Structural Pest Control and Pesticides - Pesticide Enforcement Trends

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Pesticide Enforcement Trends

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Pesticide and pesticide container disposal laws and regulations were adopted years ago in North Carolina.  The improper disposal of pesticides and/or their containers can be harmful to public health and the environment, as well as resulting in potentially costly cleanups.  In the past three years, several pesticide and/or container disposal related investigations have been conducted in North Carolina.

This type of investigation usually ends in a formal enforcement action.  The burning of pesticide containers is the most common illegal method for their disposal. The improper disposal of rinsates and pesticide wastes is endangering the environment. One of the more serious investigations that we dealt with involved the improper disposal of a 200 gallon sprayer tank in a dumpster, which contained a mixture of five insecticides that were detected by laboratory analysis.  Two employees at the site were exposed and became seriously ill and were transported to a local emergency room.  We were not able to identify a responsible party related to this incident.

The NCDA&CS has a Pesticide Disposal Assistance Program that can help with the disposal of unwanted pesticides.  The program arranges collection of waste pesticides throughout the State with the goal of servicing every county at least once every two years.  In addition, pickups are made from almost 30 county-based Household Hazardous Wastes programs each year. You can access the scheduled collection dates from NCDA&CS web site under Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division.  Also, through a grant from the NCDA&CS to Cooperative Extension Service (CES), many counties operate a Pesticide Container Recycling Program where farmers and licensed pesticide applicators can take properly rinsed pesticide containers for recycling. You can contact your local CES office for information about these services.

Disposal of pesticides and containers is not only regulated by the NC Pesticide Law of 1971 and its attending regulations, but all pesticide labels also contain specific directions for proper disposal.  The Law states as follows:

General Statute 143-441. Handling, storage and disposal of pesticides.

(a) The Board may adopt regulations:

(1) Concerning the handling, transport, storage (which may include security   precautions), display or distribution of pesticides, and concerning the disposal of pesticides and pesticide containers.

(2) Restricting or prohibiting the use of certain types of containers or packages for specific pesticides. These restrictions may apply to type of construction, strength, and/ or size to alleviate danger of spillage, breakage, or misuse.

(b) No person shall handle, transport, store, display, or distribute pesticides in such a manner as to endanger man and his environment or to endanger food, feed, or any other products that may be transported, stored, displayed, or distributed with pesticides, or in any manner contrary to the regulations of the Board.

(c)No person shall dispose of, discard, or store any pesticides or pesticide containers in such a manner as may cause injury to humans, vegetation, crops, livestock, wildlife, or to pollute any water supply or waterway, or in any manner contrary to the regulations of the Board. (1971, c. 832, s. 1.)

The Regulations go further and state:

SECTION .0600 - Pesticide and Pesticide Container Disposal

02 NCAC 09L .0602  Disposal of Pesticides

(a)  In considering disposal techniques, first preference shall be given to procedures designed to recover some useful value from excess pesticides.  Whenever possible, excess pesticide shall be used according to its labeling for the purpose originally intended.

(b)  Excess pesticides and pesticide-related wastes shall be disposed of in accordance with labeling requirements. Note:  In addition to the requirements of these rules, disposal of excess pesticides and pesticide-related wastes is also subject to rules adopted by the North Carolina Commission for Public Health as set forth in 15A NCAC 13A, Hazardous Waste Management, and 13B, Solid Waste Management, as applicable.

02 NCAC 09L .0604  Prohibited Disposal Procedures

No person shall dispose of any pesticide or pesticide container in any of the following manners:

(1) in a manner inconsistent with these rules;

(2) so as to cause or allow open dumping of pesticides or pesticide containers;

(3) so as to cause or allow open burning of pesticides or pesticide containers;

(4) so as to cause or allow water dumping, or ocean dumping; or

(5) so as to violate any applicable provisions of the North Carolina Pesticide Law.


Training Requirements

All applicators must have and maintain the fumigation category on their license before purchase and use of a soil fumigant.  This applies to both Private and Commercial Applicators.

