Landscapers Used Banned Pesticide on New Marin County Bike Path

AlamedaDelPradoLanes.jpgPhoto: MCBC

Marin County’s ribbon cutting and celebratory ride Monday in the Alameda del Prado bike lanes – a
long-missing link in the county’s North-South bikeway – was followed by the revelation that landscapers used a weedkiller banned under the county’s
strict pesticide law.

The $950,000 project closed a mile-long gap between Ignacio Boulevard and the
Pacheco Pathway along Highway 101. About $850,000 of the funding came from a
federal Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program grant to the county.

"This is a project that’s been needed by cyclists in the area for over 20
years," said Kim Baenisch, executive director of the Marin County Bike Coalition.

After the CalPark Tunnel renovation and Lincoln Hill pathway are completed this fall, cyclists in Marin will have an uninterrupted 10-mile bike path
through some of the most congested areas of the county.

The project, which had been in the planning stage for over five years, was
complex and expensive because it entailed narrowing of the median strip,
undergrounding utility lines and paving bike lanes in each direction.

It was while replanting the median strip in June that a contractor, Baumann
Landscaping, applied about 100 pounds of Ronstar G, a weedkiller that is banned
from use on Marin County projects, according to a report Tuesday in the Marin
Independent-Journal. The newspaper’s plant sits at one end of the new bike path.

Ronstar G is widely used legally throughout California on both public and
private lands, and is sold through home garden centers. However, in 1998, Marin
County barred the use of pesticides on county projects that contain chemicals
recognized by the federal EPA as a human carcinogen or possible human
carcinogen. Ronstar G fall into that category.

Baenisch said her organization wouldn’t take a position on the use of the
pesticide, though she noted "it’s unfortunate they used this particular chemical
on a bicycling facility."

Ed Hulme, the county’s Director of Parks and Open Space who oversees
enforcement of the county Integrated Pest Management plan, said he believed the
potential exposure to cyclists was "pretty minimal" because the use of the
chemical was limited to the median strip, watered down and covered with
mulch.

Hulme said the regulations are usually included when contracts are awarded.
The problem in this case may have stemmed from the fact the project had been in
planning long before the area around the bike path was added to the county’s
ordinance in June 2009. "This project has been in the planning stages for
years," he noted.

Baumann said nobody was available to comment.

Paul Apffel, a politically active attorney and environmentalist, said he’s "a
little bit dubious" of the claim the pesticide was used only in the median, but
said it would require further checking to find out for sure.

Apffel made headlines in Marin last year when he reported the county had
violated its own pesticide ordinance 269 times between 1999 and 2008.

He said his earlier research showed the county had sometimes
used pesticides along bike paths. In some cases, when the county said a
pesticide had been used in a median strip, records showed it had also been
applied along the shoulder of the road, Apffel said.

Hulme said he had seen nothing to suggest that had happened along the Alameda
del Prado path.

  • Sprague

    This past Spring I noticed premature browning along Highway 101 in southern and central Marin. The ounty’s pesticide ban probably does not apply to Caltrans, but it does seems unnecessary for Caltrans to apply poisons on roadside grasses and weeds. Allowing the California climate to run its course, along with mowing if needed, is a less harmful way to deal with unwanted roadside plant growth.

  • Carr

    Why must they respor to using this known/possible carcinogen and similar unnecessary chemicals? How obtuse are these people? Were they not even briefed on the ordinance? Although it seems that you’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the hullaballoo in Marin surrounding the county’s egregious flouting of the law. Who awarded these numbskulls the contract anyway. And Hulme seems way too laidback about pesticide usage to be patrolling pesticides usage in Marin. Why isn’t Apffel overseeing the usage-at least then we’d have someone who actually believes in theordinance enforcing it-rather than someone who appears to be only going through the motions.

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