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"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
  You are here:  ProgramsPublic Policy InitiativesMaine Board of Pesticides Control ReportsBPC – July 1999   

July 28, 1999

BPC Reprimands, Fines School Superintendent
Organophosphate Approved for Use in Bee Hives
Chemical Sprays on “Wild” Blueberries Concern Neighbors
Applicator Fined for Vinegar-Herbicide Application
Other Business


BPC Reprimands, Fines School Superintendent

Jerry White, superintendent of schools for SAD 33, petitioned the Board of Pesticides Control at its July 28 meeting in Augusta, claiming the fine levied against Wisdom High School was the result of “gotcha regulation.”

“I have a rule of thumb,” White said. “I don’t invoke policy before I educate people ... There has been legislation that’s so obscure that no one has known about it.”

Roger Beaulieu, BPC inspector, reported that Fernald Beaulieu (no relation), lead maintenance worker for Wisdom High School, applied Weedar-64 Broadleaf Herbicide to about 3 acres surrounding the school on the morning of June 8, 1998, despite the fact that he is not certified as a commercial pesticide applicator. White said he was not informed that pesticide application on school grounds must be done by a commercially licensed professional.

Fernald Beaulieu, an area farmer, claimed that he held a private applicator’s license, which White and Wisdom High Principal Lester Michaud had believed to be sufficient. However, as BPC staff member Henry Jennings pointed out, Beaulieu’s license had expired in 1994, so he was in no way qualified to apply pesticides to a public area. “We believe the staff has made a good-faith effort to notify schools,” Jennings continued. He described letters sent to school and municipal officials detailing BPC requirements for pesticide application, the most recent dated April 1998, and others from May 1996, summer 1995 and April 1989.

White conceded that Michaud had likely received the communication, but said that anonymous “Dear Principal” letters like the BPC notifications did not warrant administrative attention. “This is a file-13 letter,” he said of the 1998 notice. “You are but one of the many agencies that rain correspondence on the local schools ... Pesticides do not show up on my radar unless you put them there.”

Thorn Harnett, legal council for the BPC, countered that a principal who discards such a notice does so at his or her own peril. “The legislation is 12 years old. You don’t just sit and wait for someone to come to your doorstep. You have a responsibility to your students and to the public,” he said.

White offered a deal to the Board, saying he never criticized unless he had a better solution for the problem. The superintendent requested a pesticide application training program and certification examination be offered in Aroostook County for area schools, in exchange for peaceful acceptance of the proposed $400 fine. The Board refused White’s bargain.

“There have probably been more training programs in Aroostook than in any other county in the state,” said Board member Vaughn Holyoke. Jennings estimated that 13 such opportunities occurred in the past few years. Though the training sessions were not designated specifically for schools, municipalities were notified, Jennings said. A consent agreement fining SAD 33 $400 for violation of 22M.R.S.A.1471 was unanimously approved by the Board.

Organophosphate Approved for Use in Bee Hives

The Board approved a Maine Department of Agriculture request for an emergency registration of coumaphos (marketed as CheckMite+) to control pests in Maine’s bee colonies. The organophosphate is the only known chemical control for the small hive beetle (Acthina tumida Murray) and is touted as a safe replacement for Fluvalenate, to which varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni Oudemans) have become resistant. According to pesticides registrar Wesley Smith, the product has been approved in Florida and in Europe. It can be applied by hanging strips in the hive after honey for human consumption has been removed, said state apiculturist Tony Jadczak. The Board unanimously approved the emergency registration.

Chemical Sprays on “Wild” Blueberries Concern Neighbors

Susan Lundy, a North Union resident, expressed concern that the blueberry fields neighboring her home were sprayed with noxious pesticides in early July, which resulted in chest pain and a persistent odor in the air. Lundy feared that the pesticide was harmful to the area’s residents and environment. “They’re spraying the stuff on hills, and there’s nowhere for it to go but down,” she said. “The helicopters made great billowing clouds and the air got whirled all over the place ... I just don’t think spraying poison anywhere is healthy for anyone.”

Since Lundy did not file a formal complaint with the Board, no action could be taken. However, staff toxicologist Lebelle Hicks assured Lundy that a pesticide’s scent often travels further than its active ingredients, and suggested she discuss the matter with the farmer in question and with her other neighbors.

Applicator Fined for Vinegar-Herbicide Application

The Board unanimously approved a consent agreement levying a $600 fine against Piscataqua Landscaping Co. of Eliot. An employee of the comparry applied Nature’s Glory Weed and Grass Killer to the patio and walkways at the Sun and Surf Restaurant in York while patrons were eating lunch, the agreement said. The active ingredient in the pesticide is acetic acid (essentially vinegar), so the company believed that its actions were safe. However, a BPC investigator found that neither the applicator’s certification, clothing, nor behavior were in accordance with the pesticide’s label and EPA regulations.

Other Business

The BPC accepted the nomination of three members to its Environmental Risk Assessment Committee (ERAC). Richard Bradbury, an entomologist with the Department of Conservation, Catherine Zeeman, an environmental toxicologist with the Department of Conservation, and Michael Loughlin, an aquatic biologist with the Atlantic Salmon Commission, will join Chair Pro-Temp Alan Lewis on the committee.

The Board unanimously approved amendments to pesticide applicator guidelines to extend the term of a commercial applicator’s license to two years, and to clarify that supervision of an unlicensed operator must include constant visual and voice contact without reliance upon radio, telephone or video, except in situations where topography causes the licensed operator to momentarily lose visual contact, or in cases where machine noise is sufficient to require the use of radios or telephones for audio contact.

The Board continued discussion of variances for right-of-way pesticide applications, determining that a 10foot buffer for railroads would be implemented, with the practice of staff-approved variances continuing until the Board has enough data to reach a different conclusion.

– Misty Edgecomb

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