2016-08-19 / Front Page

Rat poison discovery results in partial closing of Ogunquit Beach

Town officials, DEA investigating use of bait along beach-parking lot barrier
By ALAN BENNETT
Staff Writer


A rocky section of Ogunquit Beach remained blocked off to beachgoers on Thursday, as state and local officials continue to investigate the use of rat poison along the beach’s rocks. 
ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune A rocky section of Ogunquit Beach remained blocked off to beachgoers on Thursday, as state and local officials continue to investigate the use of rat poison along the beach’s rocks. ALAN BENNETT/Journal Tribune OGUNQUIT — A large portion of Ogunquit Beach remained blocked off by caution tape on Thursday as town officials and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection investigated the use of rat poison at the beach.

Acting Town Manager Mark O’Brien said in a press release that it became apparent to him last week that rat poison had been used along the rocky barrier that separates the beach from the parking lot.

“I was notified that rat poison was being used around the beach area in the rocks to mitigate a rat problem at the beach. I ordered it to be removed, disposed of properly and to stop using it,” O’Brien said. “The remaining rat poison was collected and turned over to the authorities as part of their investigation.”

O’Brien said the Maine Game Warden Service, DEP and State Pesticides Board are all involved in the ongoing investigation. He did not say who ordered the rat poison to be used, or if that person worked for the town.

Maine DEP spokesman

David Madore said in an email Thursday that his department was first made aware of the issue by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on Aug. 9, and assisted in removing rat poison pellets.

Madore said the DEP was alerted again on Aug. 11 by an anonymous caller about more bait found among the rocks. Additional pellets were discovered Saturday after being dislodged by heavy rains on Aug. 12, O’Brien said.

About 14 packages of rat bait have been recovered and removed by DEP to date, Madore said. The rocky area, which is near the main entrance to the beach, has been sectioned off from the public.

On Thursday, as the beach was packed with residents and tourists soaking up the last sunny weeks of summer, the rocks remained cordoned off with yellow caution tape.

Families with children enjoyed scoops of ice cream under a covered pavilion just inches from the restricted space.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s just incredible,” said part-time Ogunquit resident Marjorie Katz, who stood near the area. “There’s issues on the environment. To throw packets of rat poison on the beach? The level of incompetence and stupidity in that is beyond comprehension. It really is.”

Katz, who also lives part-time in Brookline, Massachusetts, said she has never heard of the beach having a rodent problem, and doesn’t understand why the town would turn to such drastic measures.

“I’ve been coming here since I was born. I’ve never seen anything,” Katz said, looking toward a large dumpster located in the beach’s small parking lot. “All I can think of is because the town has not been properly taking care of the trash – they have that trash receptacle and trash is being left overnight and not taken out until the morning. It’s been attracting the rodents from under the bridge or wherever.”

“It’s not like you see rodents running around,” she continued. “Maybe a couple people saw something a while ago, but the way it sounded from some people, (it was like) there were rats running all over the place.”

Game wardens from IFW were not immediately available for comment regarding a rat problem at Ogunquit Beach, or to discuss whether the use of rat poison violated any laws related to wildlife preservation.

Madore said the DEP’s involvement is to provide assistance in the investigation, which O’Brien said is ongoing.

“Our immediate concern is the welfare of residents, visitors, pets, wildlife and the environment,” O’Brien said. “We are fully cooperating with the authorities and hope to have this resolved very soon.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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