Evanston a ‘frontrunner’ in municipal pesticide reduction policy

Katie Park

Though Evanston has already been limiting its chemical pest control practices for years, officials say the city’s new pesticide restriction policy sets an important precedent.

With the Evanston City Council’s passage of the Sustainable Pest Control and Pesticide Reduction Policy on April 26, Evanston became the first Illinois municipality to have a city-wide policy reducing pesticide use on public property, the city announced Monday. The policy initially bans the use of certain pesticides on public property, and in two years it will ban the use of all pesticides on public land.

“Most pesticides are not specific to one organism and will cause effects on several organisms,” said Carl Caneva, division manager of Evanston’s health department. “We want to limit the amount of chemicals out there.”

The ban can be waived if certain pest outbreaks, such as West Nile Virus, pose an immediate threat, Caneva said.

Steve Pincuspy, senior program associate at Safer Pest Control Project, an organization that worked with the city to develop the policy, said research has linked pesticide use with long-term health problems such as asthma and cancer.

“Folks tend to assume that they’re safe to use whatever way they want to use them,” he said. “Now, the city and Environment Board are going to try to promote the idea that they can be harmful.”

While Caneva also said pesticides can be a health concern, he said the city has had no reports of residents getting sick due to pesticides.

The new policy is part of the city’s practice of Integrated Pest Management, an alternative pest control approach that aims to eliminate the causes of pest problems in the least harmful way.

“We would look at the situation holistically and try to alleviate what is attracting (pests) to a particular site and eliminate that,” said Carolyn Collopy, Evanston’s sustainable programs coordinator. “There’s a reason why pests are coming into a building, so you want to find out why.”

While the policy does not officially take effect for five more months, the city already follows many of its guidelines, Caneva said.

Pincuspy called Evanston a “frontrunner” in sustainable pest control.

“A lot of other places have adopted policies internally, but this creates another level of accountability,” he said.

Susan Besson, co-chair of the city’s Environment Board, which drafted the policy with help from SPCP, said the board thought codifying the policy would be an easy way to set an example for Evanston residents.

“It certainly clarifies it, and it makes it clear to any contractors who work with the city on city-leased property,” Besson said. “As time goes on and if there’s any turnover in city personnel, this makes it a permanent and irrefutable policy.”

The Environment Board is working with SPCP to reach out to the Evanston community and educate residents about safe pest control practices, Besson said. The city held a natural lawn care workshop and plans to provide information on pest control at the city’s Garden Fair on Friday and Saturday, she said.

The city will also host a natural lawn care demonstration site at Stockham Park this summer as part of its outreach efforts. Pincuspy said he hopes the demonstration site teaches residents that lawns can look good while minimizing harmful treatments.

“By the end of the summer, we’re hoping to help it turn into a really lush site of grass,” he said. “All the residents can enjoy it, take off their shoes and socks and know there haven’t been any toxic chemicals used.”

[email protected]