Beyond Pesticides On Heatherlea Lawn-Care Bids

From: Drew Toher, Public Education Associate, Beyond Pesticides
Sent: Thursday, January 09, 2014 11:53 AM
Subject: Pesticide Use At Heatherlea

Happy New Year! I hope we can work together to make this year a little safer for those living in and near Heatherlea.

I have taken a look at the [landscaping] bids the HOA received. It is unfortunate that it seems the least expensive option was chosen without regard to human health and environmental concerns. I don’t anticipate the HOA is willing to consider other bids? If we work with what we have here, looking at the bid from Valley Crest, I see that they do have several ‘options’ that ultimately would decrease the need for the company to spray herbicides. If turf aeration, overseeding, and pH adjustments are performed the turf should, within a few years, become healthy enough to withstand weed intrusions. This would lower the burden of herbicide applications. As the document notes “Valley Crest provides control for these weeds as a curative program at an additional cost on an as needed basis…” So there is a strong case for those additional options as they will prevent additional costs in terms of herbicide usage (and subsequent unavoidable human and environmental externalities). Do you have the bid from Shenandoah or any paperwork on their charges? It would be interesting, if that company also charged extra for herbicide applications, to look at the amount the HOA spent on herbicide use alone.

The company also has the option of using organic pre-emergent herbicides – corn gluten – and fertilizers, which we recommend.

Performing IPM only around your home is truly an empty gesture. It will not stop drift, and the entire point of IPM is to use an Integrated approach which must be implemented throughout the entire turfgrass area in order to be truly effective. IPM should be practiced throughout the entire HOA; there is never a reason to broadcast spray herbicides for cosmetic purposes. Healtherlea could do a great deal to promote itself as “green” “sustainable” and “environmentally friendly” by changing its practices.

Have you considering [sic] going door-to-door and asking residents if they would accept a slight increase in their dues to fund organic turfcare?

I appreciate all the materials you have provided and your tenacity fighting pesticide use in your HOA. Please let me know if you have any ideas on how we can help. I like the idea of a press release, and have you heard anything back from the county?

Thank you again,

-Drew T.


2 thoughts on “Beyond Pesticides On Heatherlea Lawn-Care Bids

  1. From: Drew Toher
    Sent: Friday, January 24, 2014 11:25 AM

    Glad to hear your continuing to advocate for a safer community. We’ve found that if you do good work long enough, eventually good things will happen…

    I did notice that it looks as though the HOA was paying, according to the contract, 43k/year while the Valley Crest proposal comes out to 31.6k/year (excluding optional items). Is the HOA taking advantage of these optional items? It seems as though they can afford the organic maintenance options given the amount of money they are saving? Again, these practices should help prevent a good amount of pesticide maintenance…

  2. From: Drew Toher []
    Sent: Friday, January 24, 2014 11:50 AM
    Subject: Landscape Contract Pest Survey

    It seems as though this Valley Crest company might be sympathetic to your concerns about chemical use as they at least note that they focus on IPM. I am confused how they both apply on a fixed schedule and only when a pest problem is verified. Pesticides, of course, should never need to be sprayed on a fixed schedule, especially for cosmetic weed control! The company should also maintain a sign posted at least 48 hours before and after pesticide applications, though only the 48 hour prior notification is in fact required by Virginia law.

    You might want to make note of that for the “Covenant” pest control company. They indicate that they only notify 24 hrs before, but as VA law states in the Condominium Act (§ 55-79.80:01 of the Code of Virginia) “Unit owners’ associations shall post notice of all pesticide applications in or upon the common elements. Such notice shall consist of conspicuous signs placed in or upon the common elements where the pesticide will be applied at least forty-eight hours prior to the application. ”
    It is a reportable violation if they are not doing so.

    There are a number of least-toxic, organic approved herbicides on the market that have good efficacy. The organic materials review institute (OMRI) has a list of herbicides that are approved for organic production.

    Many of these products are sold by a local company Seven Springs Farm. These are formulated with vinegar and other essential oils.

    We generally don’t recommend the replacement of one herbicide with another, and focus on a systems approach, but in this case it is worth a shot to encourage the use of these less toxic products. Maybe you could call the company directly and speak with them? In the meantime, I think your strategy of continuing to reach out and try to build public pressure is a good one.

    I hope that is helpful,


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