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After a rainstorm, millions of gallons of polluted stormwater pour into Casco Bay.

A Major Victory to Reduce One of The Largest Sources of Pollution to Casco Bay

As the Clean Water Act turns 50, Friends of Casco Bay celebrates new permit to reduce stormwater pollution.

Stormwater is one of the largest sources of pollution into Casco Bay. Yet, until this year, Maine has not required clear, specific, and measurable terms in the permit that controls discharges from large urban stormwater systems.

Thanks to the advocacy of Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca and Friends of Casco Bay’s partners around the Bay, the state has issued a revised municipal stormwater permit that contains much-needed protections to reduce stormwater pollution flowing from the most urbanized communities in the state. 

Under the Clean Water Act, reducing and eliminating the pollutants that flow through municipal separate storm sewer systems (or “MS4s” for short) is regulated by a general permit issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In a city like Portland, these stormwater systems include the streets, storm drains, gutters, roadside ditches, and sewers that discharge untreated stormwater runoff into local waterways, some of which drain into Casco Bay. 

Maine’s new MS4 permit will implement three major changes that should significantly reduce stormwater pollution into Casco Bay and its tributaries. Municipalities that fall under the permit will be required for the first time to:

  • Test stormwater outfalls to identify and eliminate sources of bacterial contamination
  • Develop and adopt an ordinance to require new construction and redevelopment to use low impact development techniques that allow stormwater to flow more naturally and carry less pollution into stormwater systems
  • Take three actions to restore water quality and reduce pollution from their stormwater systems where it flows into impaired waters.

It took five years of advocacy by Friends of Casco Bay and scores of meetings, comments, and proceedings to ensure these vital protections were included in Maine’s new MS4 permit.

“This is a time to celebrate,” says Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca. “The changes in this permit should have huge and visible results for our watershed. What better year to have this permit take effect than during the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Stormwater harms the Bay in so many ways because it carries diverse and varying loads of pollutants. For example, excess nitrogen fertilizes nuisance and sometimes harmful algal blooms. Toxins can poison wildlife and degrade ecosystems. Too much bacteria closes clam flats. As climate change brings more and stronger storms to Maine, the impacts of stormwater pollution will worsen without these changes.”

Conjure an image of Casco Bay. Do you see healthy, blue-green water? Most likely.

Yet anyone who has seen Casco Bay after a large rain might conjure a different image, where that vibrant blue-green is replaced with plumes of murky, brown stormwater.

After a rainstorm, millions of gallons of polluted stormwater pour into Casco Bay.

Stormwater is one of the largest sources of pollution into Casco Bay. Stormwater is a problem because our roads, driveways, parking lots, and buildings do not allow rain to soak into the ground and be filtered through natural processes. When snow melts in the spring or rain falls, water rushes over our cities and towns, collecting a toxic slurry of pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, exhaust and salt from roadways, pathogens from pet waste, and so much more. In urbanized areas, much of this polluted runoff drains into municipal storm sewer systems that discharge into streams, rivers, and, ultimately, Casco Bay.

There are solutions to this modern problem. By using low impact development techniques, green infrastructure, and testing and investigating sources of contamination, we can drastically reduce this pollution.

A map of MS4 program in the Casco Bay Watershed
A map of MS4 communities in the Casco Bay watershed, provided by the Casco Bay Estuary Partnership.

The new MS4 permit will go into effect in July of this year. In the Casco Bay watershed, it applies to twelve municipalities and specifically regulates stormwater pollution in their most densely populated areas. The municipalities include Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, South Portland, Portland, Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, and Freeport along the coast, as well as inland communities such as Windham, Westbrook, and Gorham.

Doug Roncarati is a Stormwater Program Coordinator for the City of Portland. “Everything we do on the landscape has the potential to create some kind of pollution,” says Doug. “The environment is very resilient, but throw too much at it over time and it will break down. We protect the environment and the long-term economic wellbeing of our communities by being thoughtful in how we manage our water resources. The MS4 permit is one way we can do that.”

MS4 permits, like all Clean Water Act permits, are renewed every five years. The renewal process provides the opportunity to assess if the permit sufficiently protects water quality or if there are improvements that need to be made. The process also allows for incremental advances that recognize budget constraints, developments in knowledge and technology, and the reality of what can be accomplished in five years. 

