Falmouth to explore pesticide restrictions

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FALMOUTH — The town may join surrounding municipalities in restricting the use and application of pesticides.

The Conservation Commission has been directed by the Town Council to propose an ordinance to restrict pesticide use. Nothing has been drafted, and the commission will gather public input before the draft is finalized.

At a meeting Monday night, the commission heard from Fred Dillon, the stormwater program coordinator in South Portland, who is also a member of Portland’s Pesticide and Fertilizer Task Force. He said the two cities took differing approaches to the issue.

Dillon said the South Portland City Council enacted an ordinance that will “greatly restrict or eliminate” pesticide use in the city.

Portland, acting on what Dillon called a “compressed time line,” took a more balanced approach by creating a task force with “broad representation” from landscaping professionals, property managers and environmentalists.

The South Portland ordinance is being phased in. The restrictions will go into effect for public properties next May, then in May 2018 for private properties. Finally, in May 2019, the ordinance will go into effect for public and private golf courses.

Dillon said Portland’s task force is also looking at the use of fertilizers. The Portland task force continues to meet and is still drafting an ordinance.

The Falmouth commission will meet again Nov. 28 to continue discussions about how to proceed.

Dillon said both Portland and South Portland are in the process of educational outreach, and said staff members may conduct a joint outreach effort and meet with various professionals to help get their message out. Commission members in Falmouth said they were interested in joining the combined educational outreach.

“Ultimately it’s about changing behavior,” Dillon said.

He said there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach for creating an ordinance, and advised the commission to reach out to the sustainability coordinators in both cities.

“It’s clear pesticide use is increasing, we want to turn the needle on that,” he said.

Andy Jones, the Maine community organizer at the Toxics Action Center and chairman of the town’s Recycling and Energy Advisory Committee, said there are three major areas of concern over pesticide use: human health, animal health, and the impact on the environment, specifically pesticides that run off into water sources.

Jones said he doesn’t want to see the creation of “pesticide police” for homeowners, but wants there to be more restrictions on the lawn-care industry. He later said there is a big difference between a single, targeted application on a lawn versus multiple applications.

“This isn’t about dangerous insects or invasive (plant species),” Jones said, but rather about the lawn care industry’s development of a “harmful” program.

Commission member Paul Burlin noted that in South Portland there is no penalty for people who refuse to comply with the ordinance. He said crafting an ordinance without penalties would be “a lot of work for potentially little response.”

“If you don’t have sanctions in it, it’s whistling in the wind,” Burlin said, adding without penalties in the ordinance he thought the “results would be minimal.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.