HALLOWELL — A proposed ordinance that would restrict the use of synthetic pesticides on private property and all pesticides within 75 feet of any body of water is drawing mixed reactions.

Anyone in violation would be contacted by the city’s code enforcement officer and then a third party would provide education and guidance about organic alternatives.

Rosemary Presnar, chair of the Hallowell Conservation Commission, presented a first draft of the ordinance last August to the City Council, but pointed out during a council work session Jan. 30 that the proposal is the result of two years of research, outreach, education, compromise and process reviews.

“I was not initially convinced that Hallowell needed an ordinance for synthetic pesticides and fertilizers,” Presnar said. “However, after learning from the Grow Green and Healthy Hallowell Team for two years, I’m convinced, as is the conservation commission.”

Presnar said research behind the ordinance included conversations with the Maine Board of Pesticide Control, the University of Maine Tick Lab and the state’s Department of Marine Resources, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation and Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The research also included calls to numerous municipal officials, property managers and medical professionals, Presnar said.


The draft ordinance stipulates “the EPA, the Committee on Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the President’s Cancer Panel have concluded that exposure to many synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is linked to reproductive disorders, birth defects, learning disabilities, neurological disease, endocrine disorders, and cancer.”

There are no statewide laws prohibiting the use of synthetic pesticides on private property, so Hallowell’s proposed ordinance would use home rule authority to enforce the restriction.

“All municipalities in Maine have that power,” Presnar said, “to step out ahead of state law and do their right thing for their communities.”

More than 30 municipalities in Maine have enacted pesticide ordinances; however, many of the cities or towns do not restrict use on private property.

Ogunquit and South Portland are among the municipalities with private property restrictions. Ogunquit’s code enforcement office declined to comment on the town’s ordinance, and South Portland’s code enforcement office did not respond to a request for comment.

Danielle Obery, who serves as chair of the Hallowell Planning Board and works for the Maine DEP, sent a letter to the city in late 2022 expressing opposition to the proposed ordinance. She cited concerns with enforcing the 11-page ordinance, writing that it would primarily rely on “neighbors tattling on neighbors to the City for enforcement.”


“I have experienced this many times in small communities in my professional career in environmental protection — neighbors falsifying complaints to neighbors,” Obery wrote.

And if a complaint were made, Obery said the city would have to prove an herbicide or a pesticide was spread by conducting a soil test, which could take weeks.

Keith Taylor, a Hallowell resident and Maine-licensed geologist, also expressed opposition to the ordinance in a letter to city officials. He said the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, which consists of scientists, farmers and residents nominated by the governor, comprehensively regulates herbicides and pesticides for the good of people’s health and the environment.

“The action by a few communities to regulate the use of herbicides and pesticides is troubling in that it seems they are cherry-picking what federal and state environmental rules and regulations are or are not valid,” Taylor wrote.

Taylor also questioned the enforcement style, and if the education provided by the third party would be checked for validity.

“To be honest,” he said, “the idea of the CEO knocking on a citizen’s door because their neighbor saw them using a suspected non-organic fertilizer is not what Hallowell is about.”


For continuous violations, the city could take an offender to court. It would then be up to the court to determine if a fine would be issued.

Doug Ide, the code enforcement officer in Hallowell, said this is something the city “definitely wants to avoid,” and city officials would always seek voluntary compliance.

Hallowell resident Catherine Murray spoke Monday in support of the ordinance.

“The main reason I’m here is that I’m a grandmother to three young children,” she said, “and I want them to live in a healthy world.”

Murray spoke of the impact of pesticides on the insect population, and said the decline of insects has a direct impact on birds.

She said birds need to feed insects to their young, which cannot eat seeds.


“They especially need the soft-bodied larval forms that are full of proteins, fats and vitamins,” Murray said, “so grubs and your caterpillars.”

Wes Davis, chair of the Hallowell Tree Board, also wrote a letter of support for the ordinance. He said while the board focuses on trees, the health of those trees depends on factors outside the board’s control, such as water purity.

“The main aim of the ordinance is to stop the spreading of inorganic poisons and other harmful inorganic substances in our city,” Davis wrote. “Can there be a no more praiseworthy motive than to stop the use of chemicals that endanger our water and all organisms, from the smallest to the largest, especially our children and pets?”

Mayor George Lapointe said the next step would be a first reading of the ordinance during the City Council’s meeting next Monday, Feb. 13. He said there will be two additional readings, and at least one public hearing to gather more public input. After the three readings, the council would be expected to vote on the ordinance.

“I’ve learned a lot in the last couple months, and I hope other people have as well,” Lapointe told the audience Monday. “And again, keep talking to people, because the more information we have, the better decision we can make.”

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