MS4 permits that apply to municipalities are required to contain “clear, specific, and measurable” terms to address stormwater pollution, according to a federal court ruling from 2003. In short, this ruling required environmental agencies like the Maine DEP to clearly describe how permitted municipalities should address stormwater pollution. When Maine’s MS4 permit was due to be renewed in 2018, Ivy knew there were important improvements to be made. The last version of the permit issued in 2013 did not include “clear, specific, and measurable” terms to reduce pollution.

“The requirement to set forth ‘clear, specific, and measurable’ terms in MS4 permits may be the best thing to happen for our watershed in a long time,” explains Ivy. “It fundamentally changed how MS4 permits could be written and gave Friends of Casco Bay the foundation to advocate for new permit language that will effectively reduce pollution from past actions and ensure future development does not degrade our waters.”

When the state began the permit renewal process in 2017, Ivy submitted comments on the first draft advocating for these new terms. However, for DEP and many municipalities, implementing a stronger MS4 permit would require valuable time and resources. Over the next four years, Ivy continued to advocate for stricter standards and filed more than eight sets of comments on drafts of the permit.

Ultimately, Friends of Casco Bay filed an appeal to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection asking that the new “clear, specific, and measurable” terms that Ivy had advocated for be included in the permit. In the summer of 2021, the Board of Environmental Protection sided with Friends in the appeal, and Maine’s new MS4 permit was finalized on December 23. In order to provide DEP and affected municipalities additional time to prepare to implement the new terms, it was agreed that the permit would officially go into effect on July 1, 2022.

Will Everitt, Interim Director of Friends of Casco Bay, sees this victory as a great example of how Friends works. “This was a long and challenging process,” says Will. “The way we advocate for the health of the Bay is just as important as what we achieve. We have deep respect for the DEP and affected municipalities. While we sought to address what may be the biggest source of pollution into the Bay, we also worked hard to collaborate with our partners and listen to concerns throughout the process.”

Stenciled storm drain reads, "do not dump, drains to Casco Bay."
A stenciled storm drain at Bug Light in South Portland reminds the public that what goes down the drain ends up in Casco Bay.

Today, there are more people living by and working on Casco Bay than ever before, and as our communities grow, so do our impacts on the health of the Bay. Climate change brings additional challenges to the coast, such as altering ocean chemistry and intensifying rainstorms that will send more stormwater into Casco Bay.

Damon Yakovleff, Environmental Planner at the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, provides technical support to municipalities on stormwater and sustainability projects. “This permit is a part of the broader effort to make this a truly sustainable region that treads more lightly on the environment,” says Damon. “It matters in a holistic way. It is about preventing water pollution, but it goes far beyond that. It’s about supporting our economy, culture, and quality of life.”

The MS4 permit’s new stormwater protections that go into effect beginning this year will help reduce these threats. A healthy Bay is a resilient Bay. With less pollution flowing to our coastal waters, Casco Bay and our coastal communities will be better prepared to withstand the challenges we know are looming on the horizon.

Our top 10 moments of 2020

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 are heartened that the plan sets a roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality in Maine by 2045 and includes important mitigation measures to help coastal communities adapt to looming changes.

2.) Our volunteer Water Reporters were chosen as CommUNITY Champions. More than 240 volunteers are helping us keep watch over the health of the Bay.

3.) Gulf of Maine Poet Gary Lawless wrote the poem, “For Casco Bay, For Us,” in honor of our 30th anniversary. You can read the poem here and hear Gary read it at our Celebrating Water event in July, hosted by Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell.

4.) The South Portland City Council passed a groundbreaking fertilizer ordinance to promote soil health and to protect Casco Bay from nitrogen pollution.

5.) In October, Staff Scientist Mike Doan and Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca shared what they saw on the Bay this field season during What Casco Bay is Telling Us: A Casco Bay Matters Event.  Ivy also hosted a Casco Bay Matters event earlier this year about the Maine Climate Council.

6.) Knack Factory made this short documentary about our work in honor of our 30th anniversary. If you liked that film, watch this behind the scenes montage about how it was made!

7.) We were delighted that Royal River Conservation Trust selected Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell and Friends of Casco Bay as recipients of their Conservation Champion Award.

8.) On Facebook, this huge lion’s mane jellyfish and this beautiful rainbow were our two most shared images from this year.