  • North Carolina no longer accepts the online EPA training for applicators.
  • It is illegal for a Dealer to sell a soil fumigant to someone without the fumigant category on their certification or license.

The recertification requirements must be met by the end of the certification date or retake the fumigant exam.

  • 1 Hour of Z(SF) for Private Applicators
  • 3 Hours of S for Commercial Applicators

Basic Buffer Zone Requirements

  • A buffer zone must be established for every fumigant application
  • The buffer zone extends outward from the edge of the application block equally in all directions
  • All non-handlers and bystanders must be excluded from the buffer zone
  • The buffer zone period begins at the start of the application and lasts for 48 hours after the application is complete
  • Buffer zone distances must be calculated using the application rate and the size of the application block
  • Buffer zone distances must be based on look-up tables included in the soil fumigant label.

Buffer Zone Credits

Buffer zone distances may be reduced by applying buffer zone credits, such as:

  • Soil content
  • Application systems
  • Reducing application rates
  • Tarps, tarps that qualify for reduction credits can be found at EPA - Tarps

Buffer Zone Posting

Buffer zones must be posted as well as the treated area. Detailed information on buffer zones, credits and posting are covered on the soil fumigant label.

Difficult to Evacuate Sites

  • Schools
  • State licensed daycare centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Hospitals
  • In-patient clinics
  • Prisons

No fumigant applications are allowed where buffer zones are greater than 300 feet if there is an occupied difficult-to-evacuate site within 1/4 mile (1,320 feet) of the application block during the application and for 36 hours afterward.

No fumigant applications are allowed where buffer zones are less than 300 feet if there is an occupied difficult-to-evacuate site within 1/8 mile (660 feet) of the application block during the application and for 36 hours afterward.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

If homes or businesses are near a buffer zone, the certified applicator-in-charge has two options:

  • Option 1 Monitor the buffer zone
  • Option 2 Provide response information to neighbors

Triggers for emergency preparedness and response measures:

If the buffer zone is 25 feet, then the emergency preparedness measures do not apply

Certified applicators must: monitor the site, OR provide information to neighbors

  • If the buffer zone is greater than 25 feet but less than or equal to 100 feet and there are businesses within 50 feet from the outer edge of the buffer zone
  • If the buffer zone is greater than 100 feet but less than or equal to 200 feet and there are businesses within 100 feet from the outer edge of the buffer zone
  • If the buffer zone is greater than 200 feet but less than or equal to 300 feet and there are businesses within 200 feet from the outer edge of the buffer zone
  • If the buffer zone is greater than 300 feet or the buffer zones overlap, and there are businesses within 300 feet from the edge of the buffer zone

Option 1: Site Monitoring

From the start of the application until the buffer zone period expires, a certified applicator or handler must:

Monitor for sensory irritation between the outer edge of the buffer zone and the residence or businesses that triggered the requirement

It is necessary to monitor at least four times each day throughout the buffer zone period

  • 1 hour before sunset
  • Once during the night
  • 1 hour after sunrise
  • Once during the day

Option 2: Response Information for Neighbors

The following information must be provided to neighbors that have residences or businesses that trigger the response information one week before the application:

  • Location of the application block
  • Fumigant brand name, active ingredient and EPA registration number
  • Contact information for the applicator
  • Time period in which the application is to take place
  • Early symptoms of exposure

In recent years, we have become aware of reported damage(s) related to the use of the following active ingredients: aminopyralid, picloram, and clopyralid, which are included in the pyridine class of herbicides.  The problems appear to be related to persistent residues present in animal waste, soil, vegetation, and mulch.  Below is a specific example of the types of complaints our office receives regarding the use of aminopyralid.

Aminopyralid complaint

A grower of hay had used an herbicide containing aminopyralid on his pasture. He cut the hay approximately 8 weeks after treatment; he then sold some of the hay to a horse owner. The horse owner then gave the manure to two other parties; both parties used the manure in the course of the following year and observed damage to their tomatoes and other broadleaf vegetables, apparently from aminopyralid residue.  Some of the symptoms exhibited on these broadleaf crops may include twisted and/or cupped leaves, reduced yield, and in some instances the death of young plants.

The product label contains the following statements:

Aminopyralid in Plant Residues or Manure:

  • Do not use aminopyralid-treated plant residues, including hay or straw from treated areas, or manure from animals that have grazed forage or eaten hay harvested from treated areas within the previous 3 days, in compost or mulch that will be spread to areas where commercially grown mushrooms or broadleaf plants may be grown.
  • Do not spread manure from animals that have grazed or consumed forage for hay from treated areas within the previous 3 days on land used for growing broadleaf crops.
  • Manure from animals that have grazed forage or eaten hay harvested from aminopyralid-treated areas within the previous 3 days may only be used on pasture grasses, grass grown for seed, and wheat.
  • Do not plant a broadleaf crop in fields treated in the previous year with manure from animals that have grazed forage or eaten hay harvested from aminopyralid-treated areas until an adequately sensitive field bioassay is conducted to determine that the aminopyralid residues in the soil is at level that is not injurious to the crop to be planted.

The problem is that the information regarding aminopyralid-treated forage had not been transferred/relayed to the various people within the chain, i.e., to the end user of the manure. The label addresses the use of the product - but does not say the information is to be passed on to any potential end users. A similar complaint involved the use of an herbicide containing clopyralid & triclopyr.  Another herbicide containing picloram & 2,4-D has similar statements on the label, but states not to use manure from animals grazing treated areas for use on land used for growing broadleaf crop, ornamentals, etc. Just as with the aforementioned label, the applicator is not required to pass the information down the line.  In these cases, we are unable to hold anyone responsible for damage to a third-party property because the product was legally used; it is an issue that is probably best addressed by the EPA and the registrant.

Our office had also received a phone call from a composting business which apparently handles a very high volume of manure every year (the caller quoted a figure of 60,000 tons).  The caller wanted assistance in tracking down growers who have used this product, because of obvious concerns about potential problems for the business (she fears that people who purchase composted manure from her company may experience problems such as those outlined above).  Unfortunately, there is no way to trace all uses of the product.  It is the pesticide manufacturer’s responsibility to notify the EPA of any unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.

The Pesticide Section investigated several cases that involve pesticide applications by unlicensed applicators.  Such cases may result in monetary penalties up to $2,000.  Unlicensed applicator penalties comprised over 20% of the total fines for all pesticide violations for a three year period.  These cases included landscape companies applying pesticides for maintaining residential lawns and growers using restricted use pesticides without a certification. It is apparent that some commercial applicators and private applicators are allowing their certification to expire by not obtaining their required credits.

Commercial Ground Applicators: 

The North Carolina Pesticide Law of 1971 requires licensing for individuals applying any pesticide to the property of others for compensation. The applicator is required to pass a specific exam and a core exam for certain classifications in which the applicator works.  The license must be renewed annually; the license year is January - December.

In order to purchase and use restricted use pesticides, Private (Certified) Applicators must pass the North Carolina Private Pesticide Applicator exam and submit the appropriate application and fee. Private applicators are certified for three (3) years and their certification fee is ten ($10.00) every three years.  Growers may use general use pesticides to produce agricultural commodities without being certified.  Certified applicators may also supervise others applying RUPs on their farm.

In North Carolina laws and regulations not only require the person to pass a pesticide exam to acquire a license/certification, but also to maintain their certification by attending pesticide training in order to earn pesticide credits for recertification.  The classes are required to help the applicator remain updated on current production practices, and also to learn about new laws or any revisions to the existent law. 

Pesticide Recertification Credit Requirements

Additional Requirements for Commercial Ground Applicators

The required credits for each category must be obtained during at least two years of a five-year certification period.

