School District Cited for Lack of Notice on Pesticide Use

Malibu High School administration building

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District was cited last month for breaking California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) policy by failing to give proper public notice of pesticide use at Malibu High School in late 2013.

Now, Malibu Unites, a non-profit coalition of parents and activists, has requested the school district produce a pesticide management plan for all its Malibu campuses to prevent health problems.

Following complaints from a parent, Patrick Duggan of the LA County Agricultural Commissioner found in February that an employee of Woodland Hills contractor Stanley Pest Control did not post timely notification ahead of pesticide use at the high school. Duggan also observed that records kept by the employee “did not have the specific sites that were treated, unit(s) treated, nor the EPA registration number for the pesticide(s) used.”

Some rodenticides are used in a bait station at the Malibu High School athletic field, and another is applied to a burrow system.

Prior to the citation, Terance Venable, the Integrated Pest Management Coordinator and Building and Grounds Manager for SMMUSD, received oral reports from Stanley Pest Control with the date of the scheduled application and the pesticide to be used, according to a March 4 letter sent by Duggan to district Supt. Sandra Lyon explaining the citation.

While Venable said that Stanley Pest Control has permanent signs posted at the MHS athletic fields, he could not verify that the company did any other public notifications of individual pesticide applications before they were con- ducted, Duggan wrote. Under the Healthy Schools Act, school sites are required to provide annual written notification of pesticide use to all staff and guardians of students, as well as 72-hour notification prior to individual applications for those who sign up to be alerted, Duggan wrote. The school site was also required to maintain records of all pesticide use for four years, some- thing that Stanley and the school district could not produce.

Jennifer deNicola, president of Malibu Unites, sent a letter to the school district Tuesday requesting it immediately comply with the Healthy Schools Act as well as “swift creation and implementation of an environmentally responsible pesticide management plan for all campuses in SMMUSD.”

Malibu Unites and other supporters say the district’s use of pesticides such as fumitoxin, strychnine and diphacinone poses a potential health risk to students. Suggested alternatives include predator poles, picking up trash after games and events, and other natural nuisance abatement techniques.

Telephone calls to Venable and Lyon were not returned Tuesday afternoon. However, in a March 28 online update Lyon wrote that she has asked her staff to “prescribe public notification regarding health/environment matters (i.e. pesticide use, mold abatement, etc.) and to pull all policies.”

Lyon said in the statement she would review all policies in the wake of the MHS citation, and said the district had contacted the City of Malibu and the Department of Pest Control “to assist us in developing a stronger compliant Integrated Pest Management Program.”

The district would also consider adding more language to contracts with vendors (such as pest control companies), Lyon wrote, “outlining clear expectations of their roles and responsibilities in complying with public notification expectations.”