9.) We launched the public phase of our $1.5 million Climate Change and Casco Bay Fund. We are now less than $15,000 from crossing the finish line! And we will soon be launching two more continuous monitoring stations, thanks to the Fund!

10.) While we couldn’t celebrate our 30th anniversary in person, we were honored to have these community partners reflect on our success over the past three decades. We also took a trip down memory lane by scrolling through this timeline of our biggest victories and milestones.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New Year. Thank you for being a Friend of Casco Bay.

Three decades of success – the impact of Friends of Casco Bay

Friends of Casco Bay has a long history of success. Since our founding in 1989, our work-with, science-based approach has moved the needle toward a healthier, more protected Bay.

  • We championed a halt to cruise ship pollution and won a No Discharge Area designation for Casco Bay, the first in Maine.
  • We have secured better long-term protection through Clean Water Act classification upgrades for three areas of Casco Bay, ensuring stricter, permanent pollution restrictions.
  • Our water quality data are sent to Congress every two years; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection uses our data in its Clean Water Act biennial reporting to Congress and would not be in compliance without it.
  • We advocated for Portland to get back on track—and we continue to push to keep efforts on track— to fulfill its court-ordered agreement to clean up and eliminate dozens of combined sewer overflows, reducing the amount of raw sewage flowing into the Bay.
  • We are leading the call to reduce nitrogen discharges into our coastal waters. We forged an agreement with Portland Water District, which set a goal of reducing nitrogen coming out of the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility. During the summer of 2018, they reduced nitrogen levels by 70%, on average.
  • Our data and advocacy inspired South Portland and Portland to pass the strictest ordinances in the state to reduce pollution from pesticides. Harpswell also passed a pesticide ordinance with our input, and other communities are considering similar restrictions.
  • We convinced the legislature to form an Ocean Acidification Commission to investigate and make policy recommendations to address our acidifying waters.
  • We helped form the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to coordinate the work of researchers, government officials, and advocates to reduce acidification and address climate change. Our Casco Baykeeper currently serves as the coordinator of MOCA.
  • We successfully advocated for Portland to pass an ordinance designed to discourage single-use bags in favor of reusable ones. The bag ordinance, in turn, inspired Brunswick, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Freeport, South Portland, and eight other towns in the state to pass similar laws. We also won a polystyrene (e.g. Styrofoam) ban in Portland.
  • Our BayScaping Program is teaching thousands of residents and landscaping professionals to grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue; this is the model for the state of Maine’s YardScaping Program.
  • Our Casco Bay Curriculum has reached an estimated 17,500 students. We help teachers incorporate our monitoring data into their classroom activities. We have provided professional development courses for more than 700 teachers.
  • We fought to improve the S.D.Warren (now SAPPI) paper mill’s Clean Water Act discharge permit, significantly cutting the pollution released into our waters.
  • We helped lead the response to the largest oil spill in Maine history, the Julie N, and assisted responders in recovering an unprecedented 78% of the spilled oil (a 15-20% recovery is considered a success).
  • We were a founding member of Waterkeeper Alliance in 1999, a network that has grown to include over 300 Baykeepers, Riverkeepers, and other Waterkeepers

A special Season’s Greetings to you

Amid the delights and demands of the Holidays, we pause here to thank you and all our volunteers, donors, and supporters. You play a crucial role in our ability to monitor the environmental health of Casco Bay, engage community members to be good stewards, and protect our coastal waters from pollution. May the serenity of the season find its way into your heart—along with our gratitude!

We look forward to meeting the challenges ahead in the New Year, confident that with the support of Friends like you, we will forge ahead toward a healthier Casco Bay.

Warmest regards,

Cathy L. Ramsdell, CPA
Executive Director

Did you see our top 10 stories of 2019?

