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  You are here:  ProgramsPublic Policy InitiativesMaine Board of Pesticides Control ReportsBPC – April 2005   
 BPC Discusses Chapter 60 Rule Minimize


BPC Discusses Chapter 60 Rule
Two Exemptions
Pesticide Applications on Blueberry Lands


BPC Discusses Chapter 60 Rule

At its April 15 meeting, the BPC resolved to revise, but not revoke, the Chapter 60 rule allowing chemically sensitive individuals to seek CPCA protection. In addition to the overwhelmingly negative reaction to proposed amendments that the board had received at its public hearing, the staff reviewed 53 written submissions, of which 31 supported the amendments and 22 opposed changing the existing rule. Board members who had previously supported revoking the individual's right to CPCA protection now strongly favored retaining that right and reworking the rule to ensure a smoother process. Board member Lee Humphreys found herself "suddenly back-pedaling" during the testimony, as she realized that the BPC is a "last resort for people who need protection in a world where chemicals are everywhere." Board member John Jemison called Tisher's testimony "very compelling" and pointed out that because individual CPCA protection issues rarely arise, "we would be heading in the wrong direction if we took protection away from people who need it."

However, board member Seth Bradstreet stated that better enforcement of other existing rules (such as buffers and wind speed restrictions) would eliminate at least some need for the chapter 60 rule. He expressed concern that agricultural land and the right of landowners to use their land agriculturally is being restricted by urban sprawl. Andrew Berry, owner of Maine Helicopter Inc., opposed imposing further regulations on those who earn their living as spray contractors, but added that as an asthmatic he sympathized with those seeking to distance themselves from chemicals. Eckert and staff member Lebelle Hicks believed that higher standards are needed for the medical testimony, in order to prevent establishing a CPCA on false premises. Both recommended involving the Medical Advisory Committee, either to formulate appropriate standards or possibly to review medical testimony for toxicological accuracy. Eckert also recommended that independent mediation be required before a CPCA is established. According to Mark Randlett, assistant attorney general, the state maintains a list of certified mediators, some of whom specialize in environmental issues. The parties concerned are generally responsible for the cost of the mediation. The Board resolved to seek the advice of the Medical Advisory Committee and to further discuss the role of mediation in the process.

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Two Exemptions

The board amended Chapter 27, which regulates the Integrated Pest Management standards for K-12 schools, to require notice to all parents only when school is in session. At other times, only parents of students who will be in the building around the time of the application (such as members of sports teams) would be notified. Notices of the application must always be posted to entrances near the sprayed area. Chapter 31 was amended to exempt pool and spa operators who are certified by certain approved organizations, as well as pet groomers, from applicator licensing requirements.

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Pesticide Applications on Blueberry Lands

David Yarborough, University of Maine Cooperative Extension blueberry specialist, reviewed Extension's latest water quality monitoring results. Extension has sampled wells annually in and around blueberry fields since 1989 for hexazinone, an herbicide that leaches into groundwater and contaminates drinking water supplies. Recent tests have also monitored for the herbicide terbacil and the fungicides propiconazole and febunconazole. Neither fungicide was registered for use last year and neither was present in ground or surface water at detectable levels. Hexazinone ranged from nondetectable to 9.5 ppb, the latter at a site that, in 2003, suffered a point source spill. The town water supply in Machias contained just over 1 ppb hexazinone. The EPA Health Advisory Limit for hexazinone in drinking water is 400 ppb. Terbacil was not detected at levels above 1 ppb at any test sites; the Health Advisory Limit for terbacil is 90 ppb. Because no monitoring in the past 12 years has shown pesticide levels approaching the Health Advisory Limits, the BPC agreed to allow the university to test only once every four years, alternating with monitoring conducted by BPC staff every four years, so that testing will occur biennially.

The board reviewed the staff's "2004 Drift Study of Aerially Applied Blueberry Pesticides," which was conducted near salmon habitats on the Narraguagus and Pleasant Rivers in Washington County. Low levels of the fungicide fenbuconazole or the insecticide phosmet were detected on drift cards or in water samples at five of nine sampling sites. When sampling downwind of application areas, 22 samples tested positive and 18 negative; however, staff believed that some of the nondetects were sampled too long after the application to be accurate. Since Cherryfield Foods and Wyman & Sons, the state's two largest blueberry growers, will cease aerial pesticide spraying, Eckert recommended continued testing to see if boom spraying significantly reduces drift.

However, two representatives of Wyman & Sons, Nat Lindquist and Darin Hammond, vehemently opposed the BPC's testing program. Wyman & Sons believes itself to be targeted by environmental groups because it has been weakened by the threat of a lawsuit from the National Environmental Law Center, which was the impetus for the switch to boom spraying. The company fears further legal threats based on all pesticide spraying if monitoring continues. The representatives informed the board that the company's land will henceforth be posted to prevent anyone but BPC staff from conducting investigations. BPC staff must call company offices first and may not be granted permission to test if the company deems the "political situation" unfavorable. The representatives objected to the BPC staff's use of university students and volunteers from two watershed councils to assist in the testing, claiming that at least one of these individuals had an "environmental agenda" and that some drift samples might have been contaminated by insufficiently trained volunteers.

They also objected that environmental groups obtained data from the study before Wyman & Sons and asked that data not be released until studies are officially published. Randlett said that even early drafts of such documents are subject to Freedom of Access laws, so the staff had to release them upon request. Staff member Heather Jackson said she had called the offices of Wyman & Sons and Cherryfield Foods to inform them of the general results upon the conclusion of the study.

The board approved a consent agreement with Mainely Grass Inc. of York. The company was fined $1500 with $500 suspended for applying lawn pesticides at the wrong address. The company was previously fined for a similar, 2003 offense.

Reported by Alice Torbert

© 2005. For information on reproducing this article, please contact the author.

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