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Daily News Blog

09
Sep

South Portland, Maine Passes Lawn Pesticide Ban, Focuses on Education

(Beyond Pesticides, September 9, 2016) On Wednesday, City Council members of South Portland, Maine cast their final votes to pass an ordinance that bans the use of toxic lawn pesticides on private and public land. The ban, which passed 6-1, is an important public health measure in the protecting 25,000 residents,  the largest jurisdiction in the state to-date to adopt such as measure. In 2014, the Town of Ogunquit, Maine was the first jurisdiction to ban toxic lawn pesticides on both private and public land.

Maine’s status as one of only seven states that does not preempt  local governments’ authority to restrict the use of pesticides on land within their jurisdiction empowers local governments to take this kind of protective action. Supporters of this ordinance, led by the local organization Protect South Portland, and supported by statewide organizations and  Beyond Pesticides, put together an effective campaign to educate council members, the public, and the media about the dangers of pesticides, and the effectiveness of organic land management practices that do not utilize toxic pesticides.

south_portland_marinaUnder the legislation, the provisions will be phased in, starting with city property on May 1, 2017, private property beginning May 1, 2018, and to golf courses on May 1, 2019. The law allows time for transition, training, and the development of a public education program. The measure does not establish fines for violations, opting for a community education approach as the city gauges compliance before considering instituting penalties in the future. When first proposed, the ordinance  included  fines of up to $1,000 per violation following an initial warning. The new ordinance puts oversight, outreach, and compliance in the hand of the city’s sustainability coordinator, Julie Rosenbach.

In August, Ms. Rosenbach wrote in a memo to the city council: “Our intention is not to approach implementation of this ordinance in a punitive way, but rather to use education and outreach to promote non-toxic land care practices and help the community to comply with this ordinance.”

Public records will be maintained  detailing how complaints and compliance are handled, allowing officials the opportunity to review the effectiveness of the law. Recognizing the potential limitations of an education program alone, however, some members of the council indicated the possibility of revisiting the ordinance to add other enforcement measures after more data is known about local pesticide use, a tool that could prove very beneficial to bringing South Portland into full compliance with the new ordinance

Because the focus of the ordinance is on prohibiting use of the now banned pesticides, it does not prohibit chemical sales. In defining allowed materials, the ordinance defines allowed materials in lawn care, including “minimum risk” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and those on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s List of Allowed Substances. The local ban exempts commercial agriculture and provides waivers for using pesticides in situations that threaten the public health and safety, such as the presence of disease carrying pests or invasive species.

As  Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Gina McGarthy said  during her presentation to Montgomery County, Maryland that national change starts at the local level. The passing of this ordinance in South Portland is similar to those passed in the town of Ogunquit, ME,  and  Takoma Park and  Montgomery County, Maryland. Ordinances have been adopted in other jurisdictions in Maine and across the country that focus solely on pesticide use on public property. The legislatures  of Connecticut and Maryland  passed laws this year that restrict the retail sale of  products containing neonicotinoid pesticides. And,  the Governor Minnesota issued an executive order restricting neonicotinoid use, while  numerous municipalities across the country  have taken similar step to stop use on their properties.

There is movement across the country to adopt ordinances that stop pesticide use on public property and, where allowed, private property. Pesticides when used move off the target site through drift and runoff, exposing non-target sites and people. For information on this kind of organic lawn care, see  Beyond Pesticides  lawns and landscape program page.

Wondering how you can create change similar to that taking place in South Portland? Take action! Regardless of whether your local jurisdiction is preempted by state law, you can still work to get toxic chemicals  out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support —friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local elected officials  and government. Beyond Pesticides has resources and factsheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) Beyond Pesticides for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to effect change.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Portland Press Herald

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  • Archives

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