Let’s walk down Memory Lane together to recall our most popular stories of the year, based on your visits to our website and our social media interactions:

  • You answered the call when Casco Bay needed your voice. We asked our supporters to urge the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Marine Resources to pass a bill to create a Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commission. Ultimately, our bill was incorporated into the Governor’s comprehensive climate change bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support.
  • Maine takes a BIG step forward to address climate change. Our Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca was appointed to serve on the Coastal and Marine Working Group of the newly-created Maine Climate Council.
  • Casco Bay Temperature Extremes Whenever Research Associate Mike Doan is asked, “What were the highest and the lowest water temperatures this year?” he directs folks to our Continuous Monitoring Station data, which document water conditions in the Bay on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis.
  • Our new pumpout boat is taking care of business. More than 100 friends cheered the christening and launch of Headmaster, the new pumpout boat specially built for Friends of Casco Bay.
  • Have you seen this fin? It’s not a shark! Several boaters on the Bay encountered Mola mola, or ocean sunfish, this summer.
  • Casco Bay Matters More than 380 people attended our presentations on Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and You. If you missed our Casco Bay Matters presentations, you can see the series of three videos on our YouTube channel.
  • BEE a BayScaper! Jane Benesch’s yard attracts butterflies and bees — and neighbors who stop to admire her flower beds, vegetable gardens, tiny lawn — and her BayScaper sign.
  • Hosting so many service days with local companies this year is great for Casco Bay. Friends of Casco Bay led 22 coastal cleanups this summer. Remarked Community Engagement Coordinator Sarah Lyman, “Still, we always found plenty of debris to pick up!”
  • Keep pet waste out of the Bay! While we were examining a pollution incident in Cumberland, we came across a pile of dog poop bags at the outfall of a storm drain. When pet lovers toss poop bags into a storm drain, they are not doing the Bay any favors.
  • Water Reporters report in about #sealevelrise. Volunteer Water Reporters were out taking photos of the high tides to document flooded streets and eroding coastlines — warning signs of sea level rise.

We look forward to keeping you updated in the New Year. Our emails will help you stay on top of news about Casco Bay in 2020, including our 30th anniversary celebration on April 29, 2020, at Ocean Gateway in Portland. Mark your calendar and save the date!

BEE a BayScaper!

Photographs by Kevin Morris

We are proud to see a BayScaper sign on the lawn of one of Friends of Casco Bay’s volunteers, Jane Benesch. Her South Portland yard is bedecked with flower beds, vegetable patches, and wood chip-lined paths—and just a little turf.

BayScaping is our educational program that encourages residents to restrict or eliminate yard chemicals. We focus especially on lawns, where rainstorms are more likely to wash fertilizers and pesticides off the yard and ultimately into the Bay. Jane doesn’t use any bug killers, weed killers, or fertilizers.

Jane says that it is not necessary to devote an hour or two per day to your yard during the growing season as she does. “You can start small. Convert a small plot of land and replace the grass with native plants or a groundcover. Then, watch for changes in your environment.” 

She replaced grass with insect-friendly milkweed, coneflower, and beardtongue. Now her yard attracts butterflies and bees—and neighbors who stop to admire her winged visitors. One little visitor said to his Dad, “That’s the bee happy garden!”

Jane’s advice:  

  1. Start small. Replace a bit of turf with a few perennials or ground cover.
  2. Leave grass clippings when you mow—they are natural fertilizer.
  3. Water in the morning so that the grass dries out before nightfall. This helps prevent fungal growth.
  4. Be a BayScaper! Show your neighbors that you don’t use pesticides and fertilizers. Pick up a free yard sign from Friends of Casco Bay, 43 Slocum Drive, South Portland, on the campus of Southern Maine Community College.  Email at keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org or call (799) 799-8574.

Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1505: An Act To Create Consistency in the Regulation of Pesticides

May 1, 2017

Senator Paul Davis
Representative Danny Martin
State and Local Government Committee
c/o Legislative Information Office
100 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

Re: Friends of Casco Bay Testimony in Opposition to LD 1505: An Act To Create Consistency in the Regulation of Pesticides

Dear Senator Davis, Representative Martin, and Distinguished Members of the State and Local Government Committee:

Please accept this letter as the testimony of Friends of Casco Bay in opposition to LD 1505: An Act To Create Consistency in the Regulation of Pesticides. We ask this Committee to vote that LD 1505 ought not to pass because: (1) under existing state law, pesticide use has escalated and threatens human and environmental health; and (2) it voids existing lawful municipal ordinances that seek to limit harmful pesticide use and eliminates municipal “home rule” authority to pass any future pesticide-related ordinances.

Friends of Casco Bay is a marine stewardship organization formed over a quarter century ago to protect and improve the health of Casco Bay. Our work involves education, advocacy, water quality monitoring programs, and collaborative partnerships. We test ambient water quality conditions and for the presence or absence of specific pollutants.

