Indoor Pesticide Applications and Annual Emergencies
The February 24 meeting of the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) opened with a public hearing on the third draft of the proposed Chapter 26 rule governing pesticide applications in all public buildings except K-12 schools.
Richard Stevenson Sr. of Modern Pest Services reiterated his and his associates’ belief that a notification registry system or a universal logo posted on public entrances would be more effective and more enforceable than any of the notification systems proposed by the Board. He called the registry approach – which is already available for outdoor applications – “cheap healthcare, a real bargain at 20 dollars,” referring to the fee charged by the BPC for adding a name to the registry. The Toxics Action Center has petitioned the BPC to eliminate this fee, arguing that producers should pay the cost of protecting citizens from pesticide exposure. The Board has expressed an intent to institute a notification registry for indoor pesticide applications to help protect chemically sensitive or other concerned apartment dwellers from applications made in neighboring apartments. It has repeatedly rejected suggestions from MOFGA and the pest control industry to include a universal logo system in the rule.
Stevenson repeated a previous request that the Board exempt crack and crevice treatments from notification requirements. He argued that such treatments are frequently used for economically important pests, and that the 24-hour notification requirement would prevent Modern Pest Services from responding efficiently to customer calls. Board chair Carol Eckert said that “crack and crevice” has a broad definition and that certain crack and crevice procedures might be exempted. Stevenson responded that the two primary crack and crevice techniques are a “spaghetti tube” that deposits pesticides directly behind a baseboard, and spraying pesticides above the baseboard so that they drip behind it.
Ralph Blumenthal of Atlantic Pest Solutions asked that building managers instead of pest control operators have responsibility for notification. He stated that persons requesting information about an application should be able to get specific information, such as the scheduled time, without requiring managers or applicators to supply other, unwanted information. Currently the rule requires the applicator to answer any request for information with the trade name and EPA registration number of the pesticide, the date, time and location of the application, reasons for the application, re-entry interval listed on the product label, and a name and phone number for further information. Blumenthal was especially concerned that revealing reasons for applications would embarrass and violate customers’ privacy, for example by revealing a flea problem to an apartment dweller’s neighbor. He also feared that giving all this information severely restricted an applicator’s flexibility by not allowing a technician to arrive late or choose a different pesticide formulation due to newly discovered circumstances.
Richard Stevenson Jr. of Modern Pest Services requested exemption for products listed by the EPA as “25-B Minimum Risk Products.” The EPA exempts these from registrations because they “pose little or no risk to humans or the environment,” but Maine requires their registration because they make pesticidal claims. Most are plant-based and, Modern Pest Services finds, very effective. By exempting these, said Stebenson, the BPC would encourage their use over more dangerous formulations. Board members expressed interest but said they would need further research. BPC toxicologist Lebelle Hicks said that she did not like the 25-B listing because companies were not required to generate safety data on these products, and some, such as cedar oil, are allergens. She is also concerned about propellants in 25-B aerosols.
Alice Percy on behalf of MOFGA encouraged the Board to revert to the previous two-stage notification requirements, arguing that a notice posted 24 hours before a pesticide application could fail to notify a part-time employee. She also encouraged reinstating notification requirements for nursing homes and long-term care facilities, according the same rights to inpatients as to children, workers and tenants. Mark Randlett, Assistant Attorney General serving the Board, had expressed concern that under the two-stage notification system managers would have to notify new employees even if they stopped having the building treated. Percy suggested that the rule allow businesses to cease notification if they adopted a formal policy prohibiting non-exempt applications. She opposed exempting any crack and crevice treatment, arguing that whether sprayed or applied with a spaghetti tube, liquids could leak from under baseboards or volatilize, increasing the risk of exposure. She agreed with the pest control industry that the primary responsibility for notification could lie with building managers, as they interacted daily with employees or tenants, and encouraged the Board to carefully research the issue of 25-B Minimum Risk products.
Dick Groton of the Maine Restaurant Association agreed with Blumenthal that revealing reasons for treatment threatened people’s privacy, stating, “people are interested in the chemical, not the reason.” He suggested the section require applicators or building managers to reveal “any or all” of the listed information instead of requiring all that information “at a minimum.” He also said he intends to disperse the universal logo to his members to post voluntarily at entrances to their establishments.
