Ottawa pest control company charged after 2015 school spraying left kids sick

Ottawa pest control company charged after 2015 school spraying left kids sick

The provincial government has charged an Ottawa pest control company with improperly spraying a pesticide that made several teachers and 30 children at Charles H. Hulse school become ill with nausea, headaches and watery eyes in April 2015. 

Rentokil Pest Control Canada Limited was charged on March 23 with three offences under the province's Pesticides Act.

The province alleges Rentokil discharged the pesticides Konk 400 residual insecticide and Gardex 1% Baygon residual insecticide contrary to their permissible use, violated a prohibition on a pesticide that harms human health and failed to notify provincial staff when a pesticide is discharged out of the normal course of events. 

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board hired the contractor to spray for an ongoing cockroach infestation at the elementary school on Alta Vista Drive.

It was first sprayed over the March break in 2015 and when that didn't work classrooms were sprayed again on a Saturday in mid-April.  

When students and staff returned to the school many began feeling ill, and several children went home sick.

Several days later on April 16 the school was closed while workers removed carpeting, drywall and repainted in areas where the chemical had been sprayed.

All the students temporarily moved to an empty school in the west end of Ottawa.

OCDSB terminated contract in 2015

Mike