AMERICAN CANYON — American Canyon is heading toward its last Roundup.
The City Council unanimously voted last week to prohibit glyphosate – the weed-killing ingredient in Roundup—on city-owned land as part of a new integrated pest management policy. That comes in the wake of claims that the Monsanto product could cause cancer.
Residents and business owners can still use Roundup on their properties. But city parks and landscape areas will be Roundup-free.
While no city official defended Roundup, neither did they dispute that Roundup does its intended job of killing weeds, down to the roots. That raised a question.
“Chemical use is more efficient and effective,” City Councilmember Mark Joseph said. “If we go away from that, are we going to experience a lower standard of service?”
In other words, more weeds in city parks?
That’s the challenge, Parks and Recreation Director Creighton Wright said. The city is going to have to be more creative in its efforts to keep weeds at bay.
American Canyon will step up its integrated pest management approach, trying to keep weeds from growing by using more mulch and “pre-emergent” herbicides, which retard the sprouting of weed seeds. It will mow and pull weeds, though this is labor-intensive. It will experiment with organic herbicides.
“All of these have drawbacks,” Wright said. “There is no silver bullet. Once a weed has emerged, there is no perfect solution.”
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American Canyon will take a “triple bottom line” approach to weed control. Under this analysis, Roundup has low-to-moderate financial costs, but moderate-to-high environmental impacts and high social impacts.
“I think that needs to be part of the message as we roll it out, that our focus is now on the environmental and the human impact,” Joseph said. “So you may see some changes in service level and that may be at least an initial consequence of this shift.”
City landscape contractor Coast Landscaping estimates maintaining the same level of service without use of Roundup will translate to a 15 percent cost increase, or $40,000 annually, a city report said.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer in a 2015 report concluded glyphosate is probably a carcinogen. Monsanto has lost several recent cancer-claim cases in court. A California jury in May awarded a Livermore couple $2 billion in a Roundup cancer case.
Still, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has not labeled glyphosate as a carcinogen or banned its use. Critics charge the agency is influenced by the chemical industry.
“It’s a very, very touchy subject right now,” Jim Walsh, who works for a landscape maintenance company, told the City Council during public comments.
Resident Chris James wanted to the city to go further. He said use of another, non-glyphosate herbicides could cause human health problems and hurt birds as it runs off into local wetlands.
“We should have a stronger policy of not using chemicals if we can,” he said.
American Canyon’s integrated pest management policy also includes posting signs to notify the public at least 24 hours in advance of pesticide applications on public spaces. Several council members asked that the city put out notices on social media.
“We can try all avenues and see what works,” Mayor Leon Garcia said.