In June 2014, voters in Ogunquit made their municipality the first in Maine to pass a forward-thinking ordinance to restrict the use of pesticides and herbicides on both private and public land.

Unfortunately, the Maine Board of Pesticide Control determined, after the ordinance was passed, that the city had failed to meet certain state policy requirements. Those requirements have since been addressed. However, in order for the ordinance to be enacted, it must go before voters a second time, on Nov. 4.

The Ogunquit Conservation Commission is hosting a public meeting focused on the ordinance tonight, Thursday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. at Ogunquit Town Hall.

The technical glitch that overturned the will of Ogunquit voters provided an opportunity for opponents of the ordinance, who largely represent corporate interests, to work behind the scenes these past few months. They’ve been recruiting voters to their side, in the hope of defeating the ordinance in November.

As a result, Ogunquit voters will have to turn out in force on Nov. 4 if they want to make certain this important ordinance passes a second time.

We hope they will do just that. Here’s why:

”¢ Toxic chemicals contribute to a wide array of health problems, especially in children whose immune systems aren’t yet fully developed. According to the Pesticide Action Network, these health problems include autism, cancer, birth defects, early puberty, obesity, diabetes and asthma. According to a study cited by PAN, more than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the U.S., and those pesticides are blamed for the appearance of neurological problems in one in 10 children in the U.S. Pets are at risk, too ”“ and they can track pesticide and herbicide residues into your home, putting your whole family at risk.

”¢ When pesticides and herbicides are used on lawns, parks and roadsides, the impact is felt far and wide. Run-off from storm water and melting snow carries fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals and toxic matter into the groundwater, affecting wells, rivers, streams, estuaries and other marine waters. The toxins from these chemicals are long-lasting, sometimes persisting for years. It’s not enough for a few conscientious, private citizens to stop using pesticides; it takes a community-wide solution to protect municipal waterways.

”¢ Ogunquit has a thriving tourist economy. Protecting the town’s natural resources so residents and tourists can enjoy boating, swimming, fishing and other recreational activities makes sense.

”¢ The problem is getting worse. Pesticide and herbicide use is on the rise despite all the evidence showing that these chemicals are hazardous to our health. The Scotts Company recently began testing a new “Roundup Ready” grass seed, genetically engineered to withstand massive amounts of Monsanto’s deadly glyphosate. This GMO grass could show up on your neighbor’s lawn, and the glyphosate could drift into your lawn and you’d never know it.

Ӣ Poisons are becoming increasingly toxic. As weeds and pests develop resistance to the chemicals thrown at them, it takes greater amounts, and increasingly toxic varieties, of chemicals to control them. For example, just this month, Syngenta petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve higher levels of the chemical thiamethoxam, a toxin that belongs to the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, which scientists say are responsible for the die-off of honeybees. The petition seeks approval of 400 times the levels currently allowed.

Ӣ Non-toxic alternatives are better. There are better ways to control weeds and pests than those that involve contaminating our natural resources and endangering our health. The ordinance that will be put forth to Ogunquit voters on Nov. 4 recommends effective, non-toxic alternatives, including Organic Pest Management practices that not only pose no health risk, but also cost less than applying expensive chemicals, and contribute to the long-term health of soil and waterways.

Voters in Ogunquit were wise to pass this ordinance in June. Now, they should be vigilant about protecting their vote, by voting yes again, Nov. 4. This is an opportunity for Ogunquit to lead the way for other cities in Maine to stand up to the pesticide industry and vote to protect the health of their families, their communities and their local economies.

— Michael Horn is the chairman of the Ogunquit Conservation Commission; Katherine Paul is the associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

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