Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Maine Board of Pesticides Control January 2006

Maine BPC Reports \ BPC January 2006

BPC Continues Work on Indoor Pest Control Standards

The Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) opened its Jan. 20 meeting – its first meeting since Oct. 28 – with a workshop session to discuss ongoing revisions to the proposed Chapter 26 rule requiring Integrated Pest Management standards for certain pesticide applications in publicly accessible buildings. At the end of the previous comment period, the BPC had received nine letters and 229 form-letter postcards opposing the rule and two letters and 51 e-mail messages in support of the rule.

The previous version of the rule required building managers to post a notice in a common area of the building warning employees that pesticide applications might be made and allowing individual employees to request that they be forewarned of particular applications. The newer version of the rule omits the requirement for a permanent notice and instead requires that a notice specific to a particular application be posted in a common area 24 hours to seven days before the application. A similar requirement would hold for daycare facilities.

The previous version of the rule required a notice system for residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes (or their guardians) similar to the system used for employees. The new version omits any notification of these groups, instead simply forbidding the use of sprays when persons other than the applicator or building manager are in the room. Baits, gels, pastes, granular materials, and crack and crevice treatments (including volatile liquids) may be used when people, including children, are present.

No previous notification is required for the use of baits, gels, pastes, dusts, or granular materials placed in areas “not readily accessible to residents, employees, or children,” such as the space under a counter.  The applicator industry requested a similar exemption for crack and crevice treatments, but the BPC staff did not comply. The Board did not address the issue of potentially hazardous airborne particulate matter resulting from the application of pesticides in dust formulations. Board member John Jemison questioned the definition of “not readily accessible to employees,” citing a letter he had received from a carpenter who had worked under a cabinet in a restaurant and had some granular-form pesticide fall into his face. Staff toxicologist Lebelle Hicks said that as a contracted (rather than a regular) employee, the onus was on the carpenter to inquire about recent pesticide applications. “The good news is that he’s not running into dead mouse parts.”

The current version of the rule includes no notification provisions for tenants in apartment buildings, other than the tenant whose apartment receives treatment. Board members had previously suggested that Chapter 26 include provisions for an indoor application registry similar to the Pesticide Notification Registry, a list of Maine residents who have paid an annual fee of $20 to be notified when outdoor spray applications are made within 250 feet of their residence. The third version of the rule includes no such provision.  Board member Lee Humphreys encouraged the staff to continue working on the indoor registry, saying, “It’s even more important to be protected in your residence than in your workplace.” However, she and the other Board members agreed with the staff that the indoor registry was not “key to the effectiveness of Chapter 26 and…would better be taken up separately at a later date.”

The BPC expressed continued skepticism regarding the use of a universal logo to be posted at the entrance of any publicly accessible building in which pesticides are used, although this is the only proposed requirement favored by both the pest control industry and environmental organizations. MOFGA supported the logo at both public hearings because none of the other notification provisions could protect the casual public. The Board feared that enforcement of such a requirement would be too difficult due to the number of establishments involved. Chief of Compliance Henry Jennings suggested instead an “anti-logo” for establishments that do not use pesticides. Board member John Jemison suggested maintaining a list of pesticide-free establishments on the BPC Web site, but other Board members felt that this sort of effort was not the agency’s responsibility.  

Browntail Moth Treatments and Lobster Populations

The Board heard the Environmental Risk Advisory Committee’s interim report on the effect on lobster populations of pesticides used to control Browntail Moth infestations. Browntail Moths are typically treated with aerial sprays of Dimilin, a treatment that at $40 or less per acre is much cheaper than less environmentally risky methods, such as ground spraying ($1380 per acre) or clipping webs out of trees ($5400 per acre). The committee had so far concluded that the greatest risks for contamination of the marine environment came from spray drift contaminating a mudflat or direct application into the water if a pilot mistimed the operation of the spray boom. However, the committee also noted that Browntail Moth populations have declined sharply, and that no municipal spray programs have been organized for the near future because so many people oppose spraying that it is impossible to form a spray block with the minimum practical size of 20 acres.  The committee expected to issue a final report in March.  

Emergency Registrations

The Board then passed for the eighth year an “Emergency Registration Request” to the EPA to allow Maine growers to use Orbit (propiconazole) to control Mummyberry disease in blueberries. Syngenta Crop Protection, Orbit’s maker, has been waiting for approval of this use since 1997. Board chair Carol Eckert asked what would happen if the fungus gained resistance to propicanazole before the registration was complete; Pesticides Registrar Wesley Smith said that that situation had occurred before with other chemicals, including certain treatments for late blight in potatoes. Board member Lee Humphreys voted against the emergency registration.

The Board also approved an Emergency Registration “Quarantine Exemption” request to the EPA to allow IDEXX Laboratories of Westbrook to use Environ LpH for prion control on laboratory surfaces. IDEXX is a biotechnology laboratory engaged primarily in developing veterinary products. Its technicians handle tissues containing the prions believed to cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, such as Chronic Wasting Disease, scrapie and “mad cow disease.” Prions are much more difficult to deactivate or degrade than such disease-causing organisms as bacteria. Environ LpH has a pH of only 2.5, which could pose a serious hazard to the microorganisms used by publicly owned treatment works. The terms of the registration request required that IDEXX monitor and adjust the pH of the laboratory wastewater prior to discharge.

