Possible Portland pesticide rules more closely mirror South Portland's

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PORTLAND — An ordinance to regulate pesticide use could be drawing from experiences across the Casco Bay Bridge in South Portland.

When the Sustainability & Transportation Committee meets at 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, chairman Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said, members will discuss a phased approach like the three-year period being used in South Portland, and also whether organic pesticides will require waivers.

An ordinance draft dated Sept. 1 attempts to ban “the use of pesticides on publicly and/or privately owned turf, walkways, driveways, and/or patios, landscape and outdoor pest management.” The new ordinance draft is online at http://bit.ly/2gHFVk0

South Portland’s ordinance was enacted in September 2016, and is now in its first phase, governing use on all city-owned properties except golf courses.

At the last committee meeting Aug. 16, Thibodeau and Councilors Jill Duson and Belinda Ray began discussing a phased-in approach with city-owned properties, effective March 1, 2018. Following that would be private properties on Jan. 1, 2019 and the Riverside Golf Course beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

City staff has sought to exempt fields at Fox Street, Deering Oaks Park, Deering High School, Preble Street, and one at Payson Park, but the ordinance draft places them in the third phase for limiting pesticide use.

The new ordinance draft still calls for a waiver process and review board to be established and emphasizes public outreach and education to help curtail pesticide use.

Among the exemptions from regulations are commercial agriculture, pet supplies, household disinfectants, insect repellents and pool cleaning supplies. City-owned Hadlock Field is also exempt from the proposed new rules, and pesticide use will be allowed to combat invasive species and insects.

While it is not yet determined whether organic substances may be exempt from the waiver process as in South Portland, the city manager’s office would be expected to handle waiver applications.

Waivers for use of synthetic pesticides such as Roundup would be obtained only after all other measures to eradicate pests have been taken and the problem presents a threat to public safety, the environment, buildings or structures. They would have to be granted within three days of an application.

The ordinance draft also still includes a seven-member oversight board that has to have two licensed applicators and two “environmental professionals,” with three others representing the public at large.

The committee would be responsible for establishing the public outreach and education efforts, including public notification of pesticide use, and compile annual reports on the use of pesticides.

Regulating pesticide use has been considered in earnest since the establishment of a task force that began meeting in June 2016. Thibodeau said his committee wants to have an ordinance in front of the full council for a hearing and vote before the current term ends in November.

Thibodeau expects the committee will continue discussing the ordinance Sept. 20 and perhaps in early October, and there will be a public hearing before the committee makes a recommendation.

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

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.