South Portland plans to educate residents on pesticide ban

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city is poised to begin outreach efforts to educate residents about the new, far-reaching ban on the use of synthetic pesticides.

The ordinance, passed last week by the City Council, culminated more than a year’s work that was spearheaded by Sustainability Coordinator Julie Rosenbach. 

The ban will prohibit all turf, landscape and outdoor pest management pesticides, except those listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “allowed substances.” It will be phased in over three years, starting in 2017. 

The ban will take effect for city property May 1, 2017, expand to the general public May 1, 2018, and apply to the municipal golf course and the privately owned Sable Oaks Golf Club starting May 1, 2019. 

The consequences for violators will not be punitive; the city instead will use educational outreach to bring them into compliance, Rosenbach said Tuesday morning at a press conference. 

Rosenbach and Mayor Tom Blake said they’re hoping a lot of the outreach will take place between neighbors. But residents will also have the option of filing complaints against violators, Blake said.

“We’re not going to rule out … penalties in the long run,” he said, but for now and for the next year, Rosenbach and her seven-member Pest Management Advisory Committee will launch an educational outreach campaign.

Rosenbach said the whole approach will be “to help people learn how” to effectively use organic treatment methods. 

The city will also expect help from pesticide retailers, Rosenbach said. 

Rosenbach and her team will use common methods to disseminate information, such as fliers and posting information on the city website. But they also plan to form partnerships with local organizations to offer workshops and demonstrations, through venues such as the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, Friends of Casco Bay, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. 

The cost of outreach and the effort to bring people into compliance is not yet known, but Blake said the council is “prepared to do what we have to do” to ensure the ordinance is upheld. Long-term, he said, it’s a worthy investment. 

Rosenbach said passing the ordinance helped her fulfill the most important tenet of her role as sustainability coordinator, which is to create a healthier, more “resilient” community, both for residents and the land they occupy. 

Blake agreed: “There’s value in a healthy Casco Bay,” he said. 

In the end, Rosenbach said, what the city is really doing is working to “reduce the toxicity in our environment.”

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

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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.