What You Need to Know About the Ordinance

What are the ordinance basics?

How do I care for my land without pesticides?

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

How can I find out what products are allowed?

Are there restrictions on allowed pesticides?

Are there any exemptions?

Can I get a waiver?

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

How will this ordinance be enforced?


What are the ordinance basics?

In September 2016, South Portland passed a Pesticide Use Ordinance to restrict 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 goes into effect in May 2017 for municipal property, in May 2018 for private property (whether managed by a landscape company, business owner, landlord, or resident), and in May 2019 for golf courses.

How do I care for my land without pesticides?

The cool climate of Maine favors healthy landscapes. Grass will grow lush and with few problems as long as basic plant needs are met. This starts with healthy soil, and includes mowing at higher levels, topdressing with compost, over-seeding, and watering deeply but infrequently. These organic land care practices will reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers.

Find out more about growing a healthy yard and garden.

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

If weed or pest problems do occur, the City allows the use of pesticides that are certified organic by the USDA or considered “minimum risk” by the EPA.1Read more about how these products are reviewed and selected.

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, as other sections of this website indicate. 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 identifies products that comply with South 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. OMRI has a searchable database, 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.

LOOK FOR THE LABEL: If you are shopping,another way to tell if a pesticide is allowed is if it has one of these labels visible on the front:

Are there restrictions on allowed pesticides?top.png

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)

  • 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:

Can I get a waiver?top.png

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 for a waiver.

FMI: How to apply for a waiver

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.

A printable sign is available here.

How will this ordinance be enforced?

The City's Sustainability Office will maintain a listing of complaints of alleged violations received (in aggregate by Assessor’s tax map number, not by specific property address). This listing will include the nature of the complaint, a summary of the situation, and a brief description of how each complaint was resolved.

The City’s Sustainability Director 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.

To report a problem or alleged violation, contact Julie Rosenbach at jrosenbach@southportland.orgor

1. The list of allowed products is based on: (i) the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990 and overseen by the National Organic Standards Board (7 C.F.R 205.601 and 602), and (ii) the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of exempt pesticides, Section 25(b) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) (40 C.F.R. 152.25).