Del Mar to move away from synthetic fertilizer use in parks

DEL MAR — The grass at Del Mar’s three public parks is about to get greener after council members at the Oct. 19 meeting directed the Public Works Department to steer clear of synthetic fertilizers.

Citizens for a Green Del Mar submitted a proposal earlier this year asking the city to undertake a five-year study in which organic composted soils are used as the sole fertilization at Powerhouse, Shores and Seagrove parks.

There was also a request to ban pesticides and herbicides.

The proposal raises concerns about the use of the chemical herbicides 2,4-D and Dicamba, which Minicilli said are not present in either of the fertilizers — Turf Supreme and Nitra King — used in Del Mar.

Minicilli said he supports the use of organic fertilizers but he has concerns about limiting his department to one product for five years. He also noted that they require more watering, which could be an issue given the current drought situation and mandated water restrictions.

Council members in general supported the proposal, but Don Mosier, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute who holds medical and doctorate degrees, said there is not a lot of information on organic compounds “so you don’t know exactly what you’re getting.”

He recommended using organic-based products that have a material safety data sheet and adopting a policy not to use products that contain herbicides or pesticides.

He suggested phasing out synthetic fertilizers but not banning them unless there is a comparative study that provides supportive data that they are significantly less safe than organics.

“You’re assuming that … synthetic fertilizers are much less safe than any organic that you can find and I don’t think that’s supported by the data.

“If this proposal came with a list of three organic products with material safety data sheets and some accumulated data that they’re safer than synthetic fertilizers, I’d be happy to support their use,” Mosier said. “I just haven’t seen that kind of information.”

He also said he didn’t want to “tie the city’s hands by going with any one product” or commit to a five-year study.

City Manager Scott Huth said Del Mar can’t use any product that doesn’t include a material safety data sheet. He said he would have staff explore available non-synthetic products.

“We’ll start rolling out using those products and figure out how we can meet our needs with them,” he said, adding that the use will be based on turf needs.

He said he will leave synthetic products and other options “on the back burner.”

Former Mayor Richard Earnest, speaking on behalf of Citizens for a Green Del Mar, said the group would be satisfied with Mosier’s proposed plan as long as “we don’t augment it with something that’s toxic.”

“The last thing we want to do is have a toxic environment for our residents and for ourselves,” Huth said. “I think we’re comfortable with what the overall goal is.”

Council members asked Minicilli to report back in the spring.

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