After serving for the past 8 months on Portland’s Pesticide Task Force, Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell is hopeful that Maine’s largest city ultimately will pass an ordinance to restrict pesticide use.
The 12 member task force consisted of a diverse set of stakeholders, including concerned citizens, lawn care professionals, and scientists. While meetings were occasionally tension-filled, the task force came out in support of an ordinance that bans the use of pesticides on lawns, patios and driveways, and within 75 feet of water. The draft ordinance would also have Portland form an advisory committee to develop data on pesticide use.
“The draft ordinance is a good start—it doesn’t solve every problem associated with pesticides, but it does takes a good bite out of the apple,” says Cathy.
Stormwater testing by Friends of Casco Bay found pesticides flowing into the Bay in more than a dozen locations. This led to our outreach effort: BayScaping. After nearly two decades of education to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, Maine homeowners still use a large amount of pesticides. That is why we became involved in “grassroots efforts” with local communities to restrict the use of lawn chemicals.
In task force meetings, Cathy saw her role as one of finding common ground between those who wanted outright prohibitions on all pesticide use and applicators who did not want any new restrictions.
“In times like these, it would be easy to be an obstructionist and stop any forward movement,” said Cathy. “For the task force to do its job, though, we had to find common ground. Everyone on the committee agreed that we need to keep these chemicals out of the Bay. The recommended ordinance is a compromise position based on the idea that aesthetic pesticide use to make our lawns look pretty is not the best use of these toxic chemicals, given the risk to our health and the health of the Bay.”
The City Council Sustainability and Transportation Committee will now take up the draft ordinance. The committee may recommend it to the full council for passage or may make its own changes to the draft—and, city councilors may further alter the ordinance before considering adoption.