Portland task force weighs ban, restrictions on pesticides

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PORTLAND — With the end of the year drawing near, so is the work of the city Pesticide and Fertilizer Task Force, which began meeting almost seven months ago.

Given a Dec. 30 deadline by the City Council, the 12-member task force, led by Councilor Nick Mavodones Jr., will meet again at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 21 in Room 24 at City Hall.

“The group wanted to get together to keep working and see if it could come up with an ordinance that could satisfy at least a good majority of them,” Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon said Dec. 7, a day after a task force meeting where two ordinance drafts were discussed.

As summarized by Moon in a memo, both drafts would restrict or ban the use of many common pesticides and insecticides on public and private property.

The guidelines for using synthetic or organic treatments could be based on the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, and lists of approved or banned substances compiled either by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Department of Agriculture.

Both ordinances would require establishing advisory committees composed of industry members, “environmental professionals,” and citizens. Both ordinances would also use education and outreach to prevent or minimize the use of synthetic pesticides and encourage use of organic approaches. Those efforts could cost $15,000 annually, Moon estimated.

One ordinance discussed is patterned largely after the one passed by the South Portland City Council in September. It would ban any use of synthetic or non-synthetic pesticides made with substances that are not allowed on the USDA National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. It would also ban the use of any organic or allowed pesticide within 75 feet of water.

Exempted from the ordinance are uses for commercial agriculture, pet supplies, pool supplies, household disinfectants, rat and rodent control and “general use” paints, stains and wood preservatives.

The ordinance would not restrict sales of synthetic or non-synthetic substances with non-compliant ingredients, such as, for example, Roundup weed killer.

A second draft ordinance, written by city Corporation Counsel Danielle West-Chuhta. would restrict the use of chemical pesticides by private property owners. Substances could be applied by licensed professionals, but only as a last resort.

The second ordinance would ban pesticide use within 75 feet of water on public or private land, while setting guidelines for an integrated pest management approach favored by some task force members.

The ordinance exempts the Riverside Golf Course, Hadlock Field and rights of way owned by utilities.

“Our hope had been to come up with a draft that could bridge the gap between the camps,” Moon said of the second ordinance. “Neither side was very satisfied with that attempt.”

Any ordinance forwarded by the task force would be reviewed by the City Council Sustainability & Transportation Committee before consideration by the full City Council.

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

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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.