The Wellesley Townsman - November 9, 2000

Wellesley Receives $7,000 for Pesticides Reduction by Sarah Little

The Town of Wellesley has just received a $7000 grant from the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, to develop and implement a pesticide use reduction strategy for all public and private land in the Town. The long-range objective of this project is to reduce the exposure of children and adults to pesticides and pesticide breakdown products which are known or probable health hazards, to protect Wellesley's water supply, and to restore Wellesley's land use style to healthier and lower-input ecosystems.

Wellesley has five enthusiastic partners in this project, the Charles River Watershed Association, the Northeast Organic Farmers' Association, the Needham Garden Center, the Natural Resources Commission, and the Wellesley Cancer Prevention Project. They have all agreed to collaborate with Wellesley to ensure that the Campaign has the information, materials, and expertise to help residents and town departments transition to less toxic land care practices. In addition, the Toxic Use Reduction Institute itself offers services and guidance to grantees, and includes a training program for participants as part of the grant.

Wellesley is the third town in our area to formalize a pesticide reduction program, following the towns of Newton and Marblehead.

The Wellesley Health Department, who will administer this grant, was delighted to learn of the success of the grant proposal, and will begin immediately working on a long-term strategy for pesticide reduction. The Town aims to eliminate pesticides used only for "cosmetic" purposes, and reduce the use of all pesticides in general. As a result of this project, the townspeople should expect to see periodic articles in the Townsman on safe lawn care, flyers describing pesticide hazards and suggesting healthier lawn maintenance practices, a Pesticide Awareness Campaign booth at local events, "Say no to pesticides" videos on local cable, new library materials, discounts on non-toxic lawn products at local garden shops, and information presented in various other media.

The Town of Wellesley has, in the past, prided itself on its clean air, land, and water and beautiful surroundings. An excerpt from a 1906 school handbook uncovered by historian and writer Beth Hinchliffe reads: " The citizens of the town of Wellesley, both collectively and individually, are constantly endeavoring to obtain for their town, their homes and themselves all that is best from Nature and Art... Wellesley, a residential village with no manufacturing, has long been noted for its pure water and invigorating air."

Unfortunately, the notion of beauty as it applies to lawns has changed in the last few decades, from low-input, diverse ecosystems to chemically dependent, high maintenance showpieces, and the "pure water and invigorating air" of Wellesley is becoming decidedly less so. There is no reason we can't turn this around.

Wellesley has a burgeoning population of young children who can be exposed to these chemicals through their water (Wellesley supplies about 75% of its own water through wells), air, lawns, playgrounds, and playing fields. A number of townspeople have been alarmed at the increase and sustained use of pesticides on lawns and town properties, and town meeting members voted to create a position for a part-time, 10hr/wk, position of Pesticide Awareness Coordinator. This position will be used to help unify, understand, and disseminate information on pesticides and their alternatives, create a pesticide reduction strategy, and recommend a town policy or bylaw on pesticide reduction. The grant money will be used to help publish and distribute educational materials and ensure that all the information is available on a Town web site.

TURI, the funding agency, is a multi-disciplinary research, education, and policy center established by the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act of 1989. The Institute sponsors and conducts research in safer and cleaner technologies, provides technical support to manufacturers, and education and training programs on toxics use reduction to industry and government personnel, municipal and community organizations, universities schools and the general public. Their website is

The timing of this Pesticide Awareness Campaign is nicely coincident with the recent passage of the Children and Families Protection Act which severely curtails pesticide usage in and around schools and day care centers. The Campaign will help provide information to school officials on non-toxic pest control and grounds keeping techniques.

For more information on the Wellesley Pesticide Awareness Campaign, to partner with the project, or to volunteer, please e-mail Sarah Little at, or call the Natural Resources Commission at 431-1019, x294