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EPA Recognizes NYC Parks for Reducing Pesticide and Fertilizer Use on Thousands of Acres; Unveils New Campaign Encouraging Homeowners to Use Fewer Chemicals on Lawns

Release Date: 06/17/2004
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#04085) New York, N.Y. -- In Central Park today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation Exit EPA disclaimerwith an award for excellent environmental stewardship of its almost 29,000 acres of open space. EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Benjamin H. Grumbles, presented Parks' Commissioner Adrian Benepe Exit EPA disclaimerwith the award, citing Park's minimal use of pesticides and fertilizers and extensive use of non-chemical pest management techniques. Parks' efforts demonstrate that homeowners do not need to apply large amounts of chemicals to have green, attractive lawns. At the same time, Grumbles unveiled a new EPA public outreach campaign that encourages homeowners to limit their use of chemical lawn care products because of their impact on local water bodies. Joining Assistant Administrator Grumbles and Commissioner Benepe were EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny and Central Park Administrator and Chief Operating Officer Douglas Blonsky.

"Americans think of Central Park as a national treasure and the Parks Department’s focus on maintaining a beautiful and healthy lawn using the right amount of fertilizers and pesticides sends the right message of environmental stewardship." said EPA's Grumbles. "That's why I am here today to honor you with this award. We hope all Americans will follow your example. "

"Parks & Recreation is pleased that it has been able to greatly reduce the use of pesticides, including herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides on lawns and ballfields throughout the city," said Commissioner Benepe. "The EPA's work, including its public service campaigns, has helped support this administration's efforts to increase environmental awareness and practices. We are grateful for the recognition of the EPA today. Together, we are making New York City a cleaner, greener place to live."

Many water bodies in the New York City area the New York/New Jersey Harbor, the Long Island Sound, the Peconic Estuary and Newark Bay have water quality problems. Fertilizers and pesticides from residential lawns may be important contributors. When homeowners over-apply or incorrectly apply fertilizers and pesticides, the rain washes them into groundwater, streams, ponds, lakes and ultimately, the ocean. While the actions of a single homeowner may not cause significant harm, the cumulative impact of the metropolitan area's millions of residents is significant. Too much fertilizer in water can cause algae to grow. When algae die, they use up the oxygen that fish need to survive. Pesticides in the water can harm fish and aquatic plants.

EPA's new fertilizer and pesticide awareness campaign encourages homeowners to limit their use of chemical lawncare products and, when they are used, to ensure they are applied safely and effectively, with minimal impact on the environment. EPA's public service campaign will appear in Long Island Rail Road stations in the next several weeks. The campaign can be viewed at

"If we want to improve our environment, we must consider the impact of our actions as individuals," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. "We hope that area residents will think twice about how they care for their lawns, and use less fertilizer and pesticides."

Citywide last year, Parks used only 400 pounds of herbicides and 2,000 pounds of fertilizer on 5,200 acres of lawns, ballfields and roadsides -- an exceedingly low amount. In Central Park, the rates of application of certain insecticides have decreased from 220 pounds in 2001 to only 45 pounds last year. Similarly, Central Park decreased its use of certain herbicides in recent years, having used 70 pounds of active ingredient in the Park in 2000 and only 7.5 pounds in 2003, relying instead on organic, non-toxic pest control products including one made from corn gluten. Central Park has also steadily decreased its use of synthetic fertilizers and opted to use more organic fertilizers, which release their nutrients more slowly into soil and may have less of an impact on water bodies.

The National Water Tour is EPA's way of bringing attention to water quality problems in different parts of the U.S. Ben Grumbles' visit to New York City to launch the fertilizers and pesticides campaign is the first event on the Tour. Future stops include Kansas City, Kansas to celebrate the early efforts of Lewis and Clark to monitor our nation's waters, the restoration of the Great Lakes, innovative solutions to problems in the Gulf of Mexico and other environmental challenges and local solutions.