FALMOUTH — Concerned about the impact of pesticides on both the environment and human health, the town’s Conservation Commission is proposing new rules that would require applicators to register and file an annual usage report.

The Falmouth Conservation Commission is asking the town to implement new rules that would require pesticide applicators to register and provide an annual usage report. Courtesy

The new ordinance, which would also include fertilizer applications, would be accompanied by an education and outreach campaign to target both property owners and landscaping professionals.

Kimberly Darling, Falmouth’s sustainability coordinator, said the commission hopes to bring the proposal to the council for its review later this month or early December.

The Conservation Commission was first tasked with finding the best ways to limit local pesticide use about three years ago. Members have been reviewing data and scientific studies that link pesticides to everything from decreased water quality to short- and long-term effects on human health.

In 2017, Nancy Lightbody, co-chair of the commission, said about two dozen communities in Maine had already enacted rules that either restrict or ban the use of pesticides. At the time, the Town Council made addressing pesticide use a high priority, but the Conservation Commission wanted to ensure it gathered all the necessary information and got input from stakeholders before making any final recommendations, Lightbody said then.

Darling said the Falmouth proposal mirrors state law, which requires commercial pesticide applicators to be licensed and register their applications, as well as provide the state with an annual usage summary.

“We are asking for that same information, in the same format, and by the same date, but specific to Falmouth,” Darling said this week. She also said the Conservation Commission hopes to extend the requirements to fertilizer, as well.

As it stands, there are no licensing or reporting requirements in place for the application of fertilizer, “which is why we are still working on that piece of the ordinance. It would be a short-sighted decision not to address both of these topics” at once.

Darling said the commission has also hired a consultant to help with the education campaign, which would include a combination of social media, mailings, updates on the town’s website and yard signs.

The commission is not trying to tell people they can’t use pesticides or fertilizers, Darling said, but that they can still maintain “a healthy, beautiful yard without excessive use.”

“We understand that pesticides are tools when used correctly,” particularly when it comes to combating invasive species, from browntail moths to Eurasian milfoil.

As with any ordinance, the key will be enforcement. But, Darling said, since the proposal is “data-driven,” she hopes that will make the new rules more acceptable.

Megan Patterson, director of Maine’s Board of Pesticides Control, said this week that requiring commercial pesticide applicators to register and be licensed helps ensure the materials are used properly and in a “manner that is responsible and effective.”

Patterson also said the state’s licensing rules ensure that applicators are competent, requiring them to pursue continuing education credits to remain licensed and up-to-date on all the research, new technology and new regulations. Topics could include everything from emerging pests and integrated pest management to alternative methods of keeping lawns and gardens healthy.

Patterson said individuals can ask to be notified of pesticide applications within a certain distance of their property.

She said the Board of Pesticides Control website has information on common Maine pests and the use of integrated pest management to yardscaping tips, which the public can use to evaluate their landscapers.

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