  • SINGLE CATEGORY: Individuals who are certified in one category must complete the total required credit hours for that category.
  • MULTIPLE CATEGORIES: Individuals who are certified in two or more categories must obtain the total required credits for the category with the highest credit requirement, and three credit hours for each additional category. (See note below for applicators licensed in the category Demonstration & Research)

Pesticide Licensing and Certification Page

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Due to safety concerns, some pesticides are classified by the EPA as “Restricted Use”.  The general public does not have access to this type of pesticide due to its hazardous nature.  Only licensed Pesticide Dealers are permitted to sell to licensed end users and certified private applicators. To apply a pesticide classified as RUP, you must be a certified private applicator or certified licensed applicator or someone under their direct supervision.

There are various criteria EPA uses to determine if a pesticide is hazardous.  These hazards could cause harm to human health or the environment if not applied to label directions, thus the designation of RUP.

Reasons why pesticides are classified as "restricted use" are:

  • Incident history involving the pesticide
  • Groundwater contamination potential
  • Acute toxicity to humans
  • Hazardous Application Scenario
  • Non-Target toxicity to animals and plants
  • Carcinogenic, teratogenic or mutagenic product

Example of an RUP labeling statement:

Sample RUP Label Warning

It is the Pesticide Dealer’s responsibility to only make RUPs available at the time of purchase to those who have a current private certification/license.  An individual who does not have a valid pesticide applicator license and applies a restricted use pesticide is in violation of the NC Pesticide Law of 1971, GS 143-443 (b)(3) which prohibits anyone from using any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.

In many of the cases involving illegal sale/use of RUPs, the non-certified/non-licensed person to whom the RUP was sold was once a certified/licensed applicator.  In a situation such as this, the licensee failed to obtain the required re-certification credits that are necessary to maintain their pesticide certification, and/or did not renew their pesticide license. The pesticide dealer who sold the RUP to those non-licensed individuals failed to verify the validity of purchaser’s license.  Both the licensed pesticide dealer and the non-licensed individual who purchased the RUP may be in violation of the Law.  The dealer is in violation for making the RUP available to the non-licensed/certified person.  If the non-licensed/certified person applied the RUP, he/she is in violation of the label and the NC Pesticide Law.

Pesticide Dealers are required by the NC Pesticide Regulation 02 NCAC 09L .1305 to maintain the following information for RUP sales:

  • (1)        Date of sale;
  • (2)        Initials of sales clerk;
  • (3)        Name of certified or licensed applicator as set out in 02 NCAC 09L .1302 or employees as set out in 02 NCAC 09L .1303;
  • (4)        Certification or license number of certified or licensed applicator as set out in 02 NCAC 09L .1302;
  • (5)        Certification or license expiration date as shown on the certified or licensed applicator's certification card;
  • (6)        Product brand name;
  • (7)        EPA registration number;
  • (8)        Number of individual containers;
  • (9)        Size of individual containers; and
  • (10)      Total quantity sold.

In North Carolina the Pesticide Certification program is administered by the Pesticide Section of the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division within the NCDA&CS.  Requirements for pesticide certification programs may vary from state to state.

In recent years this Department has investigated several drift related complaints in North Carolina specifically involving 2,4-D or triclopyr/clopyralid herbicides.  The N.C. Pesticide Law of 1971 defines drift as “The airborne movement of pesticides resulting from the application of pesticides such as to carry the pesticides beyond the target area.”

Incidents often involve 2,4-D applications to corn that subsequently damage tobacco, tomatoes, ornamentals, cotton, vegetables, and/or grapevines on adjacent properties.  In many of these investigations, we are not able to confirm residues through sample analyses; however, by visual inspection and photographic documentation we were able to confirm that the desirable vegetation showed symptoms of phenoxy damage.

We also have investigated several complaints with damage to desirable trees and fruit crops resulting from an application of triclopyr.  Herbicides containing triclopyr may be used to kill undesirable hardwood trees for pine release or clearing the understory at housing development sites.

