Report sheds light on $1.7 million herbicide attack that rocks Maine town

The nearly full moon sets behind the Camden Hills at dawn in this view looking west across Penobscot Bay, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, near Camden, Maine. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, file photo

Ostensibly to get a better ocean view, a homeowner on the coast of Maine treated herbicides on her neighbor's trees nearly three years ago—a costly decision that ultimately polluted a public beach, exposed homeowner Amelia Bond and her husband Arthur to more than $1.7 million in fines.

The Portland Press Herald explored the mysterious saga in an article earlier this week, examining the ongoing impact in the city of Camden, a mid-coast community of just under 5,000 residents. The Bonds are seasonal residents and live most of the time in Missouri, the Press Herald reported.

According to the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, Lisa Gorman — the Bonds' neighbor and widow of longtime LLBean President and CEO Leon Gorman — hired an arborist when she noticed decline in two of her oak trees in July 2022. The arborist found traces of the herbicide tebuthiuron, as did a Board of Pesticides Control representative who conducted an on-site inspection at Gorman's home on Metcalf Road.

According to the Board of Pesticides Control, tebuthiuron is used “to control woody vegetation in rangelands” and is not intended for use in residential areas. The board noted that “a variety of trees and shrubs” near Gorman's home were showing signs of dying.

The city government notified the Bonds in December 2022, and the couple said in a letter through an attorney that Amelia Bond brought the herbicide from Missouri and applied it to the trunk roots of two oak trees on Gorman's property that she believed were dying, according to the Board of Pesticides Control.

The Press Herald reported that Bonds' reasoning was vague, although it mentioned a brown-tail moth infestation. Gorman's attorney contradicted that explanation in a July 20, 2023, letter obtained by the newspaper.

“My client believes that the Bonds admittedly trimmed the tops of numerous trees and applied a powerful herbicide to their property in order to improve their view of Camden Harbor,” the attorney wrote, according to the Press Herald“There should be no misconception about a brown-tailed moth problem on Mrs. Gorman's property, as there was none.”

Amelia Bond's use of tebuthiuron in the fall of 2021 was “in a careless, negligent or erroneous manner,” the state Board of Pesticides Control claimed. According to the Bangor Daily NewsThe Bonds ultimately had to pay a $215,200 bill under a consent decree with the city, plus a $4,500 fine under an agreement with the state. The couple also settled privately with Gorman, according to the Penobscot Bay Pilot, who reported that the “substantial” sum exceeded $1.5 million.

Under the agreement with the city, Bonds will be responsible for cleanup costs if the herbicide reaches nearby Laite Memorial Beach. When samples from the public beach tested positive for tebuthiuron in March, the city decided to present its concerns to the Attorney General's Office, the Press HeraldCamden Select Board Chairman Tom Hedstrom also called for criminal charges, the Penobscot Bay Pilot reported.

“That was blatant,” Hedstrom told Press Herald“I would be disappointed if (the Attorney General's Office) did not issue a clear statement on this.”

read this Portland Press HeraldThe detailed report from.

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Anna Harden

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