Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the ordinance basics?

In September 2016, South Portland passed an ordinance to restrict the use of toxic pesticides for all turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities in the City on both public and private property. The ban will be phased in to allow for a transition to organic land care practices. It will go into effect in May 2017 for municipal property, in May 2018 for private property, and in May 2019 for golf courses.

What are organic lawn care practices?

The cool climate of Maine favors healthy lawns. Grass will grow lush and with few problems as long as basic plant needs are met. This starts with healthy soil, and includes mowing at higher levels, topdressing with compost, over-seeding, and watering deeply but infrequently. These practices will reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

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In-Depth Documents:

If I need to use a pesticide, what products I can use?

If weed or pest problems do occur, the City allows the use of least-toxic pesticides that are: 

(i) Permitted by the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program. An independent organization, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) reviews and lists products which are in compliance with this statute:

(ii) Classified as “Minimum risk pesticides” by the EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA):

To make it easier for residents to determine which pesticide products can be used, Beyond Pesticides has compiled the following list based on the above two statutes: 

Are there restrictions on allowed pesticides?

Yes. No pesticides, whether allowed or prohibited, shall be used within 75 ft of a water body or wetland within the City.

Are there any exceptions?

The ordinance has several exemptions, which allow prohibited pesticides to be used for:

  • Commercial agriculture
  • Pet supplies, such as shampoos and tick and flea treatments
  • Disinfectants, germicides, bactericides, miticides and virucides
  • Insect repellents when used in the manner specified by the manufacturer;
  • Rat and rodent control supplies
  • Swimming pool supplies
  • General use paints, stains and wood preservatives and sealants
  • Specific health and safety applications – to control plants that are poisonous to the touch, such as poison ivy; pests of significant health importance such as ticks and mosquitoes; and animals or insects that may cause damage to a structure, such as carpenter ants or termites;
  • Golf course playing surfaces applications – on non-City owned golf course playing surfaces and on the tees and greens of City-owned golf courses provided that the course is designated through Audubon International as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary;
  • Invasive insect applications – to control the Emerald Ash Borer, Asian Longhorned Beetle, Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Browntail Moth and other insects identified as invasive by the Maine Forest Service;
  • Right-of-way spraying – by a public utility that maintains a right-of-way through the City.

Can I apply for a waiver?

People will be able to apply for a waiver for situations that pose a threat to public health and safety or for the control of invasive species that pose a threat to the environment. Waivers will be granted according to the following criteria:

  1. A situation exists that threatens the public health and safety and/or where invasive species pose a threat to the environment; and
  2. The applicant has carefully evaluated all alternative methods and materials;
  3. The applicant will, to the greatest extent practical, minimize the impact of the application on abutting properties;
  4. The grant of the waiver will not be detrimental to the public health, safety or welfare.

How will this ordinance be enforced? 

The City's Sustainability Coordinator will work with alleged violators to bring them into compliance by providing educational materials and advice on the use of less toxic chemicals to achieve their desired results. The City will also maintain a listing of complaints of alleged violations on the City’s website (in aggregate by Assessor’s tax map number, not by specific property address). The listing will include the nature of the complaint, a summary of the situation and a brief description of how each complaint was resolved.

If applying a prohibited pesticide, what procedures do I need to follow?

If prohibited pesticides are used under exemption or waiver criteria, the following notification procedures must be followed:

(A) Owner or applicator shall post warning signs 48 hours prior to and after the actual application

(B) All warning signs must be 5” high by 4” wide, attached to a dowel or other supporting device so that the bottom of the sign is not less than 12” and the top of the sign is not more than 48” above the ground. Signs shall be weather-resistant and easily read for 48 hours after being placed outdoors. Sign shall be on a light colored background with dark bold letters.

(C) Sign must include the following:

  • The word “CAUTION” in 72 point type;
  • The words “PESTICIDE APPLICATION” in 30 point type or larger;
  • The chemical and trade name of the pesticide;
  • The Maine Board of Pesticides Control designated symbol;
  • Any reentry precautions from the pesticide labeling;
  • The name and telephone number of the entity making the pesticide application;
  • The date and time of the application and a date/time to remove the sign.