Portland task force to examine possible pesticide limits

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PORTLAND — A new task force has until July 20 to present an ordinance to city councilors that could regulate pesticide and fertilizer use.

The 12-member task force was approved Monday by the City Council, with Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr. as chairman.

Other members include Dr. Joseph Staples of the University of Southern Maine, South Portland Stormwater Coordinator Fred Dillon, Maine Hardware manager Tim Currier, Friends of Casco Bay Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Deven Morrill, a licensed pesticide and fertilizer applicator and supervisor at Lucas Tree Experts.

“I think we can all coalesce around education; most people are unaware of the rules and regulations and the general world they live in,” Morrill said May 13.

Morrill, who is also president of the state Board of Pesticides Control, said one of his task force roles will be to show the depth of regulation already in place and the complexity of pest management plans.

“It is very near and dear to our heart; we want to be as environmentally conscious as we can,” he said.

City resident Avery Yale Kamila, who will represent Portland Protectors, which is described as an “advocate for pesticide and fertilizer reform,” said her role will be to advocate more organic uses.

“Portland Protectors is hopeful the task force will be able to draft an ordinance well-suited to Portland’s unique needs … that will provide much-needed protections to kids, pollinators, pets, wildlife and Casco Bay,” Kamila said.

Any proposed ordinance would eventually be referred to the Energy & Sustainability Committee, led by Councilor Jon Hinck, before facing a full council review.

Hinck’s committee has renewed discussions about possible regulations on pesticides, and part of the task force’s charge is to “examine the draft pesticide ordinance under review in South Portland,” as well as ordinances passed in other communities.

Kamila said she likes the South Portland template that was discussed through the spring.

“Since the task force is charged with starting from South Portland’s ordinance – which mandates organic practices – we anticipate that all the task force members have been selected because they also support that standard,” she said.

Efforts to pass an ordinance in South Portland, however, are on hold.

“I have hit the pause button on the ordinance,” South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey said May 12. “We are looking at a few areas of the ordinance for modification and then we are bringing in the Conservation Commission to weigh in. Once this is all done we’ll get it back to council in a workshop.”

An ordinance enacted in January 2015 in Ogunquit limits the use of pesticides to those listed as exempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and “permitted by the Organic Materials Review Institute.”

Exemptions to the ordinance include pesticides used in commercial agriculture, pet supplies such as tick repellents, and swimming pool supplies.

Dillon, a city resident who has been part of efforts to clean up Long Creek and Trout Brook in South Portland, also worked on that city’s stalled ordinance. He said he volunteered to be part of the Portland task force because of his concern about city waterways.

“That is certainly a big part of the consideration, that Portland, like South Portland, has urban impaired streams. We need to do anything we can do to reduce potential pollutants to them, including pesticides, fertilizers, or even as mundane as dog waste,” he said May 12.

Real estate agent Wendy Morrill is taking part to represent the Southern Maine Landlords’ Association. Of concern to her is whether an ordinance could affect indoor use of pesticides.

“I think everybody wants safety first,” she said. “I grew up on Casco Bay and my husband grew up on Peaks Island.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St., Portland, Maine

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.