(Beyond Pesticides, June 9, 2008)
The General Services Administration (GSA) has begun using organic fertilizer on the grounds of all its federal buildings in the National Capital Region. The region, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, includes the District of Columbia, as well parts of Virginia and Maryland. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), GSA is using 100-percent organic pelletized chicken manure at 64 sites, covering 84 acres. The poultry litter is being collected by a private company and converted to usable organic fertilizer, then transported by truck to the region, and applied at the GSA properties.
“Use of organic fertilizer is but one of many sustainable practices that GSA employs in our landscaping program,” commented GSA Regional Administrator Tony Reed. “In this first year of utilizing this approach for all of our buildings in the National Capital Region, we have applied 80 tons, enriching our landscapes at the same time we are helping to clean up Chesapeake Bay.”
Chemical fertilizer, pesticides, animal manure, and poultry litter are major sources of excess nitrogen and phosphorus that cause water quality problems in the Chesapeake Bay. These pollutants get washed into local rivers, streams, and groundwater and eventually reach the bay, where they contribute to massive algae blooms. As these blooms die off and decompose, they rob the bay of dissolved oxygen creating dead zones in which fish and other aquatic life cannot survive.
“GSA is providing a reasonable alternative for poultry farmers to traditional manure applications, creating a sustainable new market for this material. GSA’s switch to all organic fertilizer sets a good example of the kind of steps we all need to take to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” said EPA Regional Administrator Donald S. Welsh.
For more than a decade, GSA has implemented an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program in 30 million square feet, approximately 7,000 federal buildings, in the capital area without spraying toxic insecticides.
Over four acres of Washington, DC’s National Mall has been maintained organically by the National Park Service (NPS) over the past year. The growth of the pesticide-free zone movement around the country and the passage of pesticide-free public land policies are very promising. For more information on organic turf management, please visit Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes program page. To find a service provider that practices least- or non-toxic methods, visit the Safety Source for Pest Management.