1. Concern that pesticides already are present in our coastal waters

Both by definition and by their very nature, pesticides are products which kill, control or repel living things. Pesticides are toxic by design; they are the only chemicals we release purposely into our environment to kill living things. Federal and state laws permit the use of pesticides only with strict adherence to the label directions which accompany every pesticide product.

No label cites marine habitat as a permissible site for lawn care/ornamental plant care pesticide use. Meanwhile, Friends of Casco Bay detects routine trespass of lawn care/ornamental plant care pesticides into Casco Bay.

Between 2001 and 2009, we collected rain water flowing into the Bay and analyzed the samples for a suite of pesticides. Our goal for this project, in collaboration with the Maine Board of Pesticide Control, was simply to determine “presence” or “absence” of pesticides. Lab results identified 10 different pesticides in 14 locations all around the Bay.

Pesticides Detection around the Bay
Friends of Casco Bay, working in conjunction with the Maine Board of Pesticide Control, has detected pesticides in stormwater running into Casco Bay from fourteen neighborhoods. Chemicals we found are shown on this map.

With this information we were able to state with confidence that pesticides were getting into our coastal waters. Determining the impacts of pesticides on our marine ecosystems has been beyond the scope of our work, but clearly, especially in regard to our iconic Maine lobster, more research needs to be done.

Consider these six toxic pesticides detected in our waters:

  • 2, 4-D: banned in five countries, this herbicide is toxic to aquatic invertebrates and may be linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans
  • Clopyralid: this herbicide has been linked to birth defects in animals
  • Diazinon: banned from being sold to U.S. consumers but still legal for use, this insecticide has a high aquatic toxicity and is linked to reproductive problems
  • Dicamba: found in groundwater throughout the U.S., this herbicide is toxic to fish and zooplankton
  • MCPP: along with 2, 4-D, this herbicide is in the same family of chemicals as Agent Orange and is highly toxic to bay shrimp
  • Propiconazole: this fungicide is a possible carcinogen

Overall, 9 of the 12 most dangerous and persistent chemicals in existence are pesticides. <sup>1</sup> Children exposed to pesticides in homes, schools, lawns, and gardens can develop lower IQs, birth defects, developmental delays, and higher risks of autism, ADHD, and cancer. More about the author‘s point of view is explained in detail in this post mentioned in this link here. <sup>2</sup>

Pesticides also harm wildlife. For example, neonicotinoid pesticides have gained notoriety lately for leading to the demise of bees, causing them to forage less and produce fewer offspring.<sup>3</sup> Neonicotinoids that reach surface waters, including marine waters, adversely affect survival, growth, emergence, mobility, and behavior of many sensitive aquatic invertebrates, even at low concentrations.<sup>4</sup> Other pesticides may sicken shellfish and possibly harm lobster larvae. Our understanding of the impacts of pesticides on marine life is still evolving and is compounded by other threats to marine health. For example, scientists have found that larval oysters and hard clams can withstand low levels of pesticide use, but become more sensitive to the toxic effects of pesticides if their ecosystem is suffering from local climate stressors such as hypoxia and acidification-conditions, which occur on occasion in Casco Bay.<sup>5</sup> The impacts of pesticides on lobsters still require further study, but Pyrethroids have been implicated in lobster die-offs in Long Island Sound.<sup>6</sup>

Current state law does little to restrict the use of pesticides, and as a result, pesticide use has surged. Lawns are where families play, picnic and relax. Unfortunately, the desire for the perfect lawn is leading residents in our communities to use toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to make their yards green. In 1962, Rachel Carson sounded the alarm about pesticide pollution in her landmark book, Silent Spring. While some pesticides have been banned since then, household use of pesticides has increased dramatically. According to the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, more than 6 million pounds of lawn care pesticides were used in 2007 alone, nearly an eight-fold increase over 1995 (see chart). This exceeds the amount of pesticides used by all agribusinesses in Maine, including farmers and foresters.

Pesticide Purchases Graph
Source: http://maine.gov/dacf/php/pesticides/yardscaping/lawn/index.htm

2. Maine municipalities take steps to ban or limit pesticides

In 1987, this legislature passed 22 MRS § 1471-U requiring the Maine Board of Pesticide Control to maintain a centralized listing of municipal ordinances that apply to pesticide storage, distribution or use. Section 1471-U does not affect or limit the ability of municipalities to enact ordinances.

