On Wednesday, January 3, the Portland City Council unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of synthetic pesticides on most City and private property. The ordinance will go into effect for City properties in July 2018 and for private properties in January 2019.
“This is an important first step in reducing the use of pesticides in the City of Portland, which will help us safeguard the overall health of our citizens, our waterways, and our food systems,” said Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, Chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee. “This represents the culmination of two years of hard work. I appreciate Councilor Mavodones’ leadership on the Pesticide and Fertilizer Task Force and the work of Councilors Duson and Ray who helped craft the ordinance presented to the City Council.”
"I want to first thank the Task Force and the members of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee for the time they spent on this issue,” said Mayor Ethan Strimling. “As Maine’s largest city, I am very proud that we have joined the nationwide movement to rid these unneeded chemicals from our environment. Enacting this ordinance will protect Portland’s families, children, pets, wildlife and visitors from exposure to toxic chemicals. A very important step as we continue to improve the quality of life for all Portland residents."
In June, the Sustainability and Transportation Committee began reviewing an ordinance proposed by the Pesticide and Fertilizer Task Force as well as the ordinance adopted by the City of South Portland. During the course of their work they held two public hearings and a panel discussion in order to receive input from a variety of stakeholders including lawn care companies, an expert in organic land management, and concerned residents.
The purpose of the ordinance is to safeguard the health and welfare of residents and protect the City’s waterways and natural resources by prohibiting the use of synthetic pesticides except for certain limited circumstances. It will establish a Pesticide Management Oversight Committee (the PMAC) tasked with developing and distributing materials designed to educate residents, businesses, and retailers about the ordinance and landscaping practices that do not require pesticides.
The PMAC will also be responsible for creating an annual report to the Sustainability and Transportation Committee about their education and outreach efforts, an analysis of data collected from licensed applicators, and any use of City property. A subcommittee of this group will be responsible for responding to requests from individuals who believe they have a situation that requires the use of a prohibited pesticide and are requesting a waiver. Such waivers will only be granted in situations that are an emergency, that threaten public health, safety, and welfare, or to control invasive species that pose a threat to the environment.
Enacting this ordinance will align the City of Portland with other communities including South Portland, Ogunquit, and Tacoma Park, Maryland, that restrict the use of synthetic pesticides in order to minimize chemical exposure to residents, pets, and wildlife.