Sunday, April 29, 2007

Raleigh television unloads on lawn care industry

Talk about getting ripped.

Wow, did Steve Daniels, the anchor for ABC 11 in Raleigh, NC, unload on the professional lawn care community, even though TruGreen ChemLawn was the only company mentioned in his two on-air reports.

The affiliate's “Toxic Green Part 1” and “Toxic Green Part 2” segments quoted industry critics that accused professional lawn care of, in effect, spewing products harmful to people’s health onto lawns in pursuit of greener grass and bigger profits. The segments aired on consecutive days in late March.

“Eyewitness News is taking you beyond the green and exposing you (to) what the lawn service industry may not want you to know,” beat the promo drum to the “investigative” report.

Daniels, from his bio on the station's Web site, is apparently one hotshot reporter. The ABC 11 Web site, lists his impressive array of television news jobs — everything from being a correspondent for “Dateline NBC” to being the weekday anchor for WTVJ in Miami, and mentions that he has won seven Emmys for investigative reporting.

Bet he doesn't win an eighth with this turkey of a hack job. (If he does, I vow never to name a daughter or ever associate anybody with the name Emmy or Emma or Emily or Enema . . .you get the point.)

In his two reports — at least the two that appear on the television station’s Web site — there isn't a single comment from a single person from the lawn care industry. The "Toxic" reports did draw a response from TruGreen ChemLawn, which issued a surprisingly mild rebuttal to the reports.

Click on the headline for TruGreen’s response and links to the two Daniels reports.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Today's tip — do not pick up hand grenades

NANTUCKET, MA — Today’s question: Assume during the course of your workday as a landscaper you rake up a hand grenade, what should you do?
1. Gasp and exclaim “Oh, S*#! as you hi-tail it outta there?
2. Prod it with the business end of your rake to see if it’s still functional?
3. Leave it where you found it and call somebody who knows a lot more about hand grenades than you do? (i. e. law enforcement)
4. Pick it up and take it to a police station?
If you answered #4, WRONG!
But that’s what a landscaper did a couple of days ago.
“We prefer that people just leave those things where they are and we’ll come and look at them,” said Nantucket Police Lt. Jerry Adams, as quoted in the April 27 issue of the Cape Cod Times.
It is believed the World War II-era was a leftover from when the U.S. Navy operated a firing range on the island.

No word yet as whether the hand grenade was “live” or not. — Ron Hall

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Today is Earth Day. Did you remember?

Responding to growing concerns about the environment, then-U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, (D-WI), called for an Environmental Teach-in or Earth Day to be held on April 22, 1970. More than 20 million people took part.

More than 500 million people in 175 countries now observe Earth Day each year.

Nelson modeled Earth Day on the increasingly effective Vietnam War protests of the time. The first Earth Day had participants in 2,000 colleges and universities; in 10,000 elementary, junior high and high schools and in hundreds of communities

The first Earth Day led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

- Source:

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Kiss your grass g'bye

I have headline envy after reading this article in the New York Post. It reports that the New York City Parks Department has installed 74 artificial turf sports fields and is planning to spend $150 million more to build another 100 fields over the next five years. Synthetic turf is one of the hottest businesses going right now. And not just for sports turf. It's going to be bigger in the landscape industry too. My prediction.

By the way, many of New York's synthetic fields will be used for youth soccer. How about this headline for that: "Not Exactly a Kick in the Grass." — Ron Hall

Friday, April 13, 2007

Laws easier to make than enforce

Making a law seems to be easier than enforcing it. Case in point the pesticide neighbor notification law that New York State legislators allow counties to pass. A handful of counties have.
The law requires people (including lawn pros) who apply liquid pesticides to properties to give abutting property owners and residents 24-hour notice prior to the application. In theory, the notification is intended to protect people’s health.
The reality is that the law is apparently difficult to enforce, at least in Monroe County where neighbor notification went into effect last year. Television station WHAM 13 on its web site reported this week that the county issued just 10 warnings this past year and five went to homeowners.
The station reports that health officials there say they’ll get tougher this season.
Click on the headline for the article and to see a video of the actual broadcast.

Copy and click on this link to see the notification signs the county says should be posted:

— Ron Hall

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reports of the death of Canadian lawn care are greatly exaggerated

You may not agree with the source, but a recent column from the Western Catholic Reporter cited some interesting statistics about the lawn care industry in Toronto, and how it has overcome bans on pesticide use to grow 30% since 2001.

"Despite the growing trend away from chemically based lawn care, Toronto lawn companies are showing substantial growth. A recently released report by the City of Toronto's health department cites data from Statistics Canada showing a 30 per cent increase in the lawn care and landscaping sector since 2001.

