we’re in compliance with it,” Bien-Aime said.

Residents from neighboring Biscayne Park said they hope their village will consider a similar plan.

“I hope that the other cities will look to us as an example,” Councilwoman Carol Keys said. “This is a small step but I think it’s really, really important.”

If employees can’t find alternatives they will continue spraying but the plan calls for periodic updates to the City Council and they will decide on any notable changes to the city’s practices.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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