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BayScaping helps you grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue

You can have an immediate, positive impact on the health of our coastal waters if you stop using fertilizers and pesticides. Our BayScaping program works with Casco Bay communities to keep lawn chemicals from polluting the Bay.

Pesticides are getting into Casco Bay

Stormwater testing by Friends of Casco Bay found that rain picks up pesticides as it runs off into Casco Bay. Our goal was simply to determine “presence” or “absence” of pesticides in the runoff. Lab analysis of the jars of rainwater we collected, between 2001 and 2009, identified 10 different pesticides at 13 coastal communities from South Portland to Brunswick.

We have detected pesticides in stormwater running into Casco Bay.

Our lawn fertilizers are over-fertilizing the Bay.

We also tested for and found excess nitrogen and phosphorous, key components of fertilizer, all around the Bay. These nutrients can pollute drinking water wells, and when washed downstream can cause algal blooms, degrade marine water quality, and create conditions that worsen coastal acidification.

We created our BayScaping Program as a public education campaign to stop pollution from lawn care practices. BayScaping reaches out to homeowners to encourage them to reduce their use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Working at the local, state, and national levels

Many Maine homeowners still use pesticides and fertilizers. We became involved in “grassroots efforts” with local communities that are developing ordinances to restrict or ban lawn chemicals. Our data on pesticides and nitrogen runoff have been requested by communities such as South Portland, Portland, Harpswell, and Falmouth.

Maine is one of only seven states and the District of Columbia that allow local governments—using home rule—to restrict the use of pesticides.

Friends of Casco Bay’s data and BayScaping information helped South Portland enact an ordinance in 2016 that restricts the use of synthetic pesticides on public and private properties. Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell served on a 2018 citizen’s task force that led to the passage of a similar ordinance in Portland.

In 2019, Cathy was recruited to serve on a Working Group to draft an ordinance to regulate fertilizers in the City of South Portland. In 2020, the City of South Portland passed an ordinance to restrict the use of fertilizers in order to encourage soil health and reduce nitrogen pollution into our coastal waters. In 2021, Portland’s Pesticide Management Advisory Committee recommended the city ban use of synthetic fertilizers.  We will continue to sound the alarm about the need for communities to adopt restrictions on the use of lawn care products.

Two dozen Maine communities have passed ordinances controlling or banning the
use of pesticides. A list of ordinances in Maine communities can be found at

Additional resources:

What you can do to reduce use of lawn chemicals

Get advice and use these resources to help you:

Cover photo: Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk

*A study at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found that exposure to lawn pesticides, specifically those applied by professional lawn care companies, raised the risk of canine malignant lymphoma by as much as 70%.

A study at the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Purdue University concluded certain garden and lawn chemicals are linked to canine bladder cancer, including common herbicides containing 2,4-D, MCPP, and/or Dicamba (all pesticides that Friends of Casco Bay detected in stormwater flowing into Casco Bay).

More on BayScaping:

Our top 10 moments of 2020

January 4, 2021

As this very odd year comes to a close, let’s celebrate the large and small ways our community helped us protect the health of Casco Bay in 2020. Here are our top ten for the year: 1.) On December 2, the Maine Climate Council released its four-year Climate Action Plan, “Maine Won’t Wait.” We… Read more

More good news for the Bay

December 11, 2020

Casco Bay received an early holiday gift: the City of South Portland passed an ordinance to restrict the use of fertilizers in order to encourage soil health and reduce nitrogen pollution into our coastal waters. Friends of Casco Bay applauds South Portland for taking this first-in-Maine step to protect our… Read more

Dreaming of a green yard…and a blue Bay

February 13, 2020

BayScaping helps you grow green yards that keep Casco Bay blue. By being a BayScaper, you can help keep pesticides and fertilizers from polluting the Bay. While there is snow on the ground when you really want to be digging in the garden, you can spend some carefree hours creating… Read more