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  You are here:  ProgramsPublic Policy InitiativesMaine Board of Pesticides Control ReportsBPC – Summer 01   
 Maine BPC Report – Summer 2001 Minimize


BPC on Blueberry Pesticides, Endangered Salmon and More

Cooperative Extension Reports on Hexazinone Contamination
BPC May Request “No Taking” Determination from Feds
Pesticide Policy Committee Reports
Wal-Mart and School-Related Fines


Cooperative Extension Reports on Hexazinone Contamination

At the March 2 meeting of the Board of Pesticides Control (BPC), Cooperative Extension Blueberry Specialist Dave Yarborough presented the results of the 1999 and 2000 groundwater survey, measuring levels of the herbicide hexazinone in wells adjacent to blueberry fields. Hexazinone levels have not increased significantly, nor have they decreased, except in the area studied where hexazinone use was terminated in 1993. In that area, hexazinone groundwater contamination has decreased from 27 ppb in 1994 to under 5 ppb in 2000. In the three sites monitored, hexazinone contamination fluctuates seasonally, but generally ranges between 2 and 13 ppb.

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BPC May Request “No Taking” Determination from Feds

The touchy subject of first-time organophosphate detections in two Downeast rivers that are home to endangered Atlantic salmon (MOF&G, March-May, 2000) was addressed at the March 2 meeting of the BPC Environmental Risk Assessment Committee. The meeting, chaired by Board member Lee Humphreys, was well attended by representatives of the blueberry industry (Cherryfield Foods and Wymans), and by federal officials Kim Tripp of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Dan Kircheis of the National Marine Fisheries. The focus of the meeting was the potential implications for the blueberry industry of organophosphate and hexazinone detections in the rivers, in view of the final decision listing Atlantic salmon as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Where pesticide levels are high enough to affect the health or life cycle of the salmon, they could constitute an illegal “taking” of the salmon. The committee decided that BPC staff toxicologist, Dr. Lebelle Hicks, would assess the risk to Atlantic salmon, based on the highest contamination levels found, .52 ppb for the organophosphate phosmet and 3.8 ppb for hexazinone. Based on the assessment, the staff would prepare letters for Board approval for each detection requesting a “Determination of No Taking” from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The staff memo to the Board quoted Dan Kircheif of NMFS: “This would put the Board in a pro-active position with NMF and if the Services did not agree with our assessment we would receive a list of issues and concerns to be addressed.”

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Pesticide Policy Committee Reports

Four years following the enactment of the 1997 Act to Minimize Reliance on Pesticides, the BPC is still wondering how to alter its agenda to further the objectives of that Act. Seeking better input and direction on that effort, in February 2000, the Board created a “Policy Committee” to develop recommendations on pesticide reduction or “minimization.” Participation on the committee was solicited from the BPC’s mailing lists and turned out to be entirely individuals involved in the application of pesticides in various sectors, with the exception of Sharon Tisher, representing MOFGA. The committee met six times and delivered its final report to the April 6, 2001, BPC meeting. Because of the imbalance in the membership of the committee, the final report contained the following observations from the original committee chair, since retired, Jo D. Saffeir: “Saffeir noted no attempt had been made to construct a committee that evenly balanced all points of view on pesticide minimization. Since the majority of the members ended up representing pesticide applicator concerns … all recommendations will be forwarded to the Board, with the Board retaining the ultimate decision-making authority and the responsibility for balancing the special interests against the public interest.” The committee did attempt to prioritize ideas, distributing a weighted ballot with all 33 suggestions submitted by committee members, asking members to identify their top 10 priorities, and assign a weighted point scale to those ten. The top eight prioritized ideas were: Identify grants or other funding to provide financial incentives to farmers for evaluating/demonstrating alternatives that reduce reliance on pesticides (62 pts.); require training of pesticide retailers (53 pts.); promote research into chemical alternatives, including genetically engineered crops and organic methods (52 pts.); educate the public on both risks and benefits of pesticide use (51 pts.); recommend the establishment of a statewide IPM Council representing people involved in both agricultural and non-agricultural pest management to identify prioritized needs and coordinated efforts for research, education and legislation [a draft proposal being developed in the Department of Agriculture had previously been circulated to the committee] (49 pts.); promote the use of licensed professionals, especially in public places (45 pts.); expand education for homeowners on IPM (36 pts); and only allow use of ready-to-use products to unlicensed applicators (31 pts.). Despite her minority position on the committee, Sharon Tisher stated that she was pleased that one of her proposals was the first-ranked suggestion. She originally proposed a “Farmers in Transition” program in which the BPC, MOFGA and Cooperative Extension should jointly apply to a private donor or foundation (e.g. Pew Charitable Trust, which has significant interest in pesticide reduction) to fund cash awards to farmers who reduce their pesticide use by a certain percentage by adopting new IPM techniques (guided by Cooperative Extension) or by cultivating organic crops or dairy/livestock operations (guided by MOFGA). Participation would be entirely voluntary; cash awards would be substantial, determined by the acreage affected, percentage reduction of pesticide quantities, and other criteria. Ongoing administration of the program would include research and monitoring to determine the cost/benefit advantages for the farmer of adopting IPM or of partial conversion to organic. Another Tisher proposal, which she had urged committee members to rank first, was to “develop regulations addressing school IPM & notification.” This was ranked 12th, with 22 points. The report was put on the agenda of the next planning meeting of the Board. Still pending without action is the report of the Pesticide Indoor Use Advisory Committee, urging notification regulations that would employ decals stuck on doors saying that disinfectants and pesticides had been used, giving a date of use, and providing a phone number for more information. This report was delivered to the Board at its September 1999 meeting.

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Wal-Mart and School-Related Fines

The Board-approved enforcement activities in March and April included:

• a $1,000 fine to Wal-Mart in Oxford for spilled granular pesticide product in the outdoor display area, no signs to identify the pesticides sales area, and storage of 616 bags of granular pesticides in the parking lot, uncovered and unsecured, during a period of heavy rain. The violations were not corrected 24 hours after the BPC notified Wal-Mart of the problems. Wal-Mart was also ordered to develop and implement written procedures to establish safe pesticide handling practices.

• a $150 fine to Todd Wardwell of Mexico, Maine, for applying Roundup to an athletic field under contract with the Town of Mexico, without an applicator’s license.

• a $300 fine to the Ashland Community High School for applying 2% Di-Syston, an organophosphate, to potted plants in a school greenhouse, without an applicator’s license.

– Sharon Tisher

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