Daily News Archive
May 10, 2006
Mother Says Lawn Care Company is Skirting Pesticide Law
(Beyond Pesticides, May 10, 2006) A Rochester mother’s
efforts to protect her children from toxic pesticides has spurred Rochesterians
Against the Misuse of Pesticides (RAMP) to file an official complaint
with the Monroe County Department of Public Health. RAMP has also contacted
the Attorney General's office after the family was not properly notified
according to the county’s new Neighbor Notification Law.
Stein doesn't expect her neighbors to refrain from using lawn pesticides
— that's their right, she says. But this Brighton mother wants
the choice to shield her children, Emma, 4, and Sam, 2, from unnecessary
exposure. She thought that's what the county's new neighbor notification
law provided, and she fully expected to receive a letter from a lawn
care company at least once this spring. But when a company showed up
to spray her neighbor's lawn last week, claiming that a small orange
plastic flag spiked into the edge of her lawn a month ago constituted
prior notification, Mrs. Stein was shocked.
Mrs. Stein and her husband hadn't even noticed the flag, which looks
very much like the small pinkish flags marking a utility project on
their street. Some friends told her of receiving postcards with their
mail or coming home to packets of information hanging from their doorknob
— notification from different companies.
"That really irritated me, that some people are getting notified
and some aren't," Mrs. Stein said. "I would just like to get
is the first gardening season since Monroe County voted to enforce an
optional state pesticide notification law, which requires that commercial
lawn care companies provide neighbors with written notice at least 48
hours before applying pesticides, as well as laying out new duties for
homeowners and pesticide retailers.
Bob Ottley, owner of One Step Tree & Lawn Care in North Chili —
the company that sprayed near Stein's home — said the notice,
though printed on a flag, provides all the information required by the
law: the pesticide's name and federal registration data, his company's
telephone number, and the potential dates for pesticide spraying.
When Mrs. Stein called to complain, the company brought her a duplicate
copy of the notice and delayed spraying, ultimately treating the lawn
while her children played indoors. Mrs. Stein said that when she called,
a member of Mr. Ottley's staff also offered to add her to a telephone
The law, however, requires written notice. While it's fine to leave
a letter or other information at someone's door, the flag strategy doesn't
seem to accomplish the law's intent, said Dr. Andy Doniger, director
of the Monroe County Health Department.
Judith Enck, of the Attorney General's office, said that she doesn't
believe the flags meet the spirit or the letter of the neighbor notification
"The guy gets extra points for creativity, but he's flirting with
a fine," Enck said.
The county hasn't yet looked into the Stein case. In fact, no enforcement
actions — be they against lawn care companies, retailers or homeowners
— have been taken since the law went into effect in January, Dr.
Calls have been constant on the county's hotline, some reporting what
they believed to be a lack of proper notification, but most with questions
about the law. Many callers don't realize that a tank truck bearing
the name of a lawn care company may be applying fertilizers or granular
pesticide, neither of which trigger neighbor notification. Others know
that homeowners are required to post signs if they apply most pesticides
but don't realize that gardeners are exempt from giving their neighbors
Educational efforts in recent weeks are just beginning to have the desired
effect, Dr. Doniger said. Spot inspections indicate that pesticide retailers
and homeowners are posting a lot more signs.
Lawn care professionals, many of whom complain of higher costs and frustrated
customers as a result of the new law, aren't so convinced.
Laurie Broccolo of Broccolo Tree & Lawn Care in Henrietta said that
her system of mailing postcards using addresses from a county database
is working fairly well. However, productivity is down because her staff
has spent a lot of time educating customers and struggling to schedule
jobs so that everyone receives proper notice.
The notice is all that homeowners like Mrs. Stein are asking for.
son is at the age where everything goes into his mouth ... when we see
the (pesticide) signs we stay away," Mrs. Stein said. "I'm
just trying to protect my kids' health."