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Controversial herbicide and chemicals used at Springfield’s Peppermint Park


Springfield Township supervisors inadvertently approved the use of a herbicide and another chemical at Peppermint Park to control the spread of the spotted lanternfly.

Board members in September unanimously endorsed a Department of Agriculture-sponsored pest control program at all township properties starting next spring, but Lorna Yearwood, of the township Environmental Advisory Council, informed board members last month that the program targets mature ailanthus trees with a pesticide, or neonicotinoid, Dinotefuran, which can also kill pollinators and indirectly harm other species.

Workers will also utilize a herbicide, Trichlopyr, to destroy younger ailanthus, the favored spot of the lanternfly.

Yearwood said she couldn’t find anything in writing about a ban but there was an understanding that no herbicides would be used in the park.

In 2018, residents pressed for a ban on chemicals at the park, and the township effectively ended their use following its termination of a hay lease agreement with a farmer. Until then, a dual-use policy was in place at the park, which permitted the farmer to use the herbicide 2,4- Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid as well as Dicambra to control weeds and invasives but also designated the site a public amenity.

Dog owners who used the park and those who lived nearby blamed the chemicals on the deaths of their pets. No link has yet been found between the spraying and the 12 deaths, and studies of the 2,4-D’s effect on animals remain inconclusive.

“I was not aware the chemical was a neonicotinoid, there was no mention of that word; otherwise, I would not have voted for it,” Supervisor Karen Bedics told the meeting. Supervisor James Nilsen apologized for not informing the EAC in advance of the township’s actions. He went on to say that any spraying would be targeted, and said the target tree, the ailanthus, “was not prevalent at Peppermint Park.”

Although many municipalities have approved the spraying program, concerns have been raised about the effect of the chemical treatments

However, Abbey Powell, a spokeswoman for the USDA, said in an email last week that any treatments would be applied by properly licensed pesticide applicators who have the necessary state-issued credentials to perform these treatment activities.

She added that the program “takes every precaution, from delivery method to application timing, to minimize potential impacts to all beneficial insects, including pollinators.”

Still, members of the EAC and the Park and Land Preservation Committee will be present during any assessments of township properties prior to spraying.

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