During our summer internship with Green Decade, we had an opportunity to interview Carol Chafetz, Director of Operations and Environmental Affairs in Newton’s Department of Education; and Paul Anastasi, Newton’s Facility Manager, regarding Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Newton school buildings and grounds. We were curious about IPM, which involves the safety issues of pesticide usage. What follows is our interview:

Q: When and why did the IPM policy begin?
A: The IPM policy started in 2003, when the State of Massachusetts wanted to increase awareness of pesticide usage, and regulations have been implemented to enforce the ruling.

Q: When it is necessary to eradicate pests in the schools, are public areas covered?
A: If pest removal is necessary, we use an effective gel. We try to minimize the amount of spraying, so the particles will not float into the air. Organic materials are used to remove the pests whenever possible to further minimize pesticide usage.

Q: When and how frequently do custodians spray pesticides? A: The goal of the IPM is to find safe alternatives for treating any pest issue without spraying pesticides. Our department evaluates the school buildings twice a month in the summer and at other times during the school year.

Q: What steps have been taken to promote health, safety and environmental sustainability?
A: Gel traps are considered safe to use, and they effectively diminish the amount of pests. We also seal any holes that allow pests to enter, even holes that are only the width of a pen.

Q: Does the city keep a record of pesticide usage in our public facilities?
A: Yes, we have a log book in every custodian’s office. Every time an inspector comes to inspect the building/ facilities, he or she records notes in a log book.

Q: What procedures are in place to inform teachers and custodians about using alternatives to toxic chemicals in their classrooms?
A: All principals send a notice in the beginning of the school year to let teachers know that they should not bring toxic household chemicals (e.g. Raid, bleach, ammonia, etc.) to school. If teachers find pest issues, they should notify the custodians. Inadditiontotheaboveprocedures,doorsweepsare added to seal the space between the bottom of the door and the floor. IPM plans are updated every year for all buildings.

The IPM is an important plan offering safe alternatives to harmful cleaning chemicals. Carol Chafetz said that they mainly employ “prevention, exclusion and remediation”. Paul Anastasi also says his department “is here if anyone has questions” and they can be called at 617-559-9000.

by Marisa Ng and Zhe Wu