State Offers Free Disposal Program
Casco Bay Sprays and Property Owners’ Rights
The Board of Pesticides Control listened to officials from Portland explain their rationale for L.D. 1790, An Act To Control Brown Tail Moths, at its April 18 meeting in Augusta. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Mitchell of Portland, could change Maine laws that prohibit direct pesticide applications and pesticide drift on property without the owner’s consent. It would consider that landowners had given their consent to aerial application on their property if they had not responded within 30 days to a mailed notification sent by the city. If landowners refuse consent, they must remove browntail moths from their land and pay the additional costs of moth removal incurred by consenting landowners or the town wherever aerial spraying was prevented from being used because it could drift onto the land of those refusing consent. Those who do not pay could find a special tax levied on their property by the municipality, and their land could eventually be taken for nonpayment of taxes. The law would be engaged when the infestation was recognized by the Bureau of Health as a public health nuisance and when it could be controlled by aerial spraying of pesticides.
This legislation was drafted in response to Casco Bay islanders who suffer rashes and respiratory problems, sometimes severe, when the moths molt (five times per summer) and their toxin containing hairs become airborne. The City of Portland joined those islanders because of its frustration with Maine’s consent laws. Last year, the city sponsored aerial application of Dimilin (active ingredient: diflubenzuron) on much of five Bay islands, with success. However, some consenting residents were denied treatment because they were surrounded by a patchwork of landowners who were unavailable or unwilling to consent to spraying.
Some of these residents took the spraying into their own hands, as Paul Gregory reports in The Communicator (April 22, 1997): In midsummer, one woman hosed down her house “with the insecticide Sevin at four times the legal rate every day for several weeks! Regrettably for her, dousing her home in carbamates offered no relief since killing Browntail moth caterpillars so late in the season only concentrated their spread of toxic hairs,” writes Gregory.
Dick Bradbury of the Maine Forest Service told the BPC that cutting browntail moth webs in the winter helps cut caterpillar populations considerably, but when the caterpillar populations become large, their behavior shifts and clipping is no longer practical. Clipping is difficult, too, on the many large trees on Peaks Island. Larry Mead, Island Liaison for the City of Portland, told the BPC that “there is a lot of concern about private [property owners] spraying” because they may make excessive applications or make applications at the wrong time. Bradbury agreed: “Nothing scares me more than a homeowner with a bag of Sevin,” he said. He believes that an early, aerial application of Dimilin would be the most effective way to reduce pesticide use on the islands, until a more effective form of Bacillus thuringiensis is made.
Board member Alan Lewis asked BPC staff toxicologist Lebelle Hicks about the toxicity of Dimilin, and Hicks said that the product shouldn’t be a problem if it were used according to label directions. She did not know about broader scale effects on insects in general. Bradbury assured the BPC that setbacks would prevent Dimilin from getting into the water in Casco Bay. (Dimilin is an insect growth regulator that is water soluble and can affect reproduction in crustaceans.) Board member Dr. Carol Eckert said that Dimilin could cause hematologic effects, but probably only in those with congenital methemoglobinemia, an extremely rare condition; and that data “don’t seem to support” endocrine disruption activities of Dimilin. Peaks Island resident Jenny Yasi, quoted in the Bangor Daily News, pointed out that the active ingredient in Dimilin accounts for only 1% of the formulation and that residents haven’t been told what chemicals are in the 99% “inert” component.
Eckert said that she had trouble with the idea that people would be held financially responsible if they didn’t want to be sprayed. “I think people have the right not to be sprayed,” she said. The Board also pointed out that the City was calling the moth a public health nuisance, not an emergency, because the data didn’t support the emergency status.
This was an informational presentation only, so the Board took no action and remained neutral on the proposed legislation. Paul Gregory summed up the dilemma succinctly in The Communicator, though: “However desperate are the conditions for Casco Bay residents, the proposed consent law stages a debate statewide which pits owners’ rights to have access to relief from a public health nuisance against owners’ rights not to be sprayed.”
Spray Registry Rules Discussed
For several months, the Board has been discussing how to develop a Spray Registry that would enable people to be notified when pesticides are to be sprayed near their homes. At the April meeting, Hicks reported that eight states have closed registries (requiring a statement from a health care provider that a person should be listed), while four have open registries, requiring no note. Another choice concerns mandatory versus voluntary consulting of the list: mandatory means that applicators must consult the Spray Registry, while voluntary means that the state maintains the list and applicators may consult it.
The Board said at the April meeting that it favors a one-tiered, open, mandatory registry that would require applicators to notify residents within 500 feet of an application before that application was made. Although most BPC members favored patterning the language for the registry on Chapter 22 (drift rules), Lewis pushed for a way that applicators could notify people so that they could leave their homes when spraying was taking place.
Hicks estimated a cost of $8 to $30 per person to have the registry, and an initial fee of $10 to sign up, with a renewal fee of $5 per year, was suggested. When the Board realized that this was more than the $6 fee charged for a commercial applicator’s license for three years, it decided to consider raising the latter fee at a later meeting.
Regulations for the registry will be drafted and will be available for public comment before they are adopted. These regulations will deal with outdoor applications of pesticides; regulations for indoor and other applications will be considered later.
Variance and Other Requests
Maine Public Service Company will be hiring a licensed contractor to control vegetation at its 41 company owned substations and storage yards in Aroostook and northern Penobscot Counties. It sought a variance so that it would not have to record all sensitive areas or notify all abutters within 500 feet of each site. Instead, it proposed taking other precautions, including having a master applicator on site during applications; using herbicides at their lowest effective rates; creating buffer zones within the fenced properties; using drift adjuvants in equipment with special nozzles to create coarse droplets; and applying the spray at the lowest possible point of release. Alan Lewis made a motion to accept the variance with the additional requirement that “lawn care type” signs of spray notification be hung at the sites for a week and then be removed. The Board, with the exception of Jo D. Saffeir, approved the motion.
