2013-01-18 / Front Page

Pesticide transition continues

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Scarborough is in the midst of a transition from a synthetic pesticides program to an organic one free of dangerous man-made products.

On Monday, Jan. 14, the Scarborough Conservation Commission and the Scarborough Pest Management Advisory Committee hosted a forum to educate the public about the benefits of the organic approach and to update them on how the transition was going thus far.

“Our role is to really increase awareness of the value of natural resources in town and work to reduce potential damage to the resources,” said Peter Slovinsky, chairman of the conservation commission.

Much of the education about the dangers of synthetic pesticides has been spearheaded by Citizens for a Green Scarborough, a group started in January 2011 by concerned parents and community members.

Marla Zando, one of the group’s founders and a member of the Scarborough Pest Management Advisory Committee, said she began to look into the possibility of Scarborough adopting an organics-only policy on town-owned properties in 2010 after she read an article by Paul Tukey, a safe lawn advocate. Of particular concern, she said, was the impact synthetic pesticides had on children and wildlife.

“The negative impacts are amplified in the bodies of children,” Zando said. She connected with Karen D’Andrea, a former town councilor, Eddie Woodin, a lifelong birder and Mark Follansbee, a toxicologist, to look into to the issue and bring it to the Town Council’s ordinance committee.

On Sept. 21, 2011, a policy to restrict the use of synthetic pesticides in town parks, schools and other municipal properties was passed by the Town Council. In spring 2012, Town Councilor Richard Sullivan attempted to reverse the policy, but the effort fell short.

The policy states that Scarborough “refrain from the use of pesticides upon property it owns, uses or controls, except in situations that pose an imminent threat of serious injury to persons, property or agriculture.” The policy also outlines posting and notification requirements should pesticides, organic, or otherwise, be used.

The Scarborough Pest Management Advisory Committee was formed to enforce the policy and approve the products and applications made to town-owned property.

“This policy is protecting our children and animals, our signature marsh and beaches, our shellfish community and the soil below our turf fields,” Zando said.

In late May, the town awarded a yearlong contract to Dave Melevsky, president of Go Green Landscaping, to maintain town property using an organic approach. Scarborough Town Manager Tom Hall said the contract with Go Green Landscaping runs through May 2013, but has a one-year renewal option.

Hall said $91,000 had been budgeted for athletic fields maintenance, including $75,000 for turf management. To date, Hall said $91,400 has been spent. He expects spending an additional $12,000 for the spring application for the fields. A number of unexpected costs, such as $8,800 for additional grub treatments at Wiley Recreation Facility and Scarborough Middle School fields, drove up the costs.

“We can expect to spend an additional $12,000 on turf management through the end of the fiscal year, so it is incumbent on myself and staff to find resources to cover that overage,” Hall said.

Melevsky said he is happy about what has been accomplished to date.

“Overall the transition has gone well. I am very happy with the results,” Melevsky said. “The fields are healthy, they are progressing quickly and they are safe.”

Chip Osborne, president of Osborne Organics, a natural turf management company in Marblehead, Mass., said he has been impressed with how well the fields in Scarborough have taken to the organic approach from when he first saw the fields in May 2012 to October 2012, when he took photographs. Osborne, an expert on organic pest management, was invited to be the guest speaker at the forum.

Osborne said the organic approach, which only uses products derived from nature, is scientifically based and puts a “system in place so problems don’t get out of control.” Just like synthetic products, Osborne said organic products have to be used correctly and managed properly.

Osborne has extensive experience in both synthetic and organic approaches. Osborne used synthetic pesticides for 20 years while operating a commercial greenhouse, before abandoning them in the mid-1990s, when he began to question the safety of such products.

He said whether people agree with the synthetic pest management approach or not, the market is changing and organic products are becoming more popular.

Jeff O’Donal, who operates O’Donal’s Nursery on County Road, said his store is an example of that. He said O’Donal’s Nursery used to have an entire room of synthetic pesticides. Now the stock has been reduced to a single shelf of synthetic pesticide and organic products take up much more space.

Woodin said he has seen greener fields as a result of the organic turf management, which could serve as an example for other communities across the state.

“Scarborough is the epicenter of athletics and to see the town go organic and have the fields stand up sends a great message statewide,” Woodin said, adding a legislator from Falmouth is interested in proposing a statewide resolution that bans synthetic products on town/school properties.

