Portland task force would study pesticide restrictions

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PORTLAND — Restrictions on the use of synthetic pesticides in the city are probably months away, even as South Portland mulls extensive limits on their use on public and private property.

“There is an alternate plan to create a task force,” Portland Councilor Jon Hinck said Monday.

Hinck, chairman of the Energy & Sustainability Committee, said an expected review and discussion of the South Portland ordinance will not be part of the committee’s April 27 City Hall meeting.

In South Portland, City Manager Jim Gailey has recommended a second reading and vote, which was scheduled for Wednesday, be postponed to May 2. The suggestion was made in part because suggested revisions to the proposed ordinance are extensive enough to require a new first reading before a council vote is taken.

Hinck said the full Portland City Council may be asked to approve creating a task force of the parties involved that will consider a wider view of the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

At this point, Hinck said a goal is to have the task force complete its work by July 1. The composition of the task force has not been determined, but Hinck said he has discussed it with Mayor Ethan Strimling and City Manager Jon Jennings.

Hinck’s committee has been mulling a possible ordinance since January, when it revived discussions by hearing from city officials about how pesticides are applied on city properties.

Troy Moon, the city’s environmental programs manager, reviewed a draft ordinance first presented in October 2015. Moon and Ethan Owens, who oversees the use and management of city athletic fields, doubted the city could ever completely eliminate use of synthetic pesticides in places like Riverside Golf Course.

That night, Munjoy Hill resident Avery Yale Kamilla also criticized the city for its use of synthetic herbicides to kill weeds on public sidewalks, and asked the committee to consider a citizen-drafted ordinance that would cover pesticide use on public and private property.

Hinck said municipal, commercial and residential use could be covered by the task force and potential regulations.

“Basically, we want any action we take to be in the context of what public health and safety issues present themselves and environmental effects to water, pets and wildlife,” he said. “If you are looking at this in terms of those real and potential impacts, the distinction between public and private use is not that major.”

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

City Councilor Jon Hinck on Monday said a task force will likely look at pesticide and chemical fertilizer use in Portland before any ordinance changes are proposed.

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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.