Portland officials are talking about passing an ordinance that would further limit or ban the city’s use of pesticides and possibly extend it to private use.

They’re following in the footsteps of several other Maine communities, including Ogunquit, which recently passed an ordinance that restricts pesticide use but includes many exemptions.

Meanwhile, more than 700 Portland residents have signed a petition encouraging the city to stop spraying the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate, known commercially as Roundup, near schools and along sidewalks in residential neighborhoods. The petition has been submitted to the City Council’s Transportation, Sustainability & Energy Committee, which is scheduled to take up the issue at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“I’m surprised to see there are other communities that are ahead of us in eliminating or scaling back the use of pesticides and I’m open to how we can do that,” said Councilor Jon Hinck, committee vice chairman.

Twenty-four municipalities have pesticide-control ordinances registered with the state Board of Pesticides Control, including Lebanon, Waterboro, Standish, Wells and Brunswick, according to a memo from the city’s lawyers. The laws ban or regulate the type, method or oversight of pesticide application.

Ogunquit is the only town to extend its ordinance to private property, but it’s not an outright ban. It allows pesticides permitted in certified organic farming, as well as those in pool chemicals, pet supplies, disinfectants, insect repellents, swimming pool supplies, aerosol products, paints and stains. Restricted pesticides also may be used to kill noxious or invasive plants, such as poison ivy, and to address a health and safety threat, such as disease-carrying insects.


While the Portland committee will discuss the possibility of banning private use of pesticides, Hinck said it would be difficult to enforce. Hinck said Portland’s ordinance likely would focus on reducing or eliminating municipal use and educating the public to reduce residential or commercial use.

“It would be great if more residents of Portland shared the interest in reducing or eliminating pesticide use,” Hinck said.

The committee and a growing number of Portland residents are concerned about the impacts of pesticides on people, pets and the environment, including soil, groundwater, lakes, streams and Casco Bay.

Glyphosate, in particular, is a biodegradable herbicide that’s “safe” when used correctly, but it can cause kidney, lung and reproductive problems when breathed in or absorbed through the skin as a result of large or long-term exposures, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“My concern is the cumulative effect of all pesticides used in our community,” said Paul Drinan, a Munjoy Hill resident who signed the petition targeting glyphosate and Roundup, which is made by Monsanto.

In 2000, Drinan co-founded the Portland Pesticide Watch, which succeeded in pushing the city’s parks and public works departments to curb their pesticide use, according to Jeff Tarling, city arborist.


“We’re not only trying to reduce our pesticide use, but also looking at how we manage some of our open spaces,” Tarling said.

While there’s no formal written policy, the city no longer uses herbicides on lawns in city parks and at public schools, Tarling said.

The Rose Circle at Deering Oaks now features newer varieties that are naturally disease- and bug-resistant. And some fields have been planted with wildflowers and beneficial grasses that don’t have to be mowed.

But the city and its contractors still use glyphosate each year as a cost-effective way to kill weeds along sidewalks and on traffic islands, and other pesticides for a variety of other purposes.

“We’re looking at the ordinance in Ogunquit to see if any part of it would be pertinent to Portland,” Tarling said.

“We’re really revisiting our pesticide use and seeing how we can further reduce it.”

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