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How to Prove Pesticide Drift Caused Damage

I received this email today from a new SafeLawns member from Wisconsin. If anyone has any experience with this issue, please post a comment below.

Paul,
I just listened to a replay of your Wisconsin Public Radio interview this morning. I hope you can help me:

I am about to start legal proceedings against TruGreen for damage to my trees, shrubs, native plantings (I would bring up my headaches but don’t think I can prove the source). The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) came to my property and collected leaf samples which are waiting for analysis at their Forensics Lab. When I have their report (in at least 12 weeks) I will go to Small Claims Count for damages, and possibly also Circuit Court for nuisance. The University of Wisconsin Plant Disease Diagnostics Clinic positively identified herbicide damage to my white oak and redbud trees based on visual inspection of branches. TruGreen claimed that my trees were diseased but the lab saw no diseases.

State law says herbicide cannot leave the property where it has been applied, but the burden on a neighbor is almost impossible to meet. Do you have advice or references for me?

Janet Battista
Madison, WI 53704

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

Number of Entries : 1024
  • http://www.thevictorygardeninitiative.com Gretchen Mead

    I had an experience where I was in my backyard with my small children (at the time 3 and 7 mos) and the smell of chemicals was pervasive. I thought something was burning at first.
    When a friend of mine arrived in her car a few minutes later, she said, “I cant believe I can smell it all the way here.” I said “what is it?” She told me she had just driven by a yard a couple blocks away, where a lawn company was spraying chemicals on the lawn and the gusty wind blew a big blast of the stuff right in her car and onto her children. She was very upset at her children being exposed so severely.
    We called the lawn company and told them they had no business spraying on such a windy day. The lady on the phone claimed it wasnt windy. I challenged this…I was after all, at my house and I knew it was gusty. What evidence did she have over the phone that the wind wasnt blowing here?
    I am very upset that these lawn companies can get away with exposing my children to these chemicals. A 7 month old baby should NEVER be exposed to those chemicals. These people take away my ability to protect my children on my own property. I wish I could sue them.

  • Tina Cole

    I live in Hailey, Idaho, a community south of Sun Valley and Ketchum, Idaho. It is a very narrow valley and the spraying done by individual families and major landscaping companies is horrifying. So too are the mounting cases of cancer in adults, children, dogs and cats. Idaho has no laws for signage or notification and it is state mandated to spray for noxious weeds along public thoroughfares. There are laws however, that specifically state that spraying in winds over 8 mph is a violation. I have called in landscapers who have sprayed over a block away in 20 to 30 mph winds causing pesticide/herbicide poisoning to anyone who walks into the drift. I called my State Agricultural Agent in Twin Falls (80 miles away.) He visited the next day, took soil samples, testimony from me and another neighbor and investigated the infraction. He is very serious about his job and said he could be in Hailey in 45 minutes if I saw anyone spraying in such violation again. The applicator at fault was not insured, properly licensed or wearing protective clothing. I kept a detailed timeline, date, time, wind speeds the local airport has those on record) and the fellow’s company was given a stern warning. None of the neighbors, except one nurse with three young children, had the imbecile return. I might add that the neighbor behind the three yards being sprayed had recently been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and had a severe respiratory attack two days after the spraying incident and was hospitalized for a month. He did not pursue the spraying as a cause of his pulmonary fibrosis but it certainly helped trigger his decline and hospitalization. Be prepared to write a testimony paper. I found it well worth the time and effort.

    • Paul Tukey

      Great post and good advice. By the way, I will be appearing in Idaho on Oct. 16 at the Sawtooth Botanic Garden. The following day our movie, A Chemical Reaction, will be screened as well. We hope to see you there.

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