Drift investigations of this type usually end in formal regulatory action, including Notices of Warning or monetary penalties.

The NC Pesticide Law of 1971 and regulations adopted by the N.C. Pesticide Board contain language addressing drift and any adverse effect caused by drift, and many pesticide labels also contain specific directions for avoiding drift (such as avoiding making applications in high winds or other specified weather conditions, etc.).

The pesticide regulations define “adverse effect” as personal injury, damage to personal property, damage to real property, damage to the environment or any combination of these.  Aerial application regulations address the control of drift in the following manner:

02 NCAC 09L .1003 - Drift Control

No person shall apply a pesticide(s) aerially under such conditions that drift from pesticide(s) particles or vapors results in adverse effect.

02 NCAC 09L .1005 - Restricted Areas

(f)  No pesticide shall be deposited onto any nontarget area in such a manner that it is more likely than not that adverse effect will occur.

Ground application of pesticide regulations contain the following drift restriction:

02 NCAC 09L .1404 - Drift Control

No person shall apply a pesticide(s) under such conditions that drift from pesticide(s) particles or vapors results in adverse effect.

The Pesticide Section has investigated many cases of pesticide drift involving the active ingredient clomazone, a commonly used herbicide that may be used as a pre-plant incorporated or pre-emergence weed control in tobacco.  Clomazone, the active ingredient in products such as Command 3ME, is prone to off-target movement in the form of spray drift and vapor drift.  Avoid off-target drift to prevent foliar bleaching/whitening of plants near the application site; these symptoms are generally temporary in nature, but may persist on some plant species.  Plants such as Sourwood, Cherry, Willow, grapes, and roses are extremely sensitive as well as many other ornamentals and vegetables.

NCSU Cooperative Extension states that “Off-target movement of Command due to vapor drift is a greater concern than spray drift because vapor drift can damage sensitive vegetation over much greater distances. The only way to curtail vapor drift is to incorporate the Command. To minimize off-target movement, Command should be incorporated immediately after application. Weed control will be better if the Command is incorporated shallowly.”  

Growers are urged to take all precautions to avoid drift of any pesticide product.  The adverse effects caused by drift and off target movement results in strained relationships between the growers and the surrounding community, unnecessary civil suits for damages, and possible enforcement actions with Regulatory Agencies.

The following list, taken from the Command label, provides detailed application guidelines to reduce spray drift:

  • Avoid making applications when spray particles may be carried by air currents to areas where sensitive crops and plants are growing or when temperature inversions exist.
  • Leave an adequate buffer zone between the area to be treated and desirable plants.
  • Coarse spray droplets are less likely to drift out of the target area than fine sprays.
  • Do not apply Command 3ME within 1,200 feet of the following areas: Towns and Housing Developments; Commercial Greenhouses, Commercial Fruit/Nut and Vegetable Production except Peppers,
  • Pumpkins, succulent peas, sweet corn, and sweet potato.
  • Before application, determine air movement and direction
  • Do not apply in winds above 10 mph
  • Be sure to refer to individual crop use directions for additional requirements.

Spray Drift Precautions

  • Non-target spray of Command 3ME should be avoided to avoid whitening of desirable plants.
  • Drift is influenced by many factors which include wind speed, spray pressure, particle size, nozzle type and boom height,
  • Do not apply when weather conditions favor drift
  • Use a minimum spray volume of 10 gal/A
  • Use the lowest possible boom height while maintaining a uniform spray pattern, in conjunction with nozzle type, size, operating pressure, and volume that meet a droplet size classification of coarse or greater.
  • The interaction of equipment and weather related factors determines the potential for spray drift. The applicator and grower are responsible for considering all these factors when making application decisions.

Users of Command are strongly urged to follow all precautions on the Command label to avoid damage to off-target vegetation.  Avoiding spray drift is the responsibility of the applicator.

For questions or if additional assistance is required, please contact the NCDA&CS Pesticide Section at 984-236-4575.    Directions 

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