Discusses allegedly egregious lawn care company practices
The Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) has been developing a message concerning pesticide notification since it opted not to develop a comprehensive registry for notification earlier this year. The current systems for pesticide notification in Maine have changed substantially over the past few years, creating confusion, so the BPC has struggled to develop a clear and concise message about notification.
The BPC developed a poster for statewide distribution telling how residents can receive notification of pesticide spraying near their homes. The non-urban, free pesticide notification registry no longer exists. To know about applications, residents and businesses must now must ask neighboring landowners about their activities.
At its June meeting the BPC received preliminary comments about rulemaking it will begin in the fall. Expected rule changes deal with board definitions, pesticide applications on school grounds, and removing provisions regarding pesticide container storage and disposal. The last change is in response to moves by the state legislature in its last session that repealed requirements for deposits on pesticide containers. The original legislation was intended to discourage dumping of pesticide containers, which the legislature believed was no longer necessary.
MOFGA had hoped the BPC would strengthen the policy concerning genetically engineered Bt corn products in Maine. The board currently has only a policy in place with no enforceability; if issues arise, growers have no protections or clarity regarding how new GE corn products are used. (See "Maine BPC Chooses Not to Work on Rulemaking," The MOF&G, summer 2012.)
See www.thinkfirstspraylast.org for information on commenting on proposed rulemaking changes.
In June the BPC approved a Special Local Need (SLN) registration of Nufarm Ethephon 2 Plant Growth Regulator [(2-chloroethyl) Phosphonic Acid] for use on tomatoes grown at Backyard Farms in Madison. The product label says Nufarm is used to “chemically accelerate fruit maturation or facilitate uniform fruit ripening.”
The board reached a consent agreement with Prospect Hill Golf Course in Auburn in May. Prospect Hill is open to the public so must have a licensed commercial applicator apply any pesticides used. In this case, the licensed employee left the company in 2009 and proper documentation and licenses were not maintained again until 2011, when a BPC inspector visited the site. A fine of $350 was assessed.
Also in May the board fined Atlantic Turf Care, of Falmouth, $800 for applying pesticides to the wrong property. The applicator failed to verify he was at the correct address, so Dimension 0.21% Plus Fertilizer and Riverdale Cool Power Selective Herbicide were applied to the wrong property. When the intended customer learned that a neighboring lawn received the application, she contacted the neighbor, who contacted the board. The neighbor also told the BPC that winds exceeded 15 mph during the application, which a BPC inspector verified. The fine was based on the failure of the applicator to positively identify the correct property and on applying pesticides when winds exceeded the legal limit.
Tripp Middle School in Turner was fined $250 for a violation that sent five school employees to a medical facility for review. After school hours, a school employee applied Misty Wasp and Hornet Killer IIb to the school kitchen to control a fly problem. The following morning employees who intended to clean the application area reported seeing pools of pesticides, smelling chemical fumes and feeling ill. They were examined at a nearby medical facility. A BPC inspector identified eight separate violations. The school district now has policies intended to prevent such a situation.
A misunderstanding between a customer and Atlantic Pest Solutions of Brunswick resulted in a $400 fine for the company in June. After Atlantic Pest Solutions acquired H&G Pest Control, it began notifying H&G customers of Atlantic’s intent to perform two pesticide applications in coming months. An H&G customer who operated on a call-as-needed basis did not receive notification of the intended applications and was dismayed when his property was sprayed with Demand CS Insecticide. Atlantic Pest Solutions could not prove it had an agreement with the customer.
In May the board discussed what some members called one of the most egregious situations the BPC has encountered. Purely Organic, a lawn care company based in York Harbor, was accused of fraudulent and misleading business practices. The company advertised its services as organic while allegedly using toxic synthetic chemicals, including 2,4-D and Dicamba. Evidence in this case suggests the company misled customers and failed to protect the public or its employees from risks associated with the chemicals used. Customers include the City of South Portland and Colby College. The proposed fine is $37,000 with $19,000 suspended. The board had a long discussion about how to proceed, particularly whether to accept the consent agreement or send the case to the Attorney General’s office for possible criminal charges. It tabled the discussion until its Sept. 7 meeting.
Note that no national standards for organic land care exist, as they do for organic agriculture. The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) has developed regionally appropriate standards and an accreditation program for organic land care. Land managers who wish to be accredited must pass an exam, receive continuing education on practices and pledge to provide customers with organic practices. Asking landscapers if they are NOFA-accredited can help consumers learn about a company’s practices. Accredited land care professionals are listed at www.organiclandcare.net.
– Katy Green