the MOF&G Online
School Pesticides Regulation Adopted
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 originally submitted by the Maine Toxics Action Coalition (MTAC) over a year ago. The regulation should dramatically change the way pesticides are applied in schools. MTAC's request, 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 training in pesticide application, safety, or health concerns. Only 5% of schools then surveyed provided written notice when pesticides were to be applied, and 82% of the 88% of Maine school districts represented in the survey had no integrated pest management plan in place.
The rule adopted was largely developed 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 pesticides applicators. The committee worked to reconcile the provisions of a draft rule submitted by MTAC, and a BPC staff rewrite of the rule.
The rule now mandates that all public and private schools adopt and implement a written policy for the application of Integrated Pest Management 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 integrated pest management techniques, must be planned to 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 treatment, 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 five days prior to planned application to all parents and staff, 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; MOFGA, MTAC, and the Toxics Action center advocated, unsuccessfully, for a required universal notification instead of a registry system. 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's IPM specialist Kathy Murray, who originally initiated the pesticides in school survey, 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 Board of Pesticides Control and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension will participate in early 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" developed and distributed. In addition, Murray will engage three school systems in a model pilot IPM program. People interested in more information regarding this rule may contact Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org, (207)287-7616.
BPC to restrict use of aquatic pesticides
In response to a citizen request that the BPC address the problem of illegal use of aquatic pesticides in Maine lakes and ponds, the BPC is proceeding to change the way aquatic herbicides are sold in Maine. Tracey Walls, a vernal pools biologist asked the BPC in July, 2001, to respond after hearing a Maine Public Radio report on illegal application of an aquatic pesticide on 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 at least partially address the problem. 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 only be sold by licensed restricted use pesticide dealers, and may only be sold to licensed pesticide applicators. Homeowners may no longer buy those products "off the shelf," and the restrict 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. 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 has responded to her request.
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 pesticides regulations. On September 13, 2001, the BPC's 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 fifteen 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, and hence illegal, for indoor use. During the course of the BPC's investigation, ten 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, and were evaluated at the hospital emergency room by physicians.
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.
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.
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 the subject of whether the standard under the "limited use" regulations requiring "significant economic loss" applied to cosmetic damage to lawns. Dylox was originally placed on the state's limited use list, requiring a permit for each application, in 1981 based on concerns of potential mutagenicity. A summary of more recent EPA analysis of the chemical by staff toxicologist Lebelle Hicks concluded that "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 of his firm, or of his customers, caused by grubs. Lee Humphreys, public representative on the Board, noted that "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, however, 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 the 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 still legal through 2004.
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 at 9, Sept-Nov 2002 at 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 substantially revised downward. A glitch in the computer program used to figure totals for various active ingredients apparently double counted in a number of cases. The new bottom line total for 2000 retail sales was 2.739 million pounds active ingredient (previously reported as 3.5 million) and for wholesale sales was 3.065 million (previous reported as 3.87 million). This would bring the total for retail pesticide sales other than sulfuric acid (see MOF&G, Sept-Nov 2002) to 1.872 million pounds active ingredient, in the same ballpark as the previous tabulations of 1.912 million (1995) and 1.612 million (1997).
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