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Town committee calls for pesticide ban: Asks others to appeal to Town Board

The Water Quality Improvement Advisory Board (WQI) plans to reach out to other Island committees to join in an appeal to the Town Board to ban pesticides.

Members of other committees — the Water Advisory Committee, the Conservation Advisory Council, the Waterways Management Advisory Council and the Green Options Committee — have all expressed concerns about the effect of fertilizers and pesticides they consider dangerous to the environment and to people.

The issue was discussed at the May 6 WQI meeting. Co-chairman James Eklund pointed to the “fragile nature of potable water” and the condition of surrounding waters as factors in recommending action.

People are banned from dumping dangerous chemicals into the water, but runoff from fertilizers results in doing exactly that, Mr. Eklund said. Toxic sprays that blow onto neighbors’ properties and are dangerous to dogs and people are also a problem, he said.

The town’s building permit examiner, Lori Beard Raymond, speaking as a resident, not in her public role, said her property is located at a lower level than other neighbors, and two years ago, she lost a 30-year old red maple tree that appears to have been the victim of toxic runoff. She sent samples of the tree and bark to Cornell Cooperative Extension and staffers there were unable to find any reason for the loss of the tree and could only speculate that it was the result of runoff.

“It was very sad,” Ms. Beard Raymond said.

WQI members agreed more information needs to be gathered on which products are toxic and which can be safely used.

Member Tim Purtell, chairman of the town’s Green Options Committee and President of the Board of the Shelter Island Friends of Trees, said people need more education about using products that are safe.

Mr. Eklund said the Town Board might set up a committee to do necessary investigations on how to deal with the problem.

Member Julia Weisenberg said education of children and adults is important, explaining that children might carry the message about lawn treatment to their parents.

The WQI’s Greg Toner pointed out that the Water Advisory Committee’s Ground and Surface Water Management Plan also contains a section dealing with the need to take action on banning toxic pesticide and fertilizer uses.

Mr. Purtell promised to contact Cornell Cooperative Extension officials to get more information for a letter the WQI is expected to send to the Town Board. The WQI also wants the Peconic Land Trust, the Peconic Estuary Partnership and The Nature Conservancy to encourage similar action by the Town Board since all have taken an activist role in protecting ground and surface water.