OGUNQUIT — Voters here chose wisely last month when they approved an ordinance to expand limits on pesticide use to include all property in the town, both public and private.

The expanded ordinance – which the town is working to resubmit so that it meets state administrative requirements – calls for property owners to use organic products, though it does allow for some exceptions when chemical pesticides are permitted, such as for disease-carrying insects and noxious invasive plant species.

In the past few years, as more properties in Ogunquit have been acquired by summer residents who hire professional lawn and garden companies to do their yardwork, the amount of pesticides that are routinely used in our town has increased dramatically.

Maine has a right-to-know law overseen by the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, which can be contacted at [email protected] Anyone who lives or works within 500 feet of any outdoor site treated with pesticides has the right to receive information and forewarnings about pesticide applications.

I have elected to be notified. I like to hang my laundry out when the weather is fine, and my husband and I like to eat lunch out on our deck.

I got tired of having to take down the laundry, close the windows, abandon the deck and have lunch indoors because someone from the lawn care company had arrived with a tanker truck full of chemicals and was spraying the properties around us.

I get called by the lawn care company that has been applying pesticides to many yards in our area. After I’m notified, I use the Internet to learn about the pesticides that are going to be applied. Each pesticide has a product safety sheet that lists the dangers and precautions that should be taken if using the product.

My husband and I live in a neighborhood on a hill above the Marginal Way, Ogunquit’s foot path along the ocean. This spring the first of several fertilizer and pesticide applications took place on some lawns in our area.

The applied pesticide is Allectus, used to control grubs. It can cause ground water contamination and tremors in dogs, and it is extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms. There is a warning not to allow Allectus to enter streams, sewers or waterways.

Right after the application, we had a hard rain. The water washed the fertilizer and pesticide down into the estuary along the Marginal Way. The seaweed along the rocks turned a bright electric green that made many folks uneasy. The fertilizer causes algal bloom.

Our neighborhood also has had many trees and shrubs sprayed with a fungicide called Manicure, which is toxic to aquatic invertebrates and wildlife and fish. This fungicide has a high potential for runoff to surface water for several days after application.

Along with Manicure, an insecticide called CrossCheck is applied. Its runoff is extremely toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates in adjacent areas and will persist in aquatic sediments. These pesticides are applied preventively to all of the trees and bushes on a property, not just to trees or shrubs that show signs of insect or fungal damage.

These are just some of the chemicals being applied by lawn care companies in our area.

I hope Ogunquit’s choice to go organic will keep our lobsters and clams healthy. I’d hate to see the collapse of our fishery, as happened in Long Island Sound.

I worry about the employees of the lawn and garden care companies who apply the pesticides, as well as the workers who cut the grass and weed and care for the garden plants. They are coming into contact with plants that have been sprayed with chemicals whose manufacturers warn of harm if the substances get into eyes, are inhaled or get on the skin, where they are absorbed.

I hope Ogunquit will be the first of many communities along the Gulf of Maine that will choose to care for lawns and gardens in a way that is safe for people, pets and our environment.

Coastal Maine would then be a vacation destination where people could be confident that the beaches and water are not contaminated with pesticides.

— Special to the Press Herald