Chemical Warfare: The Formal Complaint

The meadow this morning. Note milkweed about to flower.

This is the second installment in my continuing saga of a pesticide application gone wrong. The incident involved a tree care company spraying my neighbor’s apple trees in a strong wind, and the chemical or chemicals (I still don’t know what he was applying) being carried by the wind into my yard, vegetable garden, bird bath and even into my house. You can read the whole sordid tale here.

I decided to make a formal complaint. This is the first time I have done this, and I was interested in seeing how seriously the state took me and how the  process worked.

I started with a phone call to the RI Department of Environmental Management (DEM). I left a message on Saturday afternoon with someone in the pesticide section of the Division of Agriculture.

On Monday I received a call from a senior plant pathologist, who told me she would come and take my statement. She arrived yesterday, and the process took longer than I had anticipated.

First, I recounted what had happened and she wrote it all out by hand, using carbon paper so I would have a copy. Then, we went out to my back yard and she took samples of hibiscus, potato, tomato and bean plants. These will be tested for chemical residue. The process was quite lengthy, because everything needed to be  bagged, labeled and sealed – twice.

She took photos of the wildflower meadow and of my yard and garden. Finally, she drew a diagram of the entire area.

The meadow, another view.

I am not expecting much to be found on the plant samples. It has been six days since the spraying, and we’ve had a lot of rain. However, the pathologist told me that what’s most important are the precautions written on the label of the pesticide they were using, and the wind speed at the time of the spraying. Some insecticides clearly warn the applicator not to spray when pollinators are active. These chemicals should be used only early in the morning of later in the day, when the bees have all gone to bed. She will find out what was being applied when she speaks with the tree care company.

As for wind speed, I checked that myself right after the incident, and it was blowing 14 knots. The pathologist told me that spraying is not supposed to be done in winds greater than 5 mph.

I also asked her if she thought it was wrong of this man to have planted a wildflower meadow to attract pollinators and then spray the heck out of them. She agreed that indeed it was.

So now, I wait. The lab work will take a while, apparently, but she will probably talk to the tree care people before long. I’ll keep you  posted.

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About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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8 Responses to Chemical Warfare: The Formal Complaint

  1. Andy Brown says:

    Good for you. I’m glad to hear that they send someone out to look into this kind of thing. These chemicals are bad enough when they’re used “properly”, much less when used carelessly.

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  2. cj wright says:

    I’m so glad to hear you had a speedy response, dirtynailz. That’s very encouraging. I’m anxiously awaiting the results with you. If residue is found on your plants, do you know what happens next?

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    • dirtynailz says:

      Don’t worry, CJ, I’ll keep you apprised.
      I keep wondering what would have happened if my dog had been out there when they were spraying. They have all these rules pertaining to pesticide use, but they are usually ignored.
      Unless there’s enforcement, the regulations are essentially meaningless.

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  3. I’m sorry it happened. But I’m impressed with your possibilities to fight back.

    How do you get on with the actual neighbours in the meantime?

    Judging by the wildflower meadow – they are people like us? Not!

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    • dirtynailz says:

      Diana, this is a man who is completely insensitive to everyone and everything around him. It’s all about money and power, you see. When he was having his pretentious house built, he actually threatened a 92 year-old widow whose house abuts his. No one likes him. He is way too aggressive – even with his poor dog!

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  4. HerbDoc says:

    Good work, DN! As a taxpayer in RI it’s nice to see the system working. I thought of your dog too when you mentioned the spraying and shuddered to think there might be a baby in a carriage nearby while this was going on. Hopefully the owners/employees of the tree company will get (at least) a severe reprimand and an order for retraining.

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    • dirtynailz says:

      All I can do right now is hope the system works. So far, it does, but if at the end of this I am not satisfied, then I’ll move to Plan B.

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