Gulfport resident Albert Risemberg, who lives across the street from Tomlinson Park, noticed the city using herbicides to treat the retention pond located on the north end of park on Tuesday, October 2.
Risemberg brought his concerns to the city council meeting that evening, requesting more information about the chemicals, including pesticides used in the surrounding areas and the playground.
“There are too many children who play there and too many people who use the park to use these chemicals there,” Risenberg told council. “I would just hope that we can look and see if there’s some alternative. I would sure rather have a little more lily pads than to have poisoned water that affects our animals and the people around us. Maybe a few ants in the playground is one thing, but to spray chemicals that could be toxic to our children, that’s another thing.”
City Manager Jim O’Reilly had a practical response.
“The pond serves as a drainage area and the lily pads have to be removed,” he said.
“If you get too much plant material growing…it chokes out the sunlight and the oxygenation of the water gets off kilter,” Mayor Sam Henderson.
But what about those chemicals?
“The products we use for weed and pest control are called Avenger and Green Gobbler, and both are organic products,” O’Reilly told the Gabber.
“Gulfport ponds are maintained by Advanced Aquatic Services where all employees are trained and receive an aquatic applicator license from the Florida Department of Agriculture,” O’Reilly continued. “Our Parks Division employees are very conscientious when it comes to the safety of our children around parks and playgrounds, and our wildlife and fish habitats in and around our lakes and waterways, where routine maintenance is a necessity.”
According to O’Reilly, all algaecides and herbicides used by Advance Aquatics Inc. are EPA-approved for use in lakes and ponds and have been used in Florida for over 25 years.
“The reason the ponds need to be maintained is to keep the invasive plants and algae to a level that they are not blocking the sunlight and stopping water flow,” explained City of Gulfport Parks/Facility Maintenance Superintendent Tim Connor. “The fish in the retention ponds need both to survive.”