Pesticide Complaint Process

 

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is here to assist you with your pesticide complaint.  This sheet is a brief overview of how the complaint process works and what to expect when you file a complaint. 

 

Purpose

When someone formally reports/alleges pesticide misuse, the Department will follow up with an investigation to determine whether any part of the Pesticide Law has been violated (Off target application, Pesticide Misuse, Pesticide Drift, Human Endangerment etc..).  The Department/Inspector is not responsible for any civil action that you may have against the applicator in question.  The Department also will not make determinations of applicator liability or damage assessments to assist in civil cases or insurance settlements.

 

Civil Action

Under state law, if you plan to pursue possible civil action against an applicator to receive compensation for any damages incurred, you must contact the applicator by certified mail within 28 days of the date the person first knew or should have known of the alleged damage; or before 20% of the alleged damaged field/crop is harvested or destroyed (N.D.C.C. 4.1-33-18.1). The Department has a template notification form on our website you can use, or you may draft your own.  If you believe that the applicator will not accept/receive the certified mail notification, you can contact your local law enforcement agency and request that they serve the notification upon the applicator.  Most local law enforcement agencies will perform this service for a fee and provide documentation to show the notification was served upon the individual.

 

After providing proper notification, you are required to allow the alleged violator and up to 4 representatives to enter the allegedly damaged property to observe and inspect the alleged damage. If entry is denied, you are barred from asserting a claim (N.D.C.C. 4.1-33-18.2).  It is highly recommended that you find an independent third party (local agronomist, certified crop consultant) to conduct an investigation for you.  Evidence that you collect on your own may be considered biased and you will have a stronger case if you have an independent and impartial third party collect the evidence and conduct a damage investigation.

 

Confidentiality

All pesticide complaint files are considered confidential under North Dakota Century Code (N.D.C.C. 4.1-33-21.5(a)).  The Department cannot divulge any information about the case. This includes applicator records, products the applicator used, and other information pertaining to the case. However, if an individual alleges exposure to pesticides and if the individual's medical provider requests information about the incident, the Department will reveal the name of the pesticide to the medical provider making the request, together with the registration number assigned by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Department requires that any medical provider request be made in writing.  Pesticide complaint investigation files can only be disclosed through a court order, or if the Commissioner uses the files as an exhibit during an administrative law hearing.

 

Investigation Process

The Inspector will collect samples, (Soil, Vegetation, Water, Swab samples, Photos etc.…..) conduct interviews of all parties involved, give you a voluntary statement form that must be signed, and will gather all other information necessary for the Department to make a determination on the case.  The Inspector/Department will work as quick as possible to close out your case however many factors (Getting records from applicator(s), getting results back from the lab, number of cases that the Inspector has assigned at a the time, etc.…) affect how long a case can take. Typical turnaround time of an investigation can range from 90 days to six months or possibly longer.

Investigation Completion

The investigation will determine if a violation of pesticide law can be substantiated.  If the Department determines a violation of law has taken place, we will issue an enforcement action against the applicator.  An enforcement action can range from a warning up to a maximum civil penalty of $5,000 per offense.  The Department may also deny, revoke or suspend a pesticide certification.  Many factors are taken into consideration when issuing an enforcement action including the willfulness of the violation, violation history, and the degree of risk posed to human health and the environment.

 

After the Department closes the case, we will notify the complainant.  The disclosure letter to the complainant will indicate only whether a violation of pesticide law occurred, and what said violation was.  We cannot disclose any other information about the case, including what the penalty was for any enforcement action issued.

 

Human Health Exposures

Make sure to stay out of areas you think may have come into contact with pesticides to reduce exposure to yourself or others.  In the event you were exposed to pesticides, remove the contaminated clothing as soon as possible to reduce exposure to yourself and others.  Make sure to wash the exposed area thoroughly with soap and hot water.  If you are suffering adverse health effects, you should seek immediate medical treatment.  Remember, if we are conducting a formal investigation into the exposure, we may disclose the name of the chemical and the EPA registration number your medical provider if they submit a request in writing.  Due to the extreme risk involved in human health exposure, these cases will take higher priority over any other current investigations.

 

Right to Refuse

In the event that the complainant becomes physically or verbally confrontational, the Inspector will leave the scene and report the incident to the Department and the local authorities.  Such behavior can result in the Department dropping the case.  The Department reserves the right to drop a case at or choose not to initiate an investigation under certain conditions and will refer to our Pesticide Enforcement Complaint Response Policy in determining the appropriate response to a pesticide complaint.

 

Things to Remember

  • The sole purpose of a pesticide complaint investigation is only to determine whether a violation of pesticide law has occurred.  The Department does not accept anonymous complaints.  All complainants must fill out the official complaint form on our website at nd.gov/ndda. 
     
  • The Department will not assist you in building a case against an applicator for the purposes of recovering compensation for any pesticide damages.  To pursue compensation for damages you must gather your own evidence to make your case against the applicator.
     
  • All information pertaining to a pesticide complaint investigation is considered confidential and can only be released through a court order.  We can only disclose whether a violation occurred and what that violation was.
     
  • If you plan to pursue any civil action against the applicator you must contact the applicator by certified mail within 28 days of the date the person first knew or should have known of the alleged damage; or before 20% of the alleged damaged field/crop is harvested or destroyed.
     
  • At times, during the course of an investigation, there may not be enough evidence to support charging an applicator with a violation of pesticide law.  Even if the Department cannot substantiate a law violation occurred, it does not exonerate the applicator from being liable for any damages that may have occurred.  You may still take civil action against an applicator and receive compensation for damages even though we did not charge them with a violation.
     
  • Threatening or abusive behavior against Department staff will not be tolerated and your case may be dropped as a result of said behavior.

Any further questions or concerns can be answered by your Inspector or Lukas Wagner, Pesticide Enforcement Supervisor (701-328-4922 or ljwagner@nd.gov).

 

By clicking the link below, you acknowledge that you have read the complaint process guidelines and understand the purpose of a NDDA pesticide investigation is to determine whether a violation of North Dakota pesticide law has occurred and not to help you build a civil case against an applicator.  You also understand that all investigation records are confidential under North Dakota state law and can only be released through a court order, or if the documents have been previously used as an exhibit in an administrative law hearing.  You also understand that you are required by state law to provide the proper official notification to the applicator in order to pursue civil action to receive financial compensation for any damages incurred. 

 

If you wish to move forward and submit a formal official pesticide complaint to the Department, please click on the link below to fill out the complaint form.

 

Pesticide Complaint Form