AUGUSTA

January 22, 2011

Registry notifies public of pesticide spraying

More than 1,600 now on list

AUGUSTA -- More than 1,600 people have enrolled in a registry since April 1, 2010, to learn about local pesticide spraying.

 People can enroll in the Board of Pesticides Control’s pesticide notification registry at — www.thinkfirstspraylast.org — or by calling 287-2731.

The Board of Environmental Protection credited its public relations campaign with informing concerned Mainers about the registry.

Before the campaign began, there were 525 names on the registry. By June 15, the list increased to 1,606, the board said in a recent report.

The issue of pesticide notification resurfaced this week when Gov. Paul LePage mistakenly told an audience of environmentalists that farmers were required to notify neighbors 90 days in advance of spraying.

"Now we need to think about that," LePage told more than 500 people who attended the discussion. "That is where science and common sense need to sort of communicate."

Heather Spaulding, associate director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, told LePage there is no 90-day advance notification requirement; it was repealed on April 1, 2010.

The Legislature established rules for a pesticide notification system, including a registry, in September 2009, to create a system allowing Mainers to be contacted in advance when chemicals are used near their homes.

"The intent of the 90 days was during the off season, when farmers weren't busy in the field," Spaulding said Friday. "They could let neighbors, who could get on the registry, know when they were going to spray.

"The land managers felt that would be too much of an administrative burden, so the Legislature did away with it. (Legislators) said, 'keep the registry,' but people would have to get on it themselves."

Spaulding said the new rule says land managers and farmers who apply pesticides using aerial or air-blast spray technologies are only required to consult the registry to determine who in the neighborhood would like to be notified within a week of spraying.

Participants can expect to receive notice of pesticide applications made within 1,320 feet of their properties. The limit is 500 feet for fruit trees, Christmas trees and nonagricultural spraying, such as for ticks, mosquitoes and tree pests.

"The board has worked hard for many years to develop a system that addresses public concern about pesticides drift exposure, makes it easy for land managers to notify neighbors, and minimizes the conflict that arises when people and their property are drifted on," Spaulding said. "The board now has a brilliant, free, Internet-based geographic information system that allows land managers to identify and inform concerned neighbors with the click of a mouse, and with no fiscal (cost) for the state."

Paul Schlein, spokesman for the board, said the 2011 deadline to enroll is March 15.

Since June 15, 2010, 68 new participants have added their names. Those names will be added to the 1,606 already listed when the 2011 registry closes on March 15, Schlein said.

Spaulding said she was concerned there are several bills in the Legislature backed by Republicans to significantly roll back notification requirements.

"We haven't seen all the language, but we know there are attempts to go back to the notification requirements before there was a registry," she said.

The responsibility would then be on Maine people, she said, to find the person who is spraying pesticides near their home and ask to be notified in advance. Then they could only be notified if they live within 100 feet of chemical spraying.

She said a bill sponsored by Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, who serves on the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, calls for a simpler notification registry for all outdoor pesticide applications that she hopes would counter the Republican bills.

"He really honors all the work that has been done over the years and has come up with a system to make it easier for land managers to notify their neighbors and for the public to access information," she said. "And it doesn't cost the state anything."

Mechele Cooper -- 623-3811, ext. 408

mcooper@centralmaine.com

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