(Beyond Pesticides, May 7, 2009) In a report of fines that safety advocates say are representative of typical and daily pesticide poisoning and contamination incidents nationwide, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) documents the application of pesticides through irrigation systems without properly safeguarding water sources from potential contamination, a failure to notify persons who are sensitive to pesticides of pending pesticide applications, and noncompliance with proper personal protective equipment requirements. The fines issued by the state for violations of state pesticide laws and rules range from $350 to $5,200.
WSDA completed investigations across the state, including incidents involving Adams, Douglas, Franklin, Grant, King, Snohomish, Spokane, Whitman and Yakima counties. The agency issued fines or license suspensions in the following cases:
”¢ Timothy Bjarnason, an employee of CHS Inc. in Mead, was fined $450 and his license was suspended for seven days. In May 2008, Bjarnason applied a herbicide to a wheat field near Mead. The spray tank had not been properly cleaned from a previous application of a different herbicide. Residues damaged part of the wheat field he was treating.
”¢ Cameron Calaway, CK Agri LLC, Mattawa, was fined $850 and his license was suspended for six days. In March 2008, Calaway fumigated a field near Warden without posting all of the required information about the fumigation. Calaway also failed to provide WSDA with pesticide application records that were requested during the investigation.
”¢ Chris Corigliano, C&C Yard Care, Inc., Spokane, had his license suspended for three days. In June 2008, an employee of C&C Yard Care, Inc. applied pesticides in Spokane to a property that was next door to an individual that was sensitive to pesticides. The company failed to notify the pesticide-sensitive person before making the application. State law allows pesticide-sensitive individuals to be on a WSDA registry that is used by industry to alert such persons prior to a pesticide job about to be conducted adjacent to their principal place of residence. This is a state requirement found in about a dozen states but rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection as a safety measure.
”¢ Larry Einig, Total Landscape Corp., Woodinville. WSDA alleged that in October 2008 an employee of Total Landscape made a pesticide application to the landscape of an apartment complex in Snohomish where a person on WSDA’s pesticide sensitive registry resides. Total Landscape failed to notify the person before making the application. And, the employee who made the application was not licensed with WSDA as required. Additionally, WSDA found apparent violations in the way pesticides were stored and handled at Total Landscape Corp.’s facility. The matter was resolved when Einig agreed to pay $600 and accept a nine-day license suspension.
”¢ Randy Ferguson, Ferguson Flying Service, Inc., Quincy, was fined $450 and his license was suspended for seven days. In May 2008, Ferguson made an herbicide aerial application to a wheat field in Grant County. The application drifted onto a nearby pea field damaging the crop.
”¢ Jack Jackson, Triple J Fruit Co., Rock Island. WSDA alleged that in May 2008 an employee of Jackson was using an airblast sprayer to apply a pesticide mix to Jackson’s cherry orchard when the pesticide mix drifted onto a neighboring residence. The matter was resolved when Jackson agreed to pay $350 and accept a seven-day license suspension.
”¢ Richard Jaeger and Simplot Grower Solutions, Othello. WSDA alleged that in October 2007 two employees of Simplot applied a soil fumigant through irrigation systems to three fields near Pasco. High winds were occurring at times during the application. In one field the irrigation water carrying the soil fumigant drifted onto a vehicle driving on a nearby road. A business was also affected with pesticide drift due to an application to one of the other fields. Additionally, none of the irrigation systems had adequate backflow protection to prevent source water contamination. The matter was resolved when Jaeger and Simplot Grower Solutions agreed to pay $5,200 and accept a two-day license suspension. The two employees, Victor Murillo and Elais Tovar, had their licenses suspended for 22 days each.
”¢ NuChem, Pullman. WSDA alleged that in April 2008, the NuChem store in Lind was storing a large quantity of pesticides outside of the store that were unsecured and left unattended. The store also sold restricted-use pesticides to persons who were not licensed, and offered for sale a pesticide that was not registered with WSDA. The matter was resolved when NuChem agreed to pay $1,400.
”¢ Charles Resendez, Yakima, an employee of Senske Lawn and Tree Care, had his license suspended for two days. In September 2008, Resendez supervised an unlicensed employee of Senske who made a pesticide application in Union Gap without wearing required protective protection equipment.
WASA levies fines based on a matrix that takes into account the seriousness of the violation, whether it is a first or a repeat offense, and whether there are any aggravating or mitigating factors involved. Larger penalties often reflect repeat offenses or multiple violations within the same incident. WSDA enforces state and federal laws to protect people, property and the environment against the improper use of pesticides. Staff also provides technical assistance to the pesticide industry and consumers, and enforces the rules on structural inspections for wood destroying organisms, such as wood rot, carpenter ants or termites.
Laws vary depending on which state the incident occurred. Beyond Pesticides’ state pages can help you with information regarding different state regulations. Inconsistency throughout states and federal laws has, and is, a problem regarding law enforcement on pesticide label compliance. Over the past three decades, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued numerous reports and testimonies examining limitations with respect to various federal government efforts to regulate pesticides in several areas: (1) pesticide registration and reregistration; (2) pesticide warnings; (3) groundwater and watershed contamination; (4) pesticide residue monitoring; (5) banned and unregistered exported pesticides; (6) protection of farmworkers; (7) pesticide data management; (8) setting pesticide residue tolerances; (9) international pesticide standards; and (10) nonagricultural and lawn care pesticides. GAO, which was highly critical of conflicts of interest in the state enforcement of pesticide use violations, poisonings and contamination (finding that the same agencies promoting and advancing pesticide-intensive management practices are charged with enforcing against users) in the 1981 report Stronger Enforcement Needed Against the Misuse of Pesticides, has not comprehensively revisited the issue for decades. GAO concluded that,
“EPA and the States have not developed adequate management information to document the results of the pesticide enforcement program. Program records and reports lack data on the quality of enforcement activities and are plagued with inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent information. EPA has recognized the need for better management information and has recently implemented new reporting requirements. EPA’s monitoring of State programs to measure accomplishments has been limited. Finally, EPA, the States, and FDA have not established adequate management controls over pesticide enforcement cases referred between the agencies. As a result, EPA cannot readily evaluate the effectiveness of the program in meeting its main goal of protecting the public and the environment from improper pesticide use.”
In order to be effective or to have any relevance, environmental laws, like other laws, must be enforced. Pesticides are regulated primarily under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) which authorizes EPA to oversee the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides. States are authorized to regulate pesticides under FIFRA and under state pesticide laws, which differ from state to state. Pesticide application must be consistent with both federal and state laws. When it comes to enforcement, states have primary authority for compliance monitoring and enforcing against use of pesticides in violation of the law, efforts that are supported with a grant from the federal government. Generally, many pesticide complaints arise because the pesticide was used in violation of labeling requirements, applied at the wrong location, or because of pesticide drift.
If you believe that a pesticide application violates the law, or you believe that the application has harmed you or the environment, there are some measures you can take. For a list of these, please visit Getting the Pesticide Law Enforced and What To Do in a Pesticide Emergency.