Pesticide Ordinance FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the ordinance basics? 

Portland’s Pesticide Use Ordinance restricts the use of synthetic pesticides for all turf, landscape, and outdoor pest management activities in the City on both public and private property. This includes the following areas: 

  • Lawns
  • Vegetable and ornamental gardens
  • Landscaped areas
  • Patios
  • Sidewalks 
  • Driveways 
  • Parks and playing fields 

The ban is being phased in to allow for a transition to organic land care practices. It went into effect in July 1, 2018 for municipal property, and goes into effect January 1, 2019 for private property (whether managed by a landscape company, business owner, landlord, or resident). 

The ordinance also requires applicators to submit an annual summary report on or before February 1st of each calendar year relating to the preceding calendar year. 

What do I need to include in my annual summary report?

This report shall contain the following information for applications performed in the City in the prior calendar year: 

  • Target site 
  • Pesticide brand name 
  • EPA registration number 
  • Total undiluted formulation (in pounds or gallons) 
  • Total area treated as listed and as amended on the Commercial Applicator Annual Summary Report required by the Maine Board of Pesticide Control 

Do I need to submit an annual summary report for 2018? 

No reports are necessary prior to the ordinance taking effect. 

If I need to use a pesticide, what products can I use? 

If weed or pest problems occur, the City allows the use of pesticides that are certified organic by the USDA or considered “minimum risk” by the EPA. 

Organic systems thrive when soil biology is healthy enough to support the natural cycling of nutrients, resulting in resilient turf and plants. Identifying products that do not undermine soil biology is therefore essential. Organic turf management is not a product-based approach. Since all products have some degree of risk, organic land managers urge that all products are used as a last resort. 

Examples of the types of effective allowed pesticides include: 

  • Horticultural and insecticidal soaps
  • Vinegar-based herbicides
  • Essential oil-based pesticides
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Biological-based pesticides such as bacillus thuringiensis 

How can I find out what products are allowed? 

CHECK THE LIST: The List of Products Compatible with Organic Landscape Management found here identifies products that comply with Portland’s pesticide ordinance. This list will be updated periodically, and should not be considered a final, complete list of products. 

SEARCH THE DATABASE: Another way to see if a product is in compliance with the ordinance is to check whether the product is “OMRI Listed.” The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) reviews and lists products which are in compliance with these statutes. Use the OMRI searchable database at omri.org/ubersearch which can be searched by product, generic materials, company name, product name, or product type. Note: this is a huge database because it includes all agricultural products. 

Are there restrictions on allowed pesticides? 

Yes. ALL pesticides are prohibited within 75 feet of a water body or wetland within the City. This includes all:

  • Ponds
  • Rivers
  • Streams
  • Tidal areas
  • Coastal or freshwater wetlands 

Are there any exemptions? 

Yes. The following are NOT covered by this ordinance:

  • Indoor and structural pest management
  • Commercial agriculture 
  • Pet supplies (shampoos, tick and flea treatments) 
  • Disinfectants, germicides, bactericides, miticides, and virucides 
  • Insect repellents 
  • Rat and rodent control supplies 
  • Swimming pool supplies 
  • General use paints, stains, wood preservatives, and sealants 

In addition, you may continue to use any pesticide for the following:

  • Management of invasive insects as defined by Maine Forest Service found here: https://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/forest_health/invasive_threats/index.htm *This website is updated periodically; check with the MFS if you don't see an insect you suspect is invasive.
  • For the control of poisonous plants (e.g. poison ivy)
  • For the control of pests that may pose significant health concerns (e.g. ticks and mosquitoes)
  • Utility right-of-way applications as defined in state statute Title 7, §625: Right-of-way spraying found here: http://legislature.maine.gov/statutes/7/title7sec625.html
  • Termites and structure-damaging insects
  • Waiver-approved applications 

Can I get a waiver? 

For situations that pose a threat to public health and safety or for the control of invasive species that pose a threat to the environment, people may apply to the Pest Management Advisory Committee (PMAC) for a waiver. 

How do I apply for a waiver? 

Before applying a restricted pesticide under the Pesticide Use Ordinance, applicators must request a waiver and receive approval from the City. This applies to each application. There are only two approved reasons for requesting a waiver: 

  1. For an existing situation that threatens public health and safety
  2. For the control of invasive plants that pose a threat to the environment 

Note: Pesticide use for the management of invasive insects (as defined by the Maine Forest Service) is exempt under the ordinance; therefore no waiver is needed. 

When applying for a waiver, the applicant shall provide substantial proof that they have exhausted all reasonable alternatives to the use of restricted pesticides. In deciding waiver requests, the PMAC waiver committee will assess the application on the reasons above and these four conditions:

  • The applicant has carefully evaluated all alternative methods and materials.
  • The applicant will, to the greatest extent practical, minimize the impact of the application on abutting properties and nearby water resources.
  • The applicant will carefully consider weather predictions to avoid applying pesticides immediately prior to rain events and/or windy conditions.
  • The grant of the waiver will not be detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare. 

Restricted pesticides shall only be applied after a waiver is granted by the City. 

To apply for a waiver: Download a form from portlandmaine.gov/pesticides. Email completed form to akrulik@portlandmaine.gov, or mail or deliver to City Hall, Room 26, 389 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101. 

The PMAC will review the waiver application within ten (10) business days and will issue a written decision on the application within three (3) business days. 

If applying a prohibited pesticide, what procedures do I need to follow? 

If prohibited pesticides are used under exemption or waiver criteria, the following notification procedures must be followed, whether the applicator is a landscape company, business owner, landlord, or resident: 

  1. Owner or applicator shall post warning signs prior to the application and leave them up for at least 48 hours.
  2. All warning signs must be 5" high by 4" wide, attached to a dowel or other supporting device so that the bottom of the sign is not less than 12" and the top of the sign is not more than 48" above the ground. Signs shall be weather-resistant and easily read for 48 hours after being placed outdoors. Sign shall be on a light-colored background with dark bold letters.
  3. Signs must include the following:
    • The word "CAUTION" in 72 point type
    • The words "PESTICIDE APPLICATION" in 30 point type or larger
    • The chemical and trade name of the pesticide
    • The Maine Board of Pesticides Control designated symbol
    • Any reentry precautions from the pesticide labeling
    • The name and telephone number of the entity making the pesticide application
    • The date and time of the application and a date/time to remove the sign
    • The length of time to remain off the treated area as indicated by the pesticide label
    • A printable sign is available here

How will this ordinance be enforced? 

The City’s Sustainability Coordinator will work with alleged violators to bring them into compliance by providing educational materials and advice on the use of organic practices and/or less toxic chemicals to achieve their desired results. The ordinance allows the City to levy fines against property owners who fail to comply with the ordinance. 

To report a problem or alleged violation, contact Troy Moon at thm@portlandmaine.gov or 207-756-8362.