More visible signs will be posted in each Colorado Springs park, open space and median after crews spray chemicals that could harm people and their pets, city officials say.
City Council President Richard Skorman said he and Councilwoman Yolanda Avila spoke with parks officials on the topic last week, particularly about their concerns regarding glyphosate-based weed-killing chemicals, which are known to be harmful to people and animals.
“I think we need to err on the side of caution, especially since we have such heavier parks users than so many other cities across the country,” Skorman said. “Even if it means spending a bit more money.”
Glyphosates are used to produce the popular herbicide Roundup, which is produced by Monsanto, a subsidiary of the German conglomerate Bayer AG.
This month, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a man who alleged the company’s glyphosate-based chemicals caused his cancer, Reuters reported.
Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services typically hires contractors to spray the city’s green spaces, said Kurt Schroeder, parks maintenance and operations manager. Those contractors spray herbicides, whereas cities in other regions cities might also spray pesticides. Too often, contractors have not placed enough signs around recently sprayed areas, so parks staff will follow up more diligently with those crews, he said.
“We want to make sure that the flags are put out in a fashion that any reasonable person is going to see it and realize that there are spraying operations going on,” he said.
Nicole Rosa, a Colorado Springs resident and environmental activist, might be the city’s most prominent opponent of use of hazardous chemicals. Her opposition long precedes the Monsanto settlement.
“A few years ago, I brought to their attention another pesticide called 2,4-D, which is an ingredient in Agent Orange,” Rosa said. “They were spraying that in our parks, and the signage was pretty pathetic.”
The U.S. military used Agent Orange, a herbicide and defoliant, during the Vietnam War. Monsanto also produced that chemical, which caused cancer and other severe health problems for the millions of soldiers and civilians exposed to it.
Schroeder said contractors hired by the city do not use any restricted chemicals; everything they use can be bought at a typical hardware store. The chemical 2,4-D is still in use, he said. “That’s your typical chemical that kills dandelions and other broad-leaf weeds.”
Increased signage in recently sprayed green spaces will give residents the option to avoid the chemicals, Rosa said. But her goal is to eliminate use of hazardous chemicals in favor of organic weed- and pest-control methods. A mixture of orange oil, dish soap and vinegar can be as effective as chemical solutions, she said.
“There are a lot of alternative methods that work,” she said. “They’re a lot cheaper, too.”
Aside from the health and safety risks, Rosa said, the chemicals could open the city to liability as seen in the recent Roundup settlement. Skorman said city staff also is developing an online tool to map recently sprayed parks for residents.
That’s something residents would use, Rosa said. “So people can look at that and say, ‘Oh, this week my park is going to get sprayed, and I can avoid that area entirely.’ ”
Skorman said he and Avila will follow up with parks staff to see whether more steps should be taken to safeguard residents.