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on Thu, 01/18/2024 - 8:44pm

Evidence of Roundup use in St. Louis's Tower Grove Park

Members of the St. Louis No Spray Coalition met yesterday (Jan. 17th) with City Alderwomen and Parks Department officials to discuss the proposed Healthy Outdoor Parks and Public Spaces (HOPPS) ordinance for the first time. The bill would prohibit the use of toxic pesticides on St. Louis Parks and public properties, and mandate the use of safe land management methods.

“Through a Missouri Sunshine Law request, the St. Louis No Spray Coalition discovered that the city of St. Louis is using a lot of pesticides, which includes herbicides, in our parks and public spaces. We found out that Roundup and other pesticides, such Treflan, Aqua-Reslin, Resolute and others are being used regularly and abundantly. We are concerned about the ill effects of these pesticides on our citizens, children, workers and environment...This bill will take the city in a new direction by eliminating the use of harmful pesticides and putting organic land management in their place.” Erin O'Reilly, a member of the Coalition and a public health nurse said in an opening statement.

Rika Gopinath, Beyond Pesticides Community Action and Policy manager, spoke and outlined their nonprofit’s Parks for a Sustainable Future grant program. Open to municipalities and school districts, the program works with a municipality to identify two pilot sites with natural grass turfs (playing fields/parks) to transition to organically managed land care. “This is a science-based program that, after soil testing and consultation with staff, creates a two-year action plan to transition each site to organically managed natural grass turf and park management. Beyond Pesticides, thanks to generous funders, is able to underwrite the cost of technical training for staff and to give them technical expertise on organic land management.”

In attendance at the virtual meeting were Alderwoman Anne Schweitzer, Ward 1, and Alderwoman Daniela Velazquez, Ward 6.

Speaking for the St. Louis Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Forestry [which would all be affected by the HOPPS ordinance], Greg Hayes said, “The city [and the Parks Dept.] has very limited staff so we do use these products responsibly with licensed pesticide applicators who use them sparingly and judiciously to the best of our ability.  We would prefer to not use pesticides and herbicides to get the job done but we have 3000 park acres to manage.”  Hayes,the Director of the Parks Dept., mentioned the 9000-10,000 LRA properties and the city's airport that would also be affected by HOPPS.

Members of the Coalition pointed to info obtained through their Sunshine Law request, which shows the city uses a large quantity of a variety of pesticides that are known to be carcinogens, debunking the Parks' official claims of using the pesticides “sparingly and judiciously.” [If you would like a copy of our Sunshine Law findings, please contact us.]

Bill Reininger, Executive Director of Tower Grove Park, said, “We're looking at environmental management... We have made a lot of advances in our cultural practices to mitigate environmental impact of out parks...We don't want the expense or the time of spraying chemicals but sometimes they have to be used. We do it as minimally and judiciously as we can.”

Members of the Coalition acknowledged the good environmental practices used in city parks, but pointed out that use of toxic pesticide is dangerous to citizens, park workers and the environment. Don Fitz, another member of the Coalition mentioned Earl Neal, who worked for the City's Forestry Dept. from the 90's to the early 2000s, won a court settlement from Bayer (who now owns the Roundup herbicide) for contracting chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) due to his spraying of Roundup on LRA properties while he worked for the city. “There are 160,000 similar lawsuits against Bayer and the corporation is in the process of paying out over $11 billion in damages. Once all these lawsuits are settled, Bayer will no longer be liable. The liability will pass to employers and city agencies that continue to spray Roundup. This could become very expensive for St. Louis, especially if they continue to use this carcinogenic herbicide.”

Hayes acknowledged the city parks are sprayed with Roundup but that is applied by licensed applicators who use proper PPE and that the herbicide was certified as safe for humans by the EPA.

Daniel Romano, a member of the Coalition, responded that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in June 2022, ruled on a lawsuit challenging the certification of Roundup, wrote that the EPA “ignored important studies in human health and safety assessments” and the certification was “flawed in many ways,” adding there was “inconsistent reasoning for the registration of Roundup.” Romano stated that there is much and increasing scientific evidence of the link of Roundup use to CLL, non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) and other diseases. He added that the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the state of California had labeled Roundup as a probable carcinogen.

Reininger also said, “This ordinance has a lot of unintended consequences as far as management, plants that can be planted, administrative costs, there's a lot of things that handcuffs us and makes our job a whole lot harder.” Hayes characterized the latter half of the bill, which mandates posting warning signs, applying for special permits and improved record keeping when toxic herbicides are used as “cumbersome.”

Coalition members pointed out that the 140+ cities in the USA that have similar ordinances had the same challenges but most have made it work. For a list of those cities, go to:

Gopinath said, “Beyond Pesticides' Sustainable Parks Pilot program is here to collaborate with St. Louis managers, like we have in other communities.”

City officials expressed support (including Hayes and Reininger) for the concept of reducing the use of pesticides on city land, despite having reservations about the HOPPS bill. Alan Jankowski, Commissioner of Forestry for St. Louis, said he would “would love to see alternatives.” Kimberly Haegele, Parks Commissioner for the city, stated that she would like a recommendation as to which parks would be good places to host Beyond Pesticide's Sustainable Parks Pilot Project.

Barbara Chicherio, speaking for the Coalition, said, “We realize this is a complex issue that may require time to implement and we are willing to compromise and amend the HOPPS bill where necessary to make it work.” All parties agreed to continue the dialogue and meet again, but an exact date and place was not set. The HOPPS bill has been endorsed by the Sierra Club of Eastern Missouri, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, the Green Party of St. Louis and Beyond Pesticides.

For more information, contact:

Daniel “digger” Romano (Landline: 314-771-8576)

Barbara Chicherio (Landline: 314-727-8554)

St. Louis No Spray Coalition email: