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  You are here:  ProgramsPublic Policy InitiativesMaine Board of Pesticides Control ReportsBPC – Oct 2002   
 Schools Must Use IPM, Notify Parents Minimize


BPC to Restrict Use of Aquatic Pesticides
Machias Hospital Fined for Pesticide Violations
Fine Levied in Blueberry Spray Incident
BPC Denies Request for Dylox Permit for Lawn Grubs
BPC Revises Pesticides Sales Estimates Downward

By Sharon Tisher

At its October 18, 2002, meeting, the Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) unanimously adopted a regulation on use of pesticides in schools, in response to a request submitted originally by the Maine Toxics Action Coalition (MTAC) over a year ago. The regulation should dramatically change the way pesticides are applied in schools. The request by MTAC, supported by MOFGA, was driven by the results of a survey by the Maine Department of Agriculture, released in October 2000. The survey revealed that most pesticide applications in Maine schools are made illegally, by school custodial staff who are not licensed and have not had training in pesticide application, safety, or health concerns. Only 5% of schools then surveyed provided written notice to parents when pesticides were to be applied, and 82% of the 88% of Maine school districts represented in the survey had no Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan.

The rule adopted was developed largely by a consensus-based rule development committee organized by the BPC, in which MOFGA, MTAC, and the Maine Toxics Action Center were represented, as well as educational administrators and pesticide applicators. The committee worked to reconcile a draft rule submitted by MTAC with a BPC staff rewrite of the rule.

The rule now mandates that all public and private schools adopt and implement a written policy for applying IPM techniques in school buildings and outdoors on school grounds. All pesticide applications (except certain exempted products, such as paints and anti-microbial cleaners) must be made in accordance with IPM techniques, must occur on weekends or vacations, and may not be made when people are in the immediate area to be treated. The only pesticides permissible to be used inside a school are baits and wall void or crack and crevice treatments, unless the pest threatens the health and safety of the occupants. The school must keep records of all pesticide applications and must give advance notice of most pesticide applications (exempting bait and non-volatile crack and crevice treatments inaccessible to children) to school staff and parents in one of two ways: by written notice sent home to all parents and staff five days prior to planned application, or by notice only to those who elect, in response to an annual notification, to be on a pesticide notification registry. The school board determines which notification method to use. The notification provisions were the most controversial provision of the rule; the Toxics Action Center, MOFGA and MTAC advocated, unsuccessfully, for required universal notification instead of a registry. Under the newly adopted rule, parents who want to have a system of universal notification to all parents must advocate for that to their local school board.

The Department of Agriculture IPM specialist, Kathy Murray, who initiated the survey of pesticides in schools, has received a new $40,000 EPA grant to help schools adjust to the new requirements. Representatives of the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, the BPC and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension participated in November in a “train the trainers” session to provide outreach to schools; a separate training session will be held for school administrators; and an IPM “Tool Kit” will be developed and distributed. In addition, Murray will engage three school systems in a model pilot IPM program. For more information regarding this rule, contact Murray at kathy.murray@state.me.us, (207)287-7616.


BPC to Restrict Use of Aquatic Pesticides

In response to a citizen’s request that the BPC address the problem of illegal use of aquatic pesticides in Maine lakes and ponds, the BPC is changing the way aquatic herbicides are sold in Maine. Tracey Walls, a vernal pools biologist, asked the BPC in July 2001 to respond after she heard a Maine Public Radio report on illegal application of an aquatic pesticide in a Scarborough pond. While an initial review of the situation drew a “no action” response from BPC staff and the consequent criticism of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) (see MOF&G, Dec.- Feb. 2002), BPC staff have now devised a rule-making approach that would address the problem at least partially. They propose to treat all registered aquatic herbicides (approximately 77 current products) in the same way that the blueberry herbicide hexazinone is handled: They may be sold only by licensed restricted use pesticide dealers and only to licensed pesticide applicators. Homeowners may no longer buy those products “off the shelf,” and the restricted use dealers will be given a disclosure statement to be distributed with such sales, giving notice that use of such products in Maine lakes and ponds requires a DEP permit. The BPC staff was authorized at the October 18, 2002, Board meeting to proceed with rulemaking for this regulation. Tracey Walls, who attended the meeting, stated that she was pleased that the Board had responded to her request.

