Oct. 31—Portland has issued its first fine for violating the city's pesticide use ordinance, which bans the use of synthetic pesticides with limited exceptions.
Seabreeze Property Services was issued the maximum fine of $500 last week for applying glyphosate — an ingredient found in Roundup and other herbicides — to control Japanese Knotweed at a property managed by Avesta Housing at 605 Stevens Ave. in August, the city said.
The Portland City Council approved the ordinance in January 2018, and advocates at the time called it one of the strongest anti-pesticide ordinances in the country. The ordinance bans the use of synthetic pesticides, though there are some exceptions, including plant and pest control when they threaten health and safety, such as poison ivy.
Troy Moon, the city's sustainability director, said most landscaping companies seem to have been trying to follow the ordinance since it took effect in July 2019, but it's also been hard to enforce.
"We can't go on people's property," Moon said. "We have to respond if residents or others raise a concern. Even then, it can be difficult unless we have documentation."
In the case on Stevens Avenue, Moon said a resident who reported the case got documentation of the chemical's use from their landlord and Seabreeze also admitted to using it. Seabreeze did not respond to phone messages asking about the violation left at its office Friday or Monday.
The resident who made the complaint declined to provide her name for publication because she worried that speaking out would impact her housing, but said she and her neighbors at the apartment complex, which is known as Motherhouse, have garden boxes near where the spraying took place. She said those gardens were contaminated, and she lost close to $300 in organic soil and plants.
"It was devastating to a lot of us," she said. "We worked hard. It was a pastime for us to be able to go out and work in our gardens. I'm still not over it."
Avesta, a nonprofit affordable housing provider, said in a statement Monday that it respects the city's decision and "regrets any negative effects that the treatment for invasive plant species at Motherhouse has caused residents."
"We contracted with Seabreeze Property Services to provide landscaping services at Motherhouse, and relied on Seabreeze's expertise and advice concerning treatment of invasive species on the property and in regards to following any city regulations," the statement said.
The City Council recently added more restrictions to the ordinance, including a prohibition on the use of synthetic fertilizers in most places, and requirements for property owners to follow best management practices when using organic fertilizers. Those updates are scheduled to take effect March 19, 2023.