City to Host Workshop Looking at Healthy Lawns Act

As a part of a Jan. 27 work session, the Gaithersburg Mayor and City Council will be considering opting in to Bill 52-14, the Montgomery County Healthy Lawns Act.

In 2015, the Montgomery County Council passed the legislation that aims to restrict the use of pesticides and herbicides for cosmetic purposes on lawns, childcare facilities, playgrounds and some county facilities. A circuit court overturned the act in 2017, but the council appealed. Last year, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled in favor of the act, which had
been heavily opposed by lawn care companies. The county was one of the first in the country to pass an act of this kind.

As a part of the 7:30 p.m. meeting, the Mayor and City Council will be hearing from residents and other interested parties
on whether or not to opt in to the act. The Gaithersburg Environmental Affairs Committee, which advises the governing body, recently unanimously voted to opt in to the act. Committee Chair Doug Wolf plans to attend the meeting.

“We have been discussing this issue since 2014,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of people come in and out of the committee, so there has been quite a bit of discussion on it.”

Wolf notes they heard from multiple presenters as well as read articles on pesticide use and alternatives like compost tea that are better for the environment. The group has seen several demonstrations of lawns being treated with alternatives like the Kentlands Clubhouse and the Glenstone Museum with good results.

The clubhouse hasn’t “used pesticides in several years and it is a beautiful, thick green lawn,” Wolf noted. “A lot of us have
done our own experiments of switching to organic types of fertilizers and so forth with great results.”

Pesticides may also lead to some health issues such as cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. “If you go to (the herbicide) Roundup’s website, it says completely safe if used as directed,” Wolf said. “Well, what is used as directed? As an example, it means (wearing) closed toed shoes, long sleeve shirts, long pants, protective safety goggles—not just safety glasses but goggles that wrap all the way around so nothing can get in from the side, a dust mask and gloves. I gotta tell you, most people, I would say 95 percent of people, do not read instructions. They grab a product and start using it. They are at risk by maybe not knowing about how dangerous a product can be.”

The act does not prevent the sale of pesticides and herbicides. “One of the things that the law will do will be to require retailers to have a separate area for these (pesticides) in the store and have special signage warning about the potential dangers from the use of this product,” Wolf said. “It is really the public’s right to know and looking out for public safety.”

Because the county has the act, Wolf believes the city should do so as well for continuity. “It is advantageous to opt in to
what the county is doing to help clarify the situation and have one set of standards,” Wolf said.