It should be noted at the same time, pesticide use has decreased significantly. According to the interim evaluation of Toronto's pesticide bylaw, 'From 2003 to 2005 the proportion of Toronto residents who report any pesticide use on their lawns has decreased by 35 per cent.'"

And even though the column comes from outside the industry, her advice is pretty good.

"Non-chemical lawn care is much more labour intensive, and hence more costly than chemical lawn maintenance. In non-chemical lawn care, the standard of bi-annual spraying that most chemical companies employ is replaced by such maintenance functions as fertilizing, aerating, hand-weeding, de-thatching and over seeding. Since many of these activities are done on an as needed basis, that bi-annual visit can translate into monthly (or more) check ups.

Given the huge amount of public support behinds these bylaws, it's likely that provincial governments will respond with province-wide legislation, much like they did in the case of regional and municipal smoking bans. When that happens, smart lawn care companies will be ready." — Mike Seuffert

Monday, April 09, 2007

School science project fallout continues

Wow, the science project involving pesticides that two high school students at Pedro Menendez High School conducted several weeks ago continues to make news near St. Augustine, FL. (See blog "Not your father'
s science project.")
Briefly, the students, apparently using protocols established by an organization known as the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) sampled the air for traces of pesticides near South Woods Elementary School. When their project turned up evidence of dianzinon, endsulfan and triflualin the media picked up on the story, and concern about possible exposures to school children grew. The pesticides are reportedly used in nearby cabbage fields.
Soon thereafter, the St. Johns School District hired a company known as MACTEC, Jacksonville, FL, to test the air at the school grounds. After it said it had collected six samples on three different days, it reported that levels of diazinon and endosulfan were well below standards set by OSHA. And it had found no trifluralin. The principal at the elementary school said the testing confirmed that the health of the students there is not being compromised by pesticide drift.
But that hasn’t quieted the controversy. No by a long shot.
PANNA claims that the MACTEC testing and its results are based on levels of concern set for adults who work directly with pesticides, while PANNA’s critics claim that it is basing its findings based exposures to a 1-year-old child.
The Florida Department of Agriculture is reportedly looking at the results of both sets of tests, how the data was gathered at and what it means.
An article in the Sunday, April 8, St. Augustine newspaper, gives a good wrapup of what the two high school students hath wrought with their science project. Click on the headline for the article.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Canada craziness finally infects Guelph

Guelph, with more than 100,000 residents and home to one of the top research universities in North America, is not what you would call a hick town. But, you’ve got to wonder about the leadership in this vibrant Canadian city, located about 65 miles west of Toronto. In fact, you have to wonder about the leadership in towns and cities across Canada.

OK, let me say upfront that this is about lawn care products, the kind that anybody can buy at any garden center, big box or hardware store. If you're not interested in the ongoing controversy involving the use of these products by professionals in Canada, tune out now. If you’re in the turf services business and, in particular, you're a local politico, you’ll find what I have to say interesting, whether you agree or not.

As a former (and longtime) city hall reporter I thought I had heard and reported on just about every cockamaymee new piece of legislation that the fertile minds of local lawmakers could float.

Hmm, let’s see. There was the proposal to control wild rabbits in one city because a particularly vocal councilman complained that the critters were damaging the vegetable and flower gardens of his neighbors. That effort failed, as did a similar recommendation in another community to license pet cats in the city, with one ward councillor even proposing they be subject to the same leash law as dogs. (On reflection, maybe that wasn't such a bad idea.)

It’s almost impossible to add up the hours I sat witnessing misguided attempts by local legislators to protect citizens from this hazard or that, most of them being of the annoyance variety and practically all of the them overstated and sometimes comically over-dramatized.

I’m not saying that hold local lawmakers to be dishonest, mean spirited or even that they put their own interests ahead of their constituents — well, perhaps occassionally. Indeed, I’ve sat elbow to elbow with dozens of council members, commissioners, zoning board appointees, etc. at local pubs or coffee shops, and we've engaged in friendly conversations on a range of issues. And sometimes we've even agreed on a point or three. Most of these local representatives were intelligent, honest, civic minded . . . and sometimes woefully ignorant of a particular issue or, giving them the benefit of the doubt, closed minded to opposing viewpoints, even when they the viewpoints are supported by evidence or facts
Is this the case in Guelph and elsewhere in much of Canada where local lawmakers have either passed or are in the process of passing laws restricting the use of pesticides by professional lawn applicators?

These laws target lawn care companies almost exclusivey.

The question is: Why are just professional lawn care companies being singled out when homeowners can continue to buy and use exactly the same products?

The bigger question is: Why are local lawmakers even involved in this issue?

This is senseless, and especially in Guelph, home to the Guelph Turfgrass Institute, the premiere turf research and educational facility in the entire country. — Ron Hall