July 16, 2020

Fly infestation plagues city

GARDINER – About 80 Gardiner residents are asking the City Council to help them combat an infestation of flies they believe hatched from a load of manure used by a local farmer to fertilize his fields.

“I’ve got a fly strip hanging in my car,” said David Rideout, who circulated the petition with his wife, Trena. “In the morning, when we make coffee before we go to work, one of us has to stand guard over the coffee cups, while the other one gets the cream out of the fridge. This can’t be healthy.”

City officials have received numerous calls and e-mails from residents who have had problems with flies, but City Manager Jeff Kobrock said that the state, not the city, has the authority to regulate agricultural operations.

The chicken manure, which was infested with fly eggs and maggots, came from Dorothy Egg Farms and was spread on farmland leased by Steve McGee of West Gardiner, said Peter Mosher, director of the Agriculture Department’s Division of Agricultural, Natural and Rural Resources.

“Those eggs hatched,” Mosher said. “We’ve stopped future deliveries of manure to that area. Our game plan now is to stop future hatches.”

Remaining manure piles have been sprayed with pesticides and covered with plastics, which should prevent hatches, Mosher said. The thousands of flies that have hatched have a three-week life cycle and should die off soon.

McGee, who residents and officials said uses manure as fertilizer for corn and hay on the land, could not be reached for comment last week. The manager of the company that supplied the manure said his firm has done everything officials asked of it to prevent hatches of flies.

“As soon as we knew of it we worked to address it,” said John Lough, general manager of Winthrop-based Dorothy Egg Farms. “One of the problems that doesn’t help is the wet, humid weather we’ve been having. You expect it to be hot and dry in July. But the weather has been conducive for flies. I think it’s a short-lived problem.”

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