PESTICIDES MISUSED IN HOUSING UNITS

rbha 021114The Red Bank Housing Authority office at Evergreen Terrace. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection slapped a Neptune pest control business with more than $500,000 in fines and costs last week over its use of dangerous chemicals in homes and restaurants, including public housing apartments in Red Bank.

Zapp Termite and Pest Control was fined $495,000 and had its pesticide applicator licensed yanked for what the DEP said was repeated misuse of chemicals near food; for applying pesticides intended for outdoor use only indoors; and for failing to alert tenants of the presence of the pesticides.

“While we have not received any reports that anyone was directly harmed, the manner in which Zapp misapplied these pesticides had the potential to expose people to harmful levels of these products,” John Giordano, the DEP’s Assistant Commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement, said in a prepared statement dated last Friday. “To make matters worse, the firm repeatedly failed to provide consumers with required safety information that is designed to ensure their safety when these products are used.”

The DEP said it sent inspectors last March to locations treated by the firm after a complaint by an unidentified resident. The agency found that Zapp “failed to provide required written information that provides consumers with the dates of application; the chemical and brand names of the pesticides to be used; label safety instructions; information about the name and location of the applicator business; and the telephone numbers for the National Pesticide Information Center, the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System and the New Jersey Pesticide Control Program.”

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Inspectors determined that the firm failed to keep a list of the chemicals it stores on-site and that employees transported pesticides in vehicles that lacked required safety equipment in the event of an accident, including equipment to contain spills and extinguish fires. Inspectors also observed employees of the firm using improperly marked containers of pesticides.

The DEP’s 33-page administrative order contains details on what the DEP inspectors did and found in three West Side apartments owned by the autonomous Red Bank Housing Authority.

Though the treated units are identified – numbers 6, 32 and 138 – the order does no specify at which of two sites those apartments are located. The authority runs the Evergreen Terrace Apartments on Leighton Avenue and the Montgomery Terrace Apartments on Tilton Avenue.

According to the DEP order, the apartments were treated with an insecticide containing Fipronil a slow-acting poison. Contrary to requirements, “there were no decals posted anywhere in the unit” to alert residents and visitors about the presence of the chemical, the DEP found.

The DEP also found the firm’s recordkeeping deficient regarding treatments at “several units” at the housing authority in from November, 2011 to November, 2012. The company’s records failed to identify the name brand of the pesticides applied, the active ingredient, the locations and the concentration levels, the DEP said.

A redbankgreen call to the housing authority office seeking information about the habitability of the units Tuesday morning was not immediately returned.

Mayor Pasquale Menna said he is scheduled to meet with housing authority officials Tuesday, upon a request they made to him late Monday. He said he did not know the specific subject matter of the meeting, and had been unaware of the DEP matter until called by redbankgreen.

Zapp’s business conduct was also deficient at dozens of restaurants and office spaces in Monmouth and Middlesex counties, including a handful of McDonald’s restaurants, the DEP found.

The fines, plus more than $12,000 in testing fees, applied to both Zapp and its owner, Vincent Taylor, who also lost  his commercial pesticide applicator license in the action.

Here’s the DEP’s order: DEP v Zapp Termite 020614

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