Great Outpouring Of Support For Pesticide Notification!

Linda A. DeStefano

Representatives from the Greater Syracuse Labor Council, the New York State United Teachers, the League of Women Voters, the Lung Association, the South East University Neighborhood Association, the Occupational Health Clinical Center, the CNY Labor-Religion Coalition and several other local organizations joined parents, grandparents, lovers of dogs and cats and survivors of personal tragedies caused by pesticide exposure to resoundingly tell Onondaga County legislators at the May 7 public hearing that they want opt-in to the state Pesticide Neighbor Notification law.

Proponents of the notification law far outnumbered the businesses who spoke against the law. Representatives from businesses which use lawn and garden pesticides trotted out their usual misleading statements about how the state law would be too much of a burden on them and that a voluntary registry should be substituted. The Farm Bureau warned us that those who favor the notification law want to bring us back to the days of the horse and buggy. Even though agriculture is not covered by the law, the Farm Bureau feels threatened by it.

Martha Loew, Chair of the Iroquois Group of the Sierra Club, provided legislators with a replica of a flag Lawn-A-Mat put on the lawn of many people in Onondaga County. The flag declared Lawn-A-Mat exempt from the notification law and solicited new customers. Martha pointed out the irony that the owner of Lawn-A-Mat has vociferously battles the notification law as too onerous (because he would have to provide written notice to abutting neighbors 48 hours before he applies pesticide spray or powder to a customer's lawn, shrubs or trees) but he managed to place all those unsolicited flags on people's property.

As for the voluntary registry gambit, one speaker pointed out that it would be like saying only those who have cancer should be on a registry to avoid cigarette smoke drift. Those who don't already have multiple chemical sensitivity from exposure to pesticides and other toxins may not realize the importance of being on a pesticide notification registry until they are exposed. By opting-in to the state law, Onondaga County would take the preventive approach of automatically providing pre-notice to all abutting neighbors within 150 feet of most pesticide applications.

In spite of this outpouring of support for opt-in, the necessary votes to pass were not there and Legislator Vicki Baker, sponsor of the opt-in resolution, decided to pull the resolution so she can bring it up at a later time. Meantime, if you want the right-to-know to protect yourself from pesticide drift and you live in Onondaga County, contact your county legislator and County Executive Nicholas Pirro to say "Vote now to opt-in; don't continue to cop-out!"

Contact information for Mr. Pirro is 14th floor, Civic Center, 421 Montgomery Street, Syracuse 13202, 435-3516 (phone), 435-8582 (FAX). If you don't know who your county legislator is, ask the Board of Elections, 435-3312.

Linda is Chair, Conservation Committee, Sierra Club. For further information about what the state law would provide if adopted in Onondaga County, contact her at 488-2140 between 9am and 10:45pm.

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