HALLOWELL — The city is considering a local ordinance to restrict the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

The ordinance would align Hallowell with roughly 30 cities and towns in Maine that have enacted similar policies to protect citizens and the environment from exposure to toxic chemicals.

Hallowell resident Rosemary Presnar, who was recognized as the 2022 Old Hallowell Day Citizen of the Year for her environmental work, recently presented the ordinance to city councilors. The officials expressed interest in the idea but requested the policy be further reviewed before they decide whether or not to adopt it.

Presnar shared an anecdote of a recent experience that influenced her to support the idea of regulating both pesticides and fertilizers.

She told the council last week she had been recently diagnosed with Lyme disease, which hindered her ability to do yardwork for several weeks due to pain and fatigue. One day in early May, Presnar felt good enough to go outside, but just minutes afterward she saw a green and white truck pull into her neighbor’s yard and begin spraying a mix on the yard. She asked the man what he was spraying, and he said it was a fertilizer.

But after looking up the brand name, 19-0-5, Presnar discovered it was actually an herbicide. She also found a precautionary statement about the product from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, stating that it’s highly toxic to aquatic organisms and that runoff could damage aquatic sites. The federal agency also cautioned that it could cause allergic reactions in humans and warns not to let it come into contact with skin.


“That day in May was when I realized that Hallowell needs this ordinance,” Presnar said. “This ordinance will bring a long-needed understanding that alternatives exist to maintain healthy lawns while hopefully reducing the use of toxins being marketed as fertilizers for Hallowell’s yards.”

The ordinance, as presented, would prohibit synthetic substances and the use of any pesticide within 75 feet of any body of water, with the intent of protecting the Vaughan Brook watershed, Kennebec River and Hallowell wildlife and soil.

At an Aug. 8 meeting, councilor Michael Frett said he heartily supports the idea and the ordinance.

“I view my responsibility both as an individual and as a member of the City Council to do what I can to ensure that we establish and develop a city that we can be proud of, and hopefully pass on to future generations,” he said. “What is more important, if not very land, the very water, the very air or trees, the very flowers that exist here?”

He suggested the city send the draft to the ordinance rewrite committee for review, which can then send it back to the full council for further opinions and recommendations.

Councilors unanimously voted to do just that but continued to discuss details of the draft.


Mayor George Lapointe had questions about the waiver process, through which the use of banned substances is allowed in situations that are deemed to be a threat to public health and safety or for the control of invasive species. In these cases, those who wish to apply for a waiver would need to fill out an application and, in addition to showing that a threat is involved, provide evidence that nontoxic approaches are not effective.

He suggested letting the public know about the waiver system and alternatives to inorganic pesticides. At his own home, Lapointe said he and his wife researched how to get rid of fire ants but were only able to find that an inorganic pesticide was effective. He added that, upon reading the draft, it seems that this is what the waiver process is for.

City Manager Gary Lamb said late last week that a timeline for the rewrite committee’s initial discussion has not yet been set, but that his plan at the moment is to reach out to communities that have passed similar ordinances, such as South Portland and Blue Hill.

“I think it’s important to talk to these communities,” he said.

Lamb plans to ask if retail stores in these communities are prohibited from selling materials with pesticides, adding that he is not aware of any hardware stores in Hallowell that currently sell inorganic pesticides.

Lamb said the ordinance is comprehensive and covers both public and private properties. Looking ahead, he said the ordinance would go to the rewrite committee, back to the council and then to a public hearing for approval.

Lamb suggested a longer timeline that would allow officials to work out all the details.

“If it’s going to happen, then let’s have it be ready for springtime,” he said, “not try and rush it through and have it applicable this fall. That’s not enough time to have it unfold in the public.”

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