The Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) continues to discuss arboviral diseases, including Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV) – both spread to humans by mosquitoes – and its response plan in case a perceived need occurs for widespread spraying to control mosquitoes.
At its December meeting state epidemiologist Dr. Stephen Sears reviewed the threats of arboviral diseases and controls for public health. Sears explained that EEE is the most severe domestic arbovirus. About six cases per year have occurred in the United States since the 1960s. A 33 percent mortality rate exists among people infected with EEE, so public health officials are very concerned. (The Centers for Disease Control says, “Overall, only about 4-5% of human EEEV [equine encephalitis virus] infections result in EEE. EEEV infection is thought to confer life-long immunity against re-infection.” www.cdc.gov/EasternEquineEncephalitis/tech/epi.html)
West Nile Virus came to the United States in 1999 and has become widespread since. More than 5,000 cases of WNV were reported in the United States in 2012 – the most active year for WNV since 2003. Maine also had its first locally acquired human case of West Nile Virus in 2012.
In response to the increase in activity in 2012, the board adopted emergency legislation that year that would allow widespread spraying for mosquitoes when the CDC declares a high threat level. That emergency legislation will expire before this summer, when mosquito activity will begin to rise again, so the board plans to undertake rulemaking that will allow for widespread spraying if a threat to public health from EEE or WNV occurs. Rulemaking is required because the board does not allow for pesticide applications to property without the consent of the landowner. Widespread spraying programs are common in other U.S. states, and the board hesitates to hold up spraying in the case of a public health emergency.
MOFGA has expressed concern about the impact these programs would have on Maine’s organic farmers and gardeners and sensitive populations. We continue to engage the board in discussions about the efficacy of spraying programs and the option of individual landowners to “opt out” of the spray zone. We anticipate that a public comment period on rule changes will open soon.
Sears also stressed that the most important control measures include those that individuals take, including wearing long sleeves and pants, and shoes and socks, avoiding being outside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, and removing potential breeding spots (stagnant water) for mosquitoes around the home.
BPC Coming to MOFGA
Each year the board travels to a different part of the state to hear from the public and to give everyone easy access to a board meeting. We are thrilled that the board will be hosting its July 26, 2013, meeting at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity. All are welcome to attend. Contact Katy Green if you’d like more information.
At its October meeting the board approved a consent agreement with TruGreen Lawncare of Westbrook. TruGreen employees applied pesticides to a property on two occasions without providing an abutting neighbor the notification required under the 2012 notification registry provisions. This registry requires registrants to pay an annual fee in order to receive notification. In this case notification did not happen for the applications in May or June. A fine of $2,500 was levied for the two violations.
In December the board again discussed a consent agreement with TruGreen Lawncare of Westbrook. A TruGreen employee applied Merit 0.2 Plus Fertilizer to the property of a previous TruGreen customer. The customer had cancelled the services and the company was unable to provide proof that the pesticide application was authorized. This violates the board rule requiring consent from a property owner before a pesticide can be applied. A $2,000 fine was imposed for this violation.
Also in December the board approved a consent agreement with The Lawn Dawg of Portland. This agreement covers two separate violations. In one, a company employee mistakenly applied Nutrite Professional Turf Fertilizer 25-0-3 with 0.172 percent Dithiopyr Herbicide to the wrong property in Scarborough. In the second, the company employee applied pesticides to a property within 100 feet of someone who is on the pesticide notification registry, without providing proper notification. The company has since submitted to the board an example of the training and corrective actions in place to prevent similar violations in the future. A total fine of $1,700 was levied for these two violations.
BPC meeting dates are posted on its website. See www.maine.gov/agriculture/pesticides/about/index.shtml#meeting
– Katy Green