Eagle Lake wants to stop pesticide use near public wells

3 weeks ago

EAGLE LAKE, Maine – The Eagle Lake Water & Sewer District has petitioned the state to prohibit the use of pesticides within 500 feet of two wells that supply the town’s drinking water. 

As part of this process, the state’s Bureau of Pesticides Control will hold a public hearing at 9 a.m. on July 19 at its office on 90 Blossom Lane in Augusta and online via Microsoft Teams. Links will be available via the BPC meeting page shortly before the hearing.

Eagle Lake Water & Sewer District Superintendent Gerald Raymond said this is a preventative measure to ensure that pesticides do not enter the groundwater. The town of around 400 residents is not alone in its concern about water supply. Wells in many towns around the state are contaminated with forever chemicals, according to data from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. 

The two wells were installed around 2009, according to Raymond. It was at this time that the district noticed adjacent landowners spraying their lawns with fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides for bugs. One landowner had a licensed herbicide sprayer come and cover their lawn in a chemical used to deter geese.

Raymond said the town attempted to enact a wellhead protection ordinance around this time, but it failed. Another attempt to control this area about two years ago also failed.

He said officials with the state Drinking Water Program advised the district that they should take action, either through an ordinance or via the board of pesticide control, or else it could affect the town’s drinking water.

“It’s basically to make [adjacent landowners] aware that if they continue that use, at some point we will have to test for these products in our wells,” he said. “And it’s going to be a cost to the district, so we’re trying to prevent that from happening.”

Tests have not yet been conducted in this area, but Raymond said it may happen in the future.

“It could get to the point where the state might have us do some testing, now that they’re aware that this is happening,” he said.

This could impact up to eight nearby property owners by preventing them from using pesticides on their land or from hiring professionals to treat their property with pesticides, according to the BPC. The area also includes a railway. If this control area is approved, the railway would no longer be able to have pesticides applied for track maintenance.

The July 19 hearing, according to the BPC, is to collect public comments to help the board draft a rule. The board will not be taking any formal action regarding the petition during the meeting.

Raymond said he is hopeful that this will allow the district to better protect the two wellheads, which supply water for the entire town.

“We’re looking to protect our public water supply,” he said. “Hopefully, this will be another tool that we can use to protect our groundwater for the future.”