Northampton City Council votes to keep pesticides away from kids’ play spaces  

  • City Councilor Alisa Klein. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/6/2019 4:23:48 PM
Modified: 12/6/2019 4:23:35 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The stroke of midnight did not stop one of the last City Council meetings of the year on Thursday night, a session that ended up lasting more than five hours.

“Is everyone still awake? It is exactly 12 o’clock midnight — the bewitching hour,” Alisa Klein joked as she spoke about the final proposed ordinance on the agenda, one that would phase out the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in city-owned spaces where kids play. 

Councilors were indeed awake and eventually unanimously voted favorably on the ordinance, which will require another council vote at a future meeting. 

“An Ordinance Requiring the Use of Organic Pest Management Practices in the Municipal Places Where Children Play,” known as “Keeping Children Safe from Pesticides and Chemical Fertilizers,” would reduce and eventually eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on city-owned parks, playing fields, and playgrounds.

Within three years, city-owned parks, playgrounds and playing fields will use an “organic pest management system,” defined in the proposed ordinance as “the act of managing or controlling pests through the use of mechanical, biological processes, or through the use of natural, organic, or non‐synthetic substances.”

“It is imperative that we stop using chemicals that are harmful to people, animals, pollinators, and our environment, but especially children,” Alisa Klein, Ward 7 City Councilor and a sponsor of the ordinance, wrote in a statement. “We are starting with organic management of the places children play because children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides.”

The proposed ordinance came out of the Select Committee on Pesticide Reduction (SCPR or pronounced “skipper”), formed in March. A November SCPR report detailed where pesticides are currently used in the city; looked at pesticide policies in municipalities around the state; and made a series of recommendations, including one that turned into the “Keeping Children Safe from Pesticides and Chemical Fertilizers” ordinance.

“There is growing concern about pesticide exposure in the environment,” the SCPR report reads, “and a linked desire to reduce the use of pesticides as much as possible both to protect both human health and the health of ecosystems and wildlife that depend on them.”

Areas managed by Northampton Public Schools or Smith Vocational would be exempt from the ordinance because they are not under the jurisdiction of the City Council, Klein said in a statement. 

Under the proposed ordinance, the director of the Department of Public Works is able to approve one-time uses of pesticides in emergency cases.

Greta Jochem can be reached at

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