The companies involved don’t want the names of those chemicals released because they don’t want competitors knowing that they are “exploring new markets,” Weidemann says.
Even the names of the companies that have hired UConn to do this pesticide testing are confidential under the contracts, according to Haddad.
Claims that the EPA has approved all this chemical stuff being tested and that it’s been cleared for use on other types of plants besides turf grass don’t necessarily ease the minds of a lot of people.
Groups like Toxicaction.org and the Sierra Club warn that lawn pesticides can be very harmful to humans and the environment and that their increasing use is becoming a major environmental issue. Connecticut lawmakers had such concerns about lawn pesticides that they banned their use at elementary and middle schools.
“We don’t address the toxicology side of that,” Weidemann says of the lawn pesticide controversy. “We try to stay out of the debate about relative safety and risk.”
What UConn has done for their neighbors is drill test wells near the border of the farm and do several checks each year to see if any of the pesticides are leaching into the residential areas next door. So far, says Weidemann, none of the tests have found anything that “exceeded national drinking water standards.”
Haddad and Facchinetti and their friends aren’t satisfied.
“They don’t test for all the chemicals used at the farm,” says Facchinetti, who spent 29 years teaching pharmaceutical science. “They don’t test often enough.”
“A large number of our neighbors feel uncomfortable,” Haddad warns. “They feel unsafe drinking their own well water.” Some have started buying bottled water or installed carbon filtering systems, options that can be expensive.
Facchinetti admits that no one has complained of any ill health effects as a result of pesticide-contaminated well water.
“We want to keep it that way,” he adds, “but the precautions, the safeguards are not in place.” Facchinetti is also worried that there is more at stake for UConn than scientific integrity:
“There’s big money in it for them.”