The Maine Board of Pesticide Control web site contains links to 27 municipal ordinances. A review of these ordinances shows the thoughtful process each city or town employed to study its need and illustrates how the municipality tailored its ordinance to address a specific local health concern. The cities and towns that have passed ordinances range from Allagash to Wells, and include both rural and urban regions. Some ordinances apply to agricultural uses, others to forestry, and others to sensitive environmental areas.

Along Casco Bay, Harpswell has passed a pesticide ordinance that bans the use of neonicotinoids (blamed for bee die-offs) and insect growth regulators (used to kill browntail moths and linked to harming lobsters). The ordinance bans use of pesticides or fertilizers within 25 feet of the shoreline. South Portland has passed an ordinance that phases in a pesticide ban on public property after one year, on private property after two years, and requires a comprehensive review of the ordinance in year three. Education will be emphasized over enforcement. More recently, the Portland Pesticides Task Force came out in support of an ordinance that bans the use of pesticides on lawns, patios and driveways, and within 75 feet of water. The draft ordinance would also have Portland form an advisory committee to develop data on pesticide use. Most recently, Falmouth has begun its work to study and develop a pesticides ordinance.

LD 1505 would void all 27 ordinances and revoke the authority of towns – like Portland and Falmouth – to pass future ordinances related to pesticides. This Committee should not sanction this infringement on the broad “home rule” powers granted to cities and towns by the Maine Constitution.

In light of the alarming increase in pesticide use, Maine cities and towns are leading the way by passing ordinances that limit pesticide use, in ways that safeguard public health, safety and welfare, and protect natural resources.<sup>7</sup> There are no state or federal laws in place that provide comparable protections.

Please keep these municipal ordinances in place. Please encourage continued protections for our children and for our environment. Please vote that LD 1505 ought not to pass. Thank you.


Ivy Frignoca
Casco Baykeeper, Friends of Casco Bay

CC: Rebecca Harvey, Clerk

<sup>1</sup> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_of_pesticides (citing scientific studies at notes 5 and 6).
<sup>2</sup> http://www.panna.org/human-health-harms/children.
<sup>3</sup> www.hiveandhoneyapiary.com/Honeybeesandpesticides.html.
<sup>4</sup> https://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/WillapaBay.pdf.
<sup>5</sup> http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2014/20140609_mosquitoinsecticide.html.
<sup>6</sup> https://ctmirror.org/2012/07/10/pesticides-found-li-sound-lobsters-first-time-more-study-planned/.
<sup>7</sup> 22 MRS § 1471-A (stating intent of law to ensure pesticides are applied safely to protect public and
environmental health)

Friends of Casco Bay testimony opposing LD 1518 to the extent it seeks to enact 22 MRSA § 1471-CC

April 22, 2019

Senator Jim Dill
Representative Craig Hickman
Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
c/o Legislative Information Office
100 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

Re: Friends of Casco Bay testimony opposing LD 1518 to the extent it seeks to enact 22 MRSA § 1471-CC

Dear Senator Dill, Representative Hickman and Distinguished Members of the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry,

Please accept the following as the testimony of Friends of Casco Bay opposing LD 1518 to the extent it seeks to enact 22 MRSA § 1471-CC. Friends of Casco Bay is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving and protecting marine water quality.

We regret being unable to appear in person and respectfully request that you consider our written testimony in your deliberations regarding LD 1518: An Act to Establish a Fund for Portions of the Operations and Outreach Activities of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Diagnostic and Research Laboratory and To Increase Statewide Enforcement of Pesticide Use.

Embedded in this bill about the UME Cooperative Extension Lab is an unrelated rider intended to restrict or eliminate municipal home rule. That rider is Section 3, which would enact 22 MRSA § 1471-CC:

A political subdivision of the State that wants to eliminate use in the political subdivision of a pesticide registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency shall submit a request to eliminate use of the pesticide to the board. The board shall determine whether the pesticide should be further regulated based upon the board’s expertise in toxicology and available scientific information relating to the adverse environmental, health and other effects of the pesticide under Title 7, section 610, subsection 1. The board’s review must include participation of the officers of the political subdivision and board staff
and may include experts and other interested parties as the board determines appropriate.

We strongly oppose this unrelated rider and request that LD 1518 be amended to strike Section 3.

