Action Line: Take complaints to lawn firm, state
6/30/2010 10:25:06 AM
By Jay Furst
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
Where can a home owner go to complaint about the obnoxious sickening odors given off by lawn chemicals applied by either home owners or lawn care companies? And how safe are these chemicals for our environment and humans? Even breathing the fumes given off by these lawn chemicals will give me a headache and a burning feeling in my lungs. — Dennis
Starting with Dennis’ latter question, lawn care companies have to go through environmental hoops that are well-established by government. Is that enough? Do you believe all firms completely follow instructions and regulations? That’s up to you.
If you have concerns about how and when chemicals are applied and whether a lawn care company is following the law, I recommend two steps: Call the lawn care company, and if that doesn’t seem to get you anywhere, call the Minnesota Department Agriculture, which oversees commercial firms of this kind.
I talked with the owner of a Rochester area lawn care company last week and he said the state regs are explicit and well-enforced. His employees have to pass state tests and carry an applicator’s license on them at all times; state officials do spot checks and “if you don’t have that hard card on you,” you’re in trouble, he said.
Regarding complaints from either home owners or neighbors, he says his firm tries to be responsive because “some people are more sensitive” to the chemicals than others. “There’s an odor with herbicides to let you know it’s there,” just as with natural gas, he says. Typically, within an hour it’s gone.
In the end, complaints that can’t be addressed go to the Ag Department. You can get information on licensing and permitting regarding particular firms, as well as register a complaint. The place to start is the department’s office for pesticide and fertilizer management: (651) 201-6121.
If you have specific complaints regarding Rochester area applicators, let me know and I’ll see what I can find out. And if you’re interested in getting a copy of licensing information and FAQs on commercial lawn care firms, let me know and I’ll send it.
Last point, Dennis: At least commercial firms are nominally regulated, as opposed to a home owner applying his or her own chemicals. Depending on the neighbor, I might feel more confident with a commercial firm working next door.
Jay Furst is the Post-Bulletin’s managing editor, and Action Line is a weekly column that helps readers deal with consumer complaints and government red tape. Contact him at P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903 or email@example.com.