As of 7 a.m. this morning, Thursday, the lawn area around one 10-unit building of condominiums off Woodward Lane in Society Hill 1 was due to be sprayed with lawn chemicals — and resident Beverly Petrallia said she had been willing to cover the grass with sheets to keep the chemicals off.
However, Petrallia, of 96 Woodward Lane, said that as far as she knew, the Princeton-based landscaper would be willing to respect the small red flags and resistance of some residents to the lawn chemicals they feel will endanger their health. The lawn mixture that had been scheduled for use on Thursday includes Trimec 992, a broadbased herbicide that Petrallia said is carcinogenic and can cause respiratory problems.
For his part, Bruce Stonely, president of the homeowners association which he said strongly supports the same lawn care for all the commonly owned property surrounding buildings in that section of Society Hill 1, said, "We are trying to maintain property values."
He said the homeowners association had in years past looked into more organic type of lawn chemicals and were advised that the product was less effective and more expensive.
Both sides acknowledge that the disagreement is not a new one. "It's been kind of a bone of contention for the last eight to nine years," Stonely said.
Petrallia said she, along with others, had really begun objecting to lawn chemicals being used right near their homes after her dog, a Doberman Pinscher, died of cancer in 2008.
She said other residents had children who experienced reactions such as rashes whenever weed killers were applied in their neighborhoods. Some of those residents have since moved to neighborhoods where such lawn chemicals aren't used, she said. Others object to buying organic foods — and then being exposed to chemicals in their neighborhod.
During that time Petrallia said she was a member — and even president at one point — of the homeowners association, and her building's lawn area was treated with an alternative applicaton with natural ingredients.
She pointed out that Bernards Township itself has in recent years switched to a pesticide-free polity on most township property. The policy allows use of organic herbicides and pesticides where deemed necessary.
Petrallia said she will approach Township Committee
Petrallia said she already has approached the Bernards Township Environmental Commission, which has been supporting and advising residents in efforts to go pesticide-free. She said the substance proposed to be sprayed on the lawn near her home is more appropriate for agricultural or industrial use.
She said she is asking residents to join together to approach the Bernards Township Committee at the governing body's scheduled June 26 meeting.
Stonely said the homeowners board has four members who are especially adamant that the building which he said had been spared the same treatment as everyone else now receive the same lawn care.
The clover and other types of grasses on the lawn are inconsistent with the smooth green lawn areas surrounding other buildings, he said.
While Petrallia points to literatures stressing the dangers of Trimec 2, Stonely, a pharmacist, said warnings are directed to workers who mix a concentrate of the chemical with enought other liquids to spray a 44-acre area.
He said the homeowners association can't offer "different people different solutions" when it comes to lawn care.
Stonely said he raised a 20-year-old daughter at Society Hill who had played in the grass. He said he also had a cocker spaniel who died of an immune disorder — which he said is more because of a congenital weakness, rather than exposure to lawn chemicals.
Petrallia said the neighbors are convince the planned spraying would be dangerous, and "We are going to continue to fight them," she said of the homeowners association.
Stonely said he isn't making threats but the homeowners association wants to treat an area with what it considers weeds, and "We are not going to allow certain homeowners to prevent us from doing it."