In support of our testimony opposing Section 3 of LD 1518, we have attached testimony that we submitted to the State and Local Government Committee in 2017 and 2018 opposing similar attempts to limit or eliminate municipal home rule to regulate pesticide use. Our prior testimony highlights research we conducted between 2001 and 2009. We collected rainwater flowing into Casco Bay and analyzed it for a suite of pesticides to determine “presence” or “absence” of pesticides. Lab results identified 10 different pesticides in 14 locations around Casco Bay. We detected the following six toxic pesticides:

  • 2, 4-D: banned in five countries, this herbicide is toxic to aquatic invertebrates and may be linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma in humans
  • Clopyralid: this herbicide has been linked to birth defects in animals
  • Diazinon: banned from being sold to U.S. consumers but still legal for use, this insecticide has a high aquatic toxicity and is linked to reproductive problems
  • Dicamba: found in groundwater throughout the U.S., this herbicide is toxic to fish and zooplankton
  • MCPP: along with 2, 4-D, this herbicide is in the same family of chemicals as Agent Orange and is highly toxic to bay shrimp
  • Propiconazole: this fungicide is a possible carcinogen

Current state law does little to restrict the use of pesticides, and as a result, pesticide use has surged.

Fortunately, Maine’s Constitution grants Home Rule to municipalities.1 Home Rule allows municipalities to exercise any power or function that the Legislature confers upon them, and that is not denied expressly or by clear implication.2 With respect to pesticide ordinances, the Legislature requires a municipality to notify the Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) when it intends to adopt an ordinance. The law also requires municipalities to conduct considerable public process before adopting ordinances.3 Of Maine’s nearly 500 municipalities, only 29 have enacted pesticide ordinances, and all are carefully crafted to improve localized public health and safety.4 None of the ordinances out-right ban the use of pesticides.

For example:

  • Brunswick prohibits use or storage of most pesticides other than for households and agriculture within the aquifer protection zone. The town also prohibits aerial applications other than public health applications performed under the auspices of the Town or State. Exceptions may be approved by Codes Enforcement Officer.
  • Harpswell prohibits the use of the insect growth regulators (IGRs) diflubenzuron and tebufenozide and the aerial application of all IGRs and any insecticide whose product label indicates that it is harmful to aquatic invertebrates [for example, lobsters]. The town also restricts the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.
  • South Portland curtails the use of pesticides for turf, landscape and outdoor pest management.

These examples highlight that existing law works well to ensure municipalities engage in a thoughtful process and tailor pesticide ordinances to meet local needs. Section 3 of LD 1518 usurps municipal home rule and should not be enacted.

Friends of Casco Bay respectfully requests that this Committee recommend that LD 1581 ought not to pass as written. If the Committee does decide to consider the remainder of this bill, we respectfully request that LD 1518 be amended to strike Section 3.

Thank you for considering our testimony.

Ivy Frignoca, Casco Baykeeper
Friends of Casco Bay

1 Maine Constitution, Art. VIII, pt. 2, § 1.
2 CMP v. Town of Lebanon, 571 A.2d 1189, 1192 (ME 1990); 30-A MRSA § 3001.
3 See e.g. 30-A MRSA §§ 3001 et seq.
4 https://www.maine.gov/dacf/php/pesticides/public/municipal_ordinances.shtml.

BayScaping Takes Root in the Community


We first met Jesse O’Brien of Down East Turf Farms when South Portland was considering passing an ordinance to limit the use of pesticides. Jesse is a practicing agronomist, who says, “If you want to get good turf, you need to start with good soil.”

Initially, Jesse expressed concern about how businesses would be able to meet (some) customers’ demands for perfect lawns or athletic fields if pesticides were banned.

Jesse attended innumerable public meetings. We were at those meetings as well, sharing our data on pesticides in stormwater and our BayScaping outreach, to encourage town officials to limit the use of lawn chemicals. Jesse served for nine months on Portland’s Pesticides and Fertilizers Task Force, alongside Friends of Casco Bay Executive Director Cathy Ramsdell. They found agreement in the philosophy, “Don’t treat your soil like dirt!”

In January 2018, Portland passed a ban on synthetic pesticides similar to one adopted by neighboring South Portland in 2016. The City of Portland Pesticide Use Ordinance went into effect for city property on July 1, 2018, and will extend to private property on January 1, 2019.