The Board also approved renewal of a 24c (Special Local Needs) Registration for napropamide, which allows Maine broccoli growers to use the same 4-pound rate that was already on the product label for all other regions of the United States.
At its February meeting, the Board authorized the BPC staff to participate in a regional petition to the EPA for renewal of three exemption registrations: for cymoxanil, dimethomorph and propamocarb to control late blight in potatoes. EPA had previously approved all three chemicals because of their differing modes of action in controlling this disease.
General Public To Be Educated
At its February meeting, the Board heard from Paul Gregory that he had applied to the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund for production of public service announcements that would tell the general public how its demands for perfect fruit and weed free lawns contribute to pesticide use. Gary Fish of the BPC staff recommended developing alliances with structural and lawn care applicators to help spread the word to the general public. Carol Eckert said that the Medical Advisory Committee was developing a diazinon fact sheet and supported the idea of distributing information about pesticide use by the general public through general use pesticide dealers. The April 22, 1997, issue of the Communicator has an excellent article geared toward homeowners about their use (or misuse) of pesticides.
The Board ratified a consent agreement with Robert Morris of Hampden. Morris, who is not a licensed commercial applicator, applied chlordane, which has not been registered for use in the United States since 1987, to his tenants’ apartment in Bangor. He was fined $1000.
It also ratified a consent agreement with Lucas Tree Expert Co. of Portland, which applied Garlon 4 to brush on a power line right-of-way in Kittery for Central Maine Power Company and, in the process, the spray injured grape plants of a resident of Kittery. Lucas Tree was fined $500 and was to pay for analysis by the University of Maine Food Science Laboratory (approximately $300) of a grape sample from the resident’s property.
Saffeir asked how fines are assessed and why Lucas Tree, a large company, received a smaller fine than Morris, an individual. Harnett explained that factors such as prior violations and the degree of harm caused are considered. In the case of Lucas Tree, he said, the damage was minimal and no evidence existed of particular carelessness or negligence, while Morris was using an unregistered pesticide, was unlicensed, and people were affected.
In February, the Board accepted a staff recommendation to begin investigating pesticides in Maine surface water. Other than Atlantic Salmon Commission records, which showed detections of hexazinone (Velpar, Pronone) and triforine (Funginex) in Downeast rivers, the BPC and other regulators know little about this subject. BPC staffers suggest that pesticides in surface water may have a larger ecological impact than pesticides in groundwater, but a smaller impact on drinking water.
The Board has announced the North American Conference on Pesticide Spray Drift Management, to be held March 29 to April 1, 1998, in Portland, Maine. Abstracts for posters on all aspects of pesticide drift management are invited. Other topics welcome are weather effects on drift, adjuvant and equipment research, and public policy positions. The deadline for abstract submission is Dec. 31, 1997. For more information, call the BPC at 287-7593 or consult http:// www.state.me.us/agriculture/drift1.htm. Preregistration is available via the Internet.
The next Board meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 27.
– Jean English (and the Communicator and the Bangor Daily News, 4/19/97)
State Offers Free Disposal Program for Homeowners with Banned, Unusable Pesticides
Homeowners caught in a personal superfund-like dilemma of holding obsolete pesticides such as DDT, chlordane, 2,4,5-T and lead arsenate now have relief, announced the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC). Without cost to holders, the state regulatory agency will dispose of obsolete pesticides brought to one of four rendezvous points this summer.
“We’re urging residents holding these chemicals to call us immediately,” says Paul Gregory, BPC Public Information Officer. “Because of the substantial costs associated with disposing of obsolete pesticides, we’re able to offer only a limited number of collections on a first-come, first-served basis. Folks need to reserve their place as well as tell us what’s in their inventory so we can prepare the required transportation papers.”
Every year dozens of unsuspecting homeowners discover obsolete pesticides in barns, sheds and basements while spring cleaning or upon purchase of a new home. Obsolete pesticides are products banned because of health of environmental hazards or are pesticide products rendered useless due to water damage or caking. While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency prohibits sale or use of obsolete pesticides, proper and legal disposal of a mere pint of DDT through a licensed hazardous waste transporter can cost the homeowner hundreds of dollars. In too many cases Mainers have resorted to disposing of these hazardous materials illegally – either through conventional trash removal or by simply dumping them.
“Obsolete pesticides are a quiet crisis in Maine,” says Gregory. “Because they are hazardous waste and therefore expensive to dispose of, we’ve been asking these folks to store these materials high, dry and away from kids and the elements until a state or municipal program comes along to dispose of these chemicals collectively. Unfortunartely, we know of cases where residents couldn’t wait. Either they didn’t know or care about the risks posed to sanitation workers, the environment or their very own drinking water through improper disposal. Too bad, because these products were banned to prevent such hazards from occurring.”
The BPC is able to provide this summer’s obsolete pesticide disposal program thanks to a $20,000 grant received recently from the U.S. EPA. “We have not seen this level of funding since the 1980s when the legislature provided us $100,000 to collect nearly 45 tons of obsolete material,” adds Gregory.
Last year the BPC collaborated with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to dispose of 3,276 pounds and 589 gallons of obsolete pesticides from 101 citizens. As in past years, these materials go out-of-state to U.S. EPA licensed disposal facilities where most organic chemicals are incinerated while the inorganic and high sulfur products are either treated or buried in landfills.
While such efforts are expensive, they are a bargain compared to the cost of remediating contaminated soil or water.
Residents are encouraged to call the BPC at 1-287-2731 with their obsolete pesticide inventory, including product names, quantities and condition of the containers or packaging.