October 11, 2010

Scarborough looks at limits on pesticide use

A committee expects to review a draft ordinance addressing the use of chemicals on town land.

By Ann S. Kim akim@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

Scarborough will consider restricting the use of weed killers and other chemicals on municipal property.

The Town Council's Ordinance Committee, which discussed the issue for the first time recently, expects to look over a draft ordinance at its Oct. 26 meeting, according to Councilor Karen D'Andrea, the committee chairwoman.

An ordinance that won voter approval in Ogunquit in June 2009 may serve as a model for Scarborough.

The York County town bars the use of synthetic pesticides -- whether they target weeds, fungus, bugs or rodents -- in the management of lawns, athletic fields, landscaping and other outdoor areas on town-owned land. Organic products are allowed.

The ordinance contains emergency provisions for cases where pests pose an immediate threat to human health or environmental quality or would cause substantial property damage. Other exemptions are in place for specific uses such as wastewater treatment, contained rodent traps and poison ivy along Ogunquit's Marginal Way.

D'Andrea said her committee's work on the issue began after several residents approached her about the need to address the effect of pesticides.

Eddie Woodin, one of the residents and an avid birder, believes lawn chemicals are contributing to the decline he's noticed in birds that feed on insects. He hopes a town ordinance will inspire private property owners to follow suit.

"This is really the stepping stone to get the message out," he said.

Ogunquit's ordinance was introduced by the town's conservation committee, which was concerned about the impact of pesticides on rivers and oceans, said Town Manager Thomas Fortier. The town now uses a combination of vinegar, water and salt to control weeds, he said.

"It does a fantastic job," he said.

Maine communities have taken a wide range of approaches to regulating pesticides, said Gary Fish, manager of pesticide programs at the Maine Board of Pesticides Control. Some towns address only municipal property, while others restrict pesticides in aquifer or shoreland protection zones.

Fish said no communities have passed enforceable rules that affect homeowners -- though that approach has taken off in Canada, where some cities limit pesticide use on lawns and landscapes for aesthetic purposes.

Some towns are trying to promote best-management practices through policies, and others have enforceable ordinances, Fish said. Some pursue ordinances that aren't enforceable because they fail to adhere to state law, he said.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

 

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