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Machias Hospital Fined for Pesticide Violations

At its September 6, 2002, meeting, the BPC approved a consent agreement fining Downeast Community Hospital of Machias $3,500 for violations of pesticide regulations. On September 13, 2001, the BPC staff received an anonymous complaint about the use of pesticides by hospital staff, especially in and around operating rooms. The subsequent investigation revealed that the hospital had been experiencing a large infestation of springtails, which was proving difficult to control. In addition to hiring professional exterminators, the hospital’s maintenance staff allegedly made at least 15 separate pesticide applications at the hospital, using nine different pesticides. No one from the hospital had the required commercial pesticide applicator license at the time of the applications. Two of the pesticides applied indoors by the maintenance staff were not labeled for indoor use, and hence were illegal. During the BPC’s investigation, 10 hospital employees filed written statements with the Board alleging that they had experienced symptoms related to pesticide exposure. Some of the operating room staff allegedly became ill after the unlicensed applications were made; physicians evaluated them at the hospital emergency room.

In approving the relatively large fine for these violations, several Board members expressed surprise and concern that a hospital should be so unaware of regulatory standards for pesticide application. Dr. Carol Eckert, a physician member of the Board, queried whether the next step after completing the pending rulemaking on pesticide use in schools should be to look at pesticide practices in hospitals.

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Fine Levied in Blueberry Spray Incident

On October 18, 2002, the Board approved a consent decree with Maine Helicopters, Inc., in the enforcement action involving unauthorized aerial spraying of a buffer zone owned by Gramp’s Farm in Orland, an organic blueberry producer. (see MOF&G, Sept.- Nov. 2002). The consent decree, providing for payment of a $1,200 fine, was negotiated by the Attorney General rather than by BPC staff, because the president of Maine Helicopters, Inc., is BPC member Andrew Berry.

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BPC Denies Request for Dylox Permit for Lawn Grubs

Turf Care, Inc., a commercial lawn care company in Chelsea, Maine, submitted an application to the BPC for a limited use permit to apply Dylox 80 (trichlorfon), an organophosphate, on residential and commercial lawns to control grubs, which Turf Care contended had reached epidemic proportions in Midcoast Maine. A lengthy discussion ensued on whether the standard under the “limited use” regulations requiring “significant economic loss” applied to cosmetic damage to lawns. Originally, in 1981, Dylox was placed on the state’s limited use list, requiring a permit for each application, based on concerns of potential mutagenicity. A summary of more recent EPA analysis of the chemical by staff toxicologist Lebelle Hicks concluded, “EPA appears comfortable allowing trichlorfon to remain labeled as a general use insecticide for residential lawn and golf course uses.” The chemical is classified as a general use pesticide in 49 other states.

John Bennett, representing Turf Care, argued that grubs were causing extensive damage on lawns of his Midcoast customers, and “when you have a million dollar, or six or seven million dollar house, landscape is very much a part of the value of the total property.” Sharon Tisher pointed out that Bennett had submitted no actual evidence of economic loss, either by his firm, or by his customers, caused by grubs. Lee Humphreys, public representative on the Board, noted, “Someone who has a million dollar house can absorb that loss [of reseeding a lawn]. If it’s a farmer’s livelihood, it’s different…” She also queried whether the grub infestation (which occurs in drought conditions) wasn’t “part of a bigger problem of climate change, and we’ll have to live with it.” Staffer Gary Fish countered that “there’s no doubt that there are serious grub problems in those areas … these lawns are dying from grubs, not from the drought.” Paul Gregory, BPC public relations specialist, reminded the Board that one result of the 1997 legislation on minimizing reliance on pesticides was an emphasis on “lowering the bar on perfection” in lawn appearance.

Ultimately, several members of the Board appeared to agree that an important question was whether Dylox should still be on the limited use list, in view of the new toxicological data. The standards for permits under limited use, however, seemed appropriate for an agricultural setting, and not designed to address cosmetic uses of lawn chemicals. The Board denied the application but noted that it would reconsider the question of whether Dylox should be on the limited use list. Bennett expressed unhappiness with the decision, noting that now he would have to use the more toxic chemical Diazinon to control grubs on these lawns – which, although ultimately to be banned for lawn uses by the EPA, is legal through 2004.

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BPC Revises Pesticides Sales Estimates Downward

In the never-ending saga of confusion about quantities of pesticides sold in Maine (see MOF&G, Jun-Aug 2002, pg. 9, Sept-Nov 2002, pg. 9), BPC Certification and Training Specialist Gary Fish announced to the BPC on September 6 that the numbers reported to the legislature in the “Report of Pesticide Sales and Commercial Use for Calendar Year 2000” had to be revised downward substantially. A glitch in the computer program used to figure totals for various active ingredients apparently counted a number of cases twice. The new bottom line total for 2000 retail sales was 2.7 million pounds active ingredient (previously reported as 3.5 million) and for wholesale sales was 3.1 million (previous reported as 3.9 million). This would bring the total for retail pesticide sales other than sulfuric acid (see MOF&G, Sept.-Nov. 2002) to 1.9 million pounds active ingredient, in the same ballpark as the previous tabulations of 1.9 million (1995) and 1.6 million (1997).

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