May 23, 2019

Board mulls overlooked chemical law

AUGUSTA – Lawns and gardens aren’t the only places being treated with pesticides this time of year. The disinfectant chemicals used to treat swimming pools, household mold and municipal sewage all fall under the category of pesticides.

“We just kind of ignore this issue, but it’s the biggest volume of stuff out there,” said Dr. Carol Eckert of Coopers Mills, a member of the state Board of Pesticides Control.

Maine law states that anyone who applies these pesticides professionally is required to take the test to become a certified pesticide applicator, and follow the same procedures as farmers and pest control services.

On Friday, the board discussed what to do about the long-ignored rule.

“Most of the time, they have no idea these products are pesticides,” said staff member Gary Fish.

The board estimates that the rule could affect as many as 400 pools, dozens of mold remediation services, and several hundred water and sewer treatment plants.

“It will add quite a burden if we’re going to start enforcing this vigorously,” Fish said.

However, with worries over toxic mold and indoor air quality on the rise, the use of disinfectants is only going to increase. Most states are beginning to regulate what they call “microbial pest control,” Fish said.

Board members recalled a recent case in which a company made several of its employees sick with an improperly used disinfectant.

“These are all cases where too much or too little of the chemical can cause disease,” said board toxicologist Lebelle Hicks. “These are not small issues.”

However, the board lacks the time and money to add hundreds of disinfectant inspections to its already busy summer schedule. The staff is already “maxed out,” said staff member Henry Jennings.

“We just don’t have the manpower to take on a whole lot of new projects,” he said.

The board decided to begin by informing everyone who will be affected of the rule’s existence.

Several categories of disinfectant users – primarily water and sewage handlers – already must be certified by other agencies, and likely will be exempted from the BPC rule. The board will consider exemptions for these and other disinfectant users at its next meeting, July 18.

“There’s some real exposure issues coming our way, and I don’t want to duck [them], but you have to be realistic,” said board member Clyde Walton, a landscape architect from Kents Hill.

In other business, the board approved several consent agreements fining businesses for violating state pesticide rules.

. Mattson Mowing of Blue Hill was fined $200 for allowing an unlicensed employee to apply fertilizer that included an herbicide at the Montessori School in Sedgwick.

. Lucas Tree Experts of Portland was fined $1,000 for applying herbicides to the wrong lawn in Freeport. However, because the company reported the violation and has agreed to create a new policy to avoid repeating the mistake, all but $100 was suspended.

. Hillcrest Golf Club in Millinocket was fined $100 for failing to keep records of pesticide applications throughout 2001 and 2002.

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