Will Everitt of the Toxics Action Center said he would support the indoor registry if it did not carry a $20 fee. “It should not be the public’s responsibility to pay to know.” He argued that anyone requesting information should automatically be given the Material Safety Data Sheet and a copy of the label for the pesticide to be used, as most would not know to ask for these. He opposed exempting crack and crevice treatments.
The BPC unanimously passed the seventh annual Section 18 Emergency Registration Request for CheckMite+, a coumaphos product made by Bayer Healthcare to control varroa mites and small hive beetles in honeybee hives. Together with pesticide exposure, these pests are causing a continuing decline in honeybee populations around the country. According to state apiarist Tony Jadczak, beekeepers are now bringing in bees from Australia to replace their losses. Some organic honey producers have controlled varroa mites by stocking parts of their hives with sacrificial drones.
The Board passed a repeat Emergency Registration Request for use of Fomesafen, a broadleaf herbicide marketed by Syngenta as Reflex, in dry bean plantings. The product is already registered for use on soybeans. This request has been made and granted annually since 1996 except in 1998 and 2003. Syngenta is pursuing a regular registration for the product, but BPC registrar Wes Smith said, “the requirements of the Food Quality Protection Act are slowing things down.” Board member Lee Humphreys gave the only dissenting vote, saying, “My usual [vote against repeat emergency requests] – but I can’t go against the bees.” Board member John Jemison – also a MOFGA Board member – voted in favor of the request but added, “I’ll be glad to host a cultivation demonstration for any dry bean growers who are interested.”
Fines and Other Business
The Board reviewed resumes of persons interested in joining a new committee to develop best management practices for lawn care applications in saturated conditions. Five were lawn care applicators or specialists, four were water resource specialists or consultants, and one was a leading staff person of an environmental organization. The Board authorized committee chairs Dan Simmonds and John Jemison to choose six to eight applicants.
The Maine General Medical Center in Waterville was fined $500 for permitting a company employee to apply herbicides to the perimeter of a hospital building at the Seton Unit when no company employee was a licensed commercial applicator. At least five hospital employees experienced mild symptoms after smelling an odor from the application.
The Sandy River Golf Course in Farmington Falls was fined $300 because the owner occasionally applied pesticides even though no one at the course was a licensed commercial applicator. The owner was given one warning and then fined when a follow-up inspection showed that he had continued the practice. BPC chief of compliance Henry Jennings said the fine was relatively small because the volume of pesticides was not large. “He was told twice,” responded Humphreys. “That fine is certainly not too much!”
JBI Helicopter of Pembroke, N.H., was fined $3,500 for allegedly spraying a blueberry field in Columbia Falls in July 2004 without the owners’ authorization. Concentrations of the insecticide Imidan on the complainants’ property were consistent with average concentrations in a deliberately sprayed field. JBI was the only company operating a helicopter in that area that day. Although the company submitted to the consent agreement, the pilot and his supervisors deny that JBI was responsible for the event, since the complainants reported a blue and white helicopter (JBI operates green and gold helicopters) and the company’s GPS files depict a flight path 500 feet from the complainants’ property, at the closest. Jennings asserted that the GPS data were questionable and that the balance of evidence pointed to the company’s guilt.
BPC staff director Bob Batteese reviewed legislation, including results of a legislative committee hearing on LD 1791, An Act to Increase the Number of Members on the Board of Pesticides Control, which sought to add a structural applicator and a member of a state business organization. The committee tabled the bill but resolved to send a letter to the Governor asking him to appoint a structural applicator to fill the open position for a commercial applicator. Andy Berry, an aerial applicator who has served on the Board for over 25 years, currently holds this position. The other Board members were distressed by this development, declaring that Berry’s long term gave him valuable experience and perspective that would be indispensable at the [then] upcoming public hearings on aerial agricultural pesticide applications. Humphreys volunteered to draft a letter to the governor opposing this change.
– Alice Percy