Residents say survey spreads misinformation about possible South Portland pesticide ban

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SOUTH PORTLAND — About a dozen residents have complained to city officials about pollsters who are reportedly providing misleading information about the city’s proposed ban on pesticides.

City Manager Jim Gailey said the city is not responsible for the phone surveys, and city officials don’t know who is or how the calls are being funded. 

According to Councilor Brad Fox, the activity is “certainly not illegal, it’s just annoying.”

City councilors last discussed a possible city-wide restriction on pesticides at a July 13 workshop, where they agreed to work with staff to craft a proposed ordinance by late November. 

Gailey said at the July workshop that most communities with pesticide restrictions use some variation of “integrated pest management programs” that rely on “prevention, monitoring and control.” 

IPM principles are also referred to as “common-sense” practices, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and require a management system tailored specifically to each location.

South Portland is expected to propose a restriction on most pesticide applications, with exceptions for items such as household products. 

Linden Thigpen, of Hillside Avenue, who was called by a pollster, said she is concerned that other residents who receive the calls would be misinformed about how a pesticide ban could affect them. 

Thigpen said she heard from about a dozen friends – also included in an email chain sent to Gailey’s office – who received the same call and same line of questions. Thigpen and resident Jayne Schiff-Verre contacted Fox about the phone calls.

The first questions were basic, Schiff-Verre said in an email. She was asked if she was aware that South Portland is exploring a ban on pesticides, if she would support that ban and at what level of government she felt the issue should be handled: local, state or by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Thigpen said the caller also listed specific household products commonly used to kill weeds, like Round-Up, and bug killers like Raid, before asking the resident if he or she used any of those products.

The caller, who told Thigpen that she was from a Colorado-based company called Net Research Today, then asked whether she knew Raid and Round-Up could be banned if a city ordinance is passed, an assertion Thigpin called “misleading.”

A search by The Forecaster of the Colorado Attorney General’s online database of regulatory agencies and business licenses uncovered no company registered as Net Research Today.

Schiff-Verre said, “The list of pesticide used and questions about how many products do you use can mislead the public into believing that all pesticides are going to be listed in the ordinance.”

“We need to get the word out to South Portland citizens, letting them know that there will be allowances for certain pesticides,” she said.

Thigpen said the caller even listed antibacterial soap as falling within the restricted uses if the city enacts a ban. 

One of the final questions, both women said, asked who they would trust on the issue: environmental experts, university professors, scientists, or a local city councilor. 

“Our concern was simply to put it out there that these calls were made,” Thigpen said, adding that the way some of the questions and concepts “were lumped together” could be misleading, especially to “uninformed citizens.” 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

Several South Portland residents have reported receiving phone survey calls asking questions about a proposed ban on pesticides that is expected to come before the City Council in November. The pollsters reportedly suggest incorrectly that household pesticides like Raid will be banned if the city ordinance is approved. 

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.
  • Mike Peaslee

    I would highly recommend that folks reading this article take a look at the video of the City Council workshop session of July 13th at the following link:

    There is clear discussion about a possible ban on ALL pesticides and most of the council was clearly in favor of a ban of some sort. The discussions did include comments by some councilors about banning uses of these materials both indoors and outdoors on all properties both public and private within the city.
    If an ordinance this restrictive were to pass that meant a total ban on pesticides that would in fact mean that you would not legally be able to use Raid inside your own house, nor could you or a vet apply an on animal flea and tick product into your pets within the city. Hand sanitizers if in fact they have an EPA registration # on them would not be allowed if a ban on ALL pesticides was enacted.
    According to the Maine Board of Pesticides Control as of July 13th of this year there are 11,294 products registered as pesticides in the State of Maine. These range from over the counter and professional use insects sprays to lawn care products, rodenticides, products used as disinfectants (yes including bleach if the label has directions on how to use it as a disinfectant) products to eliminate molds, on animal flea and tick products, etc. the list goes on and on.
    If in fact a ban on all pesticides were to be enacted this would impact many many commonly used products that would no longer be legal in the City of South Portland.
    I have been following this proposed ordinance diligently since the first workshop session regarding it earlier this year, as far as I am able to find out there is no language available to the public to indicate what exactly this ordinance may or may not include. If any ordinance passes I hope it is one that is balanced and takes into consideration that there are situations where the use of a pesticide is necessary.
    Right now no one knows what the proposed ordinance may include and based on the information from the workshop session referenced above it appears to me that all of the points that are stated as being referenced in these phone calls could in fact be accurate.

    I hope the City Council does their due diligence and really researches this topic, it is a very complex and complicated matter that should be regulated based on knowledge and facts, not based on emotional testimony from special interest groups such as Beyond Pesticides or Osborne Organics.

  • The Pope

    Ciao, it’s me, The Pope. Mama Mia, the way these nut jobs on the City Council are going, pretty soon South Portland will have very much the bans. November is coming, so the chance to get rid of some of these boneheads is coming. If you want to get rid of that Blake person, shoot me a text and I’ll paste a sign on the pope mobile and me and Benny will buzz around the city with it.

    The Pope
    Checking the popemobile’s tire pressure
    Vatican City