John Cole, a member of the Scarborough Board of Education, thanked the members of Citizens for a Green Scarborough and the pest management advisory committee for the work they have done. However, Cole said he hopes the effort goes further.

“Twenty or 30 years from now, our children will be the benefactors of what we are doing now and what we continue to do,” Cole said. “I would like to see (the policy) extended to all homeowners.”

Encouraging homeowners to adopt a pesticide-free approach to their lawn care is one of the goals Citizens for a Green Scarborough came up with in October, when a group of citizens came together at the Scarborough Public Library to outline a new environmental vision for Scarborough.

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Why would someone in Canada

Why would someone in Canada care so much about what Scarborough does to manage a few playing fields? Why bother weighing in on what is undeniably a local issue? My only speculation is that there is fear among manufacturers that Scarborough's fields will be fine. If that happens, people could discover that (once they establish healthy soil) they don't need to spend so much money on synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer. Others could follow Scarborough's lead and next thing you know real money is being lost by the manufacturers. Why else would someone in Canada (or anyone outside of Scarborough) care about how a town manages a few playing fields? Any ideas?

Coming across this

Coming across this publication, I wonder who has been able to define what are synthetic and what are organic pesticides. What is the difference? They are all chemicals. What you call synthetic pesticides are carefully regulated and adequately safe for use. Have any organic pesticides been evaluated to the same extend? How can you be sure organic pesticides are really not affecting nature, animals, plants and humans? To my knowledge no toxicological evaluations have taken place.

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Hahahahahahahahah. Okay, so who is pesticidetruths? Go to the website. It looks pretty nutty. Most of his material is highlighted with half naked, sexy women artwork. Not quite sure how that even closely relates to the topic. No scientific data whatsoever. Lot's of unsubstantiated accusations and ranting. Not to mention he's not just not a Scarborough resident or a Maine resident, he lives in Canada. The Town is doing a terrific job. The grass looks healthy. It's good for everyone. I can't frankly understand why there are people who are so opposed to this. It's putting Scarborough out front in the public eye doing great things for its citizens. Thank you Scarborough!

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We are proud citizens in that

We are proud citizens in that we have chosen to prioritize Scarborough's children, signature marsh and beaches, watershed, and shellfish economy - over the use of lawn chemicals - by transitioning to scientifically-based organic horticultural and cultural practices. There is usually a 3 year period to transition a chemically-dependent lawn with depleted soil, to an organic living soil, teaming once more with beneficial life. The health of the soil means everything when growing grass. Dave Melevski, the town's organic contractor, has done a superb job of this, and he has only been at it for 5 months. The public is invited to review his work in the form of photos and field reports, kept in a notebook for viewing at the Town Hall; view the new type of soil tests that measures beneficial life in the soil(a soil food web), as an indicator of soil health. I want to thank others who sit on the front lines of this transition every day: Steve Quirk and his staff at Community Services who are challenged to balance never-ending field use with organic cultural practices (mowing, watering, etc); Town Manager Tom Hall who constantly balances requests from the Town Council, citizens of varied opinions, and his job in implementing the policy; and Community Services staffer Nicole Hall, who does an exceptional job supporting and documenting the work of the town's Pest Management Advisory Committee, as they work to implement this policy. Thanks also goes to Scarborough's Town Councilors - current and past - who voted to put this policy in place - for having the vision to see the long-term financial and health benefits to future generations. They have served as a beacon of light to surrounding towns considering the same, and serve as a model for pending state-level legislation. This is true leadership.

Thank you, Pesticides

Thank you, Pesticides Committee, for your attention, diligence, and patience. Thank you, Tom Hall, for your objective attitude-crucial in a situation such as this. A crackpot like "Pesticide Truths" just muddies the water. He should stop it with the lies and mind his own business.

Wow- Pesticide Truths?? You

Wow- Pesticide Truths?? You obviously don't have a clue as to what you are talking about. Chemical pesticides had been used for years on Wiley field to control grub populations which had gotten out of control. Because of Councilor Sullivan's attempt to derail the organic policy a contract to begin turf management was delayed until early June when beetles had already laid their eggs. The grub outbreak was a forgone conclusion. Dylox was approved by the PMAC to avoid economy injury and was a spot treatment. You must be incredibly desperate to be calling for resignations and firings. Time to move into the 21st century. Your poisons- whether chemical or verbal- aren't working any more.