Students protest pesticide use at UD
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
More than 1,000 students have signed a “Green the Green” petition to encourage the university to stop using pesticides on campus, according to junior environmental science major Megan Mauger.
Mauger, who helped create the petition, said she hopes the university places warning signs in areas on The Green where herbicides are used and ultimately switches to organic lawn care procedures free of toxic materials. The petition is posted on Change.org.
She said she wants to protect students from the chemicals because of their possible carcinogenic nature, which can also affect plants and animals in surrounding areas. The chemicals are also known to cause respiratory problems and skin irritations, she said.
“It’s a human health issue,” Mauger said. “But then also from an environmental standpoint, the pesticides runoff into our watersheds and cause harm to the wildlife and possible environmental issues.”
Grounds Services workers use Basagram T/O and PowerZone herbicides to treat weeds, university spokesman John Brennan said in a statement last month. They also use an organic fertilizer called Milorganite on The Green, he said. Brennan said both are safe when applied are directed, and groundskeepers are trained in how to use them.
“These chemicals are both registered for use with the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and are widely used in this type of setting,” Brennan said.
He said there is no policy requiring workers to post signs when they spray an area with herbicides.
Officials from Grounds Services could not be reached for comment about the petition.
Sophomore environmental studies major Maddi Valinski, a member of the group that created the petition, said she signed it in order to alert people about the harmful side effects of lawn care chemicals.
“I think it’s really important to be aware of the pesticides that are being spread around us, so that we can really make good choices and know more information about everything that’s going on around us,” Valinski said.
She said the group is doing well in their efforts and trying to learn more about different methods of lawn care.
“I think we’re doing a really great job, we’re trying not to offend anyone,” Valinski said. “We really are hoping right now for information and then looking into alternatives for thew future.”
Mauger said she found a group of students from her classes and other environmental organizations who shared her concern about the issue to help her draft the document.
Some of the students are enrolled in English professor McKay Jenkins’ Environmental Journalism class. Jenkins wrote a book titled “What’s Gotten into Us?,” which Mauger said taught them about lawn chemicals and pesticides and inspired her to create the petition.
“[Jenkins] has a whole section on pesticides in the book,” she said. “And so, we’re learning day after day about how awful these chemicals are that we’re spraying on The Green, and we’re not doing anything about it.”
On Monday, Jenkins spoke about the “Green the Green” petition on WHYY radio.
The petition also received national attention when Paul Tukey, 51, of Kingstown, R.I. and former publisher of “People, Places and Plants” magazine began blogging about it on his “Safe Lawns” website, according to Mauger.