Bilingual Pesticide Educators

The BPC granted $1,165 to the Training and Development Corporation and $2,300 to the Maine Migrant Health Program to help support two bilingual pesticides educators to work with migrant workers in Northern and Western Maine. One of these is an AmeriCorps member who will work for all of 2006; the other is a Health Education intern who will work for six months in the spring and summer. Last year the program provided pesticide safety training for 562 adults and 62 children, as well as other health and language services. The BPC has included this grant money in its budget for the last 10 years.

Critical Pesticide Control Area Requirements

The Board passed a new policy regarding the designation of Critical Pesticide Control Areas (CPCA) for households. In response to a couple of drawn-out, problematic applications for CPCA designations, the Board attempted last summer to exclude single persons or families from CPCA eligibility, but withdrew the proposal when considerable opposition was expressed by MOFGA and others at a public hearing. Instead, the Medical Advisory Committee formulated requirements to ensure regular procedure and a sound medical basis for health-related CPCA designations.  

Applicants must sign a statement permitting the pertinent medical records to become part of the public record. In addition they must submit reports from two medical providers demonstrating that certain substances could reasonably be expected to cause or exacerbate a longstanding medical condition. The medical providers must be certified by the American Board of Medical Specialists or be licensed osteopaths; no provision is made for testimony from naturopathic doctors or other alternative healers. The application must also include copies of standard medical tests documenting the health condition involved, and a toxicological profile, based on peer-reviewed scientific literature, of the substance of substances to be restricted, including exposure levels likely to affect the person’s health. The applicant must be able to prove past exposure to the substance through a Board-documented enforcement case, or alternatively describe potential exposure scenarios based on physical and chemical data for the pesticide formulation and varying environmental conditions.

Chief of Compliance Henry Jennings presented a case in which a helicopter allegedly directly deposited the fungicide Orbit (the same substance for which the Board approved an Emergency Registration Request earlier in the meeting) onto the grounds of an organic farm owned by Mark Jacoby and his wife Lisa Mushrall in Columbia. The helicopter, owned by Maine Helicopters, Inc., of Whitefield, was hired by Wyman & Sons to treat a conventional blueberry field owned by Prescott Farren of Columbia. While turning between passes, the helicopter flew so close to the house that the dishes rattled; when the owners went outside to wave the helicopter away, Mushrall’s face was sprinkled with drops of fungicide.  Foliage samples from the target blueberry field, one corner of which was only 50 feet from the Mushrall-Jacoby house, showed propicanazole at concentrations of 7.44 to 11.7 ppm, while foliage samples taken near the house showed concentrations of 4.11 to 9.33 ppm, indicating that Orbit either drifted very heavily or was directly deposited onto the organic farm. Mushrall also noted that no signs were posted in the blueberry field giving notice of the spray event, and the same afternoon she had to warn workers from Wyman & Sons to stay out of the field to avoid exposure to the pesticide.  The BPC inspector confirmed that no signs were posted. The Board referred this case to the Attorney General’s office to avoid a conflict of interest, as Board member Andrew Berry formerly owned Maine Helicopters, Inc.

Looser Notificaton Requirements for Schools

Fears of mosquito-borne illnesses caused the Board to loosen notification requirements for pesticide applications on school grounds. After two horses and a bird in York county tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, parents in the area pressured school districts to spray school grounds to control mosquitoes prior to events such as ball games. The Board’s Chapter 27 regulations require a five-day prior notification for most spray events, but currently exempt applications of ready-to-use general use pesticides (e.g. DEET preparations) by hand or with non-powered equipment. The new policy also exempts powered applications for mosquito control when the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has identified arbovirus positive mosquitoes, birds or mammals in the area. Upon questioning, Certification and Licensing Specialist Gary Fish said that “area” would be interpreted conservatively to exempt only neighborhoods or townships, not all of York county. The pesticides applied would most likely be synthetic pyrethrins; larvicide treatments would also be possible but because these are aquatic applications they would require a DEP permit.

Other Business

The Board approved a consent agreement negotiated between BPC staff and the Penobscot Valley Country Club of Orono.  An employee at the Country Club made two applications of pesticides to the turf of the golf course, but no one at the course was licensed as a commercial pesticide applicator.  Managers at the Club had previously talked to BPC staff about getting an employee licensed; when no one showed up for the exam, the staff decided to investigate.  The Country Club was fined $200.

The Board renewed a three-year permit to the USDA Wildlife Services Office to use pesticides to control vertebrate pests outdoors. The Maine Board of Pesticides Control Statue forbids killing vertebrate animals other than rats and mice, and English sparrows, starlings and pigeons inside buildings. The Wildlife Services Office uses the permit primarily to control large bird populations in feedlots. The USDA agents prebait with untreated grain to ensure that the bait attracts only target species.

The Board approved Wyman & Sons’ 2006 Blueberry Pest Management Plan for the Deblois Critical Pesticide Control Area. The CPCA was instituted to protect a state-owned fish hatchery (including its rearing pools and tributary water supplies, and all land within 1000 feet) from pesticide drift and runoff. The plan relies in some cases on less-toxic alternatives, such as fire pruning and Bt products, and in other cases on employing the usual high-toxicity products such as Imidan in spot treatments with backpack sprayers instead of swath treatments with boom sprayers. The plan also specifies that traps are to be set to provide pest counts, and pesticide treatments are to be performed only if the number of trapped pests exceeds certain threshhold levels.

The Board ended its meeting by reelecting Carol Eckert and Andrew Berry as its Chair and Vice-Chair.

– Alice Torbert Percy