South Portland pesticides ban extends to residents May 1

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city made history in 2016 by becoming the largest community in Maine to enact a ban on synthetic pesticides. 

The ban goes into effect for residents May 1. City-owned properties have not used synthetic pesticides for a year. 

The city’s sustainability director, Julie Rosenbach, said Tuesday that South Portland has been developing education and outreach about how to comply with the ordinance and how to transition to organic land care. She said the outreach includes materials, informational events, workshops and demonstrations. 

She encouraged residents to look for those resources starting May 1.

The pesticide ordinance prohibits all turf, landscape and outdoor pest management pesticides, except those listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “allowed substances.” It essentially bans most synthetic pesticides and allows most organics.

Non-synthetic, organic or natural pesticides are defined as substances derived from mineral, plant or animal matterthat doesn’t go through a synthetic process, according to the ordinance language. 

The ban also allows chemicals classified as “minimum risk” by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, according to a memo from Rosenbach.

Consequences for violators won’t be punitive; violations will be corrected through educational outreach.

The ban is being phased in over three years.

City-owned properties had to comply with the law first. Now residents must make the transition. Next to be included in the change will be the municipal golf course and the privately owned Sable Oaks Golf Club, starting in May 2019.

A waiver process will be available for residents and business owners who must apply a pesticide that isn’t allowed under the ordinance. But waivers will only be granted for “situations that pose a threat to public health and safety, or for the control of invasive species that pose a threat to the environment,” according to Rosenbach’s memo.

Earlier this month, waiver requests from five oil companies, including Sprague, Portland Pipeline, and Gulf Oil, were denied by the council. They a waiver to use synthetic chemicals until organic products can be proven to be as effective.

Vegetation and flammable materials must be kept away from their tanks, they said, and have been routinely cleared using synthetic chemicals that are not allowed under the ordinance. Councilors urged the companies to try alternative methods before coming back to the council. 

Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106., or at jlaaka@theforecaster.net and on Twitter @JulietteLaaka.

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