State: Two Pinellas workers did not misuse chemical when killing 78 sabal palms
Two Pinellas County maintenance workers did not misuse a specialty chemical when they erroneously killed 74 sabal palms in March, a state investigation concluded.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently determined that the two county workers correctly applied the chemical when they sprayed trees near the water in the Joe's Creek area.
There were 78 total trees poisoned. Four were near a fence on private property. The other 74 were on the banks of the creek. In addition, the warning label on Garlon 4 says the chemical is "toxic to fish" and could contaminate groundwater in permeable soil, particularly where the water table is shallow.
The state tested the soil in the impacted areas and found the applications were "consistent with the label directions," a report said.
The Joe's Creek Watershed is a 9,256-acre drainage basin that flows through St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and Kenneth City. The creek is the main channel, which flows from east to west and discharges into Cross Bayou.
When the workers sprayed the palms for maintenance reasons, the county said the employees made a judgment call without permission from supervisors. As a result, county administrator Mark Woodard ordered a review of the incident and all policies for removing trees.
The county has since tightened the rules so workers can no longer make field-based decisions. The county has also implemented a tracking system and permit process that mirrors those in place in other jurisdictions.
"Staff continues to work on the training and code compliance by making sure they mitigate for any trees that may need to be removed," Pinellas County spokeswoman Barbra Hernandez said Tuesday.
"Staff is also working on the appropriate procedures to ensure that tree removal is the last resort and when that happens we're in compliance with our own standards."