OCEANSIDE – A county report found several pesticide violations against Brightview Landscape in its management of services in the Arrowood Village community, but none of the violations were found to cause adverse impacts to animals and residents in the neighborhood.
The report, issued by the county Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures, is the result of a investigation into more than a year’s worth of residents’ claims that family pets were falling ill and dying due to the spraying of pesticides in Arrowood.
According to multiple residents, more than 30 pets, mostly dogs, fell sick during that time span and more than half of those later died.
“There was no evidence of pesticides being used negligently, excessively or not according to the registered label,” the report states. “I found no evidence that the use of legal registered pesticides by the two licensed companies contributed to any illnesses that the dogs in this neighborhood experienced. Brightview did have several violations noted, but none of these violations contributed adversely to the safety of the pesticides applied at Arrowood. No adverse health, property or environmental effect was determined due to these violations.”
The Coast News previously published an article detailing Arrowood residents’ experiences with their pets. At the time, a spokesperson from the county said the department had not found any correlation between dogs’ illnesses and pesticides sprayed in the neighborhood.
But many residents weren’t satisfied with the county’s initial investigate findings due to the fact that something in the area appeared to be harming their pets.
Arrowood resident Pete Gajria’s beloved dog, Maggie, a 16-year-old duck-tolling retriever, was old but healthy. Despite her age, she was still relatively active before suddenly falling ill last spring while playing in one of the neighborhood’s common areas. Over the next several months, Maggie’s health deteriorated until she eventually died in December 2021.
Some of the reports of dogs falling ill appeared to be similar to symptoms of both pesticide and rodenticide poisoning. Only one of the allegedly affected dogs, Dommie, owned by residents Joey and Sheana Trecartin, was confirmed to have died from rodent poisoning according to veterinary records.
Joey Trecartin said the family never kept rat poison or anything like it in the household.
Diane Woelke, an Arrowood resident who didn’t have any pets but was still concerned, filed a complaint regarding pesticide misuse to the California Environmental Public Agency.
The case was then referred to San Diego County’s Land Use and Environment Group’s Department of Agricultural Weights and Measures which operates the county’s Pesticide Regulation Program (PRP).
Nancy Wickus, a senior inspector with the county agriculture department, was assigned to investigate the case in June 2021. The Wickus report includes correspondences from Avalon Management Group, Brightview and Rodent Pest Technologies, a licensed pest control business that administers rodenticide in Arrowood.
According to the county’s investigation, Rodent Pest Technologies, uses Ditrac rodent bait administered through bait stations to ensure the poison stays in place. Ditrac comes in large blocks with a hole in the middle where a metal rod is inserted to help ensure the bait remains protected where only small rodents can access it.
Rodent Pest Technologies also uses RCO Omega Gopher Grain Bait deep below ground for gopher control. James Gammill, district manager of Rodent Pest Technologies, told Wickus that the gopher bait is applied primarily on slope areas outside of common areas. Wickus did not find any violations against Rodent Pest Technologies.
As for Brightview, four violations were found.
The first violation relates to the list of pesticides Brightview uses in Arrowood that was sent to Avalon, which didn’t include three herbicides that were sprayed in the community – Snapshot 2.5 TG, Fusilade II and Sedgehammer. This constituted a violation for failing to provide a complete notice of applied pesticides in Arrowood.
Brightview received the second violation for failing to complete pesticide use records.
“Upon closer inspection of the use records, I noticed 10 records contained the word ‘spot’ or were left completely blank in the ‘Square Footage of Area Treated’ field,” Wickus stated in her report.
Wickus also reviewed Brightview’s use records summary submitted to the county between June 2020 and May 2021. None of the records were submitted prior to the due date, which is the 10th of the month following the application month.
Additionally, the submitted report for March 2021 recorded 46.8 pounds of Snapshot 2.5 TG applied, while a recorded use on March 23 of that same year stated that 300 pounds were applied, garnering a third violation for the landscape company.
Wickus issued a fourth violation to Brightview because the company did not include Sureguard or any pesticide group similar to flumioxazin, Sureguard’s active ingredient, in its safety training program.
Despite the several violations, Wickus determined that none of infractions were linked to dogs falling ill or dying in the community.
“I saw no evidence of veterinary tests performed that showed any symptom was directly related to pesticide exposure,” Wickus states. “I found no evidence that the use of legal registered pesticides by the two licensed companies contributed to any illnesses that the dogs in this neighborhood experienced.”
Wickus goes on to explain that no samples were taken during the investigation because the complaints made by neighbors were “general in nature and did not focus on a specific application or a targeted area.”
Wickus also notes that many of the dogs appeared to be over their average life spans, citing information from the American Kennel Club that medium-sized dogs live an average of 10-13 years. She suggests that many of the symptoms the sick dogs experienced could be age-related.
Both Gajria and Woelke dispute several of the claims made in the report.
While the report includes a photo of flags Brightview uses to alert neighbors of spraying in certain areas, Woelke said that she has never seen a flag used in her nearly 20 years of living in the community.
“Signs were never posted until 1/2022, letters were never sent…we’ve been here since May 2003….NEVER a flag, sign, letter,” Woelke writes in an email to another lead inspector with the county.
Woelke also alleges that the report includes misstatements from neighbors and doesn’t include the same map that was sent to Wickus indicating where bait stations are located around the county.
Brightview took over landscaping services for Arrowood in June 2020 before Avalon Management Group took over management of the HOA the following December, according to correspondence between Brown and Wickus in the report.
To date, residents are still pushing for an organic Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program through the HOA with little luck, according to Woelke.
“They continue to ignore our repeated requests for a REAL organic IPM and they refuse to acknowledge our repeated requests for an organic land management program,” Woelke said via email. “I told them we weren’t going away and may consider other actions such as a petition or recall.”