Although Jesse worries about the unintended consequences of the ordinances, “We are in agreement that there is an overuse and misuse of lawn chemicals. I want to focus on culture practices that reduce the need for inputs.”

He has put those words into action. Today, Jesse serves on South Portland’s seven-member Pest Management Advisory Committee. In September, he recruited a dozen yard care professionals to demonstrate best practices for organic lawn care at South Portland’s Bug Light Park—teaching about overseeding, watering, aeration, soil testing, and dealing with pests. We applaud Jesse and other landscapers for helping our communities grow green lawns that keep Casco Bay blue.

Autumn BayScaping tips you can take this fall that will pay off next spring:
Let your soil breathe. Aeration allows water and nutrients to reach the grass’s roots. Seeding and composting on top of freshly-aerated soil can be done until the end of the growing season. Take away leaves soon after they fall.
Lower lawn mower height. Gradually reduce your mowing height to 2 to 2.5 inches before the first frost to help prevent snow mold.

Casco Bay begins in your backyard

Friends of Casco Bay has been a strong advocate for municipal ordinances to reduce the use of lawn care chemicals.

As the grass turns green, we are celebrating a series of milestones in our effort to protect the Bay from pesticides and fertilizers:

  • The City of South Portland Pesticide Use Ordinance goes into effect for private properties on May 1, 2018. As a resource for its residents, the City of South Portland launched an informative website and education plan on how to grow a healthy yard–even if you do not live in South Portland, you may find this resource useful: http://www.southportland.org/departments/sustainability-office/grow-healthy-south-portland/

  • The City of Portland Pesticide Use Ordinance goes into effect on July 1, 2018 for city property and January 1, 2019 for private property.

  • With the help of Friends like you, we helped defeat bad bill in the state legislature that would have taken away the power of towns to pass ordinances to restrict the use of pesticides.

  • The Town of Falmouth is in the process of developing a pesticide and fertilizer ordinance.

We applaud the steps these communities are taking in order to protect public health and the health of the Bay! With the return of spring, be sure to use the BayScaping tips above to help grow green yards that keep Casco Bay blue. You can read more about BayScaping here.

Fireside Gardening: Winter BayScaping Tips


OK, there’s snow on the ground where you really want to be digging in the garden.

Instead, you can spend those carefree hours creating a beautiful BayScape in your mind!

You can incorporate ecological lawn care strategies into planning a new look for your yard, one that will require less maintenance and less expense than the outdated, overrated, “perfect” lawn of old.


Reflect on what you have now and design your ideal yard

Ask yourself, “What would I like my yard to do for me?” Are there areas of your lawn that demand more attention, maintenance, or chemicals than you would like? Are there views from inside your home that you could enhance by planting different vegetation?

Sketch a map of your yard and its features, preferably on graph paper. Include:

  • Buildings, driveway, walkways, and borders: neighboring yards, brook, street
  • Garden beds, water gardens, lawns, trees, and shrubs
  • Current uses, such as, sitting areas, playscapes, sports areas, gardening work area, or vistas for visual enjoyment

Highlight with yellow marker those areas of your lawn where you have turf challenges: areas that receive little sunlight, experience heavy foot traffic, or are poorly drained. Perhaps you should think of alternatives to grass such as patios of permeable paving stones or ground cover such as bunchberry, partridgeberry, or Canada mayflower. In wet areas, consider placing rain barrels, rain gardens, or bushes that can help prevent runoff.

Now create another map that has all the elements that you would like to have in your yard.


Ask the experts

Bring your ideal yard map to a nursery or garden supply store to learn more about native plants, low maintenance grass seed mixes, and ecological lawn care. The staff will love the company, and they’ll have more time to brainstorm with you. You will appreciate seeing some lush greenery.


Don’t pile snow on the lawn

This promotes snow mold disease in the grass.


DO put a BayScaper sign in your yard

Come in and pick up a free sign that announces to your neighbors that a green yard and a blue Bay will be the “in” colors for Spring! Request a BayScaper informational packet, a yard sign, or a presentation for a neighborhood association or garden club within the coastal Casco Bay area. Reach us at Friends of Casco Bay, 43 Slocum Drive, South Portland, keeper [at] cascobay [dot] org, or (207) 799-8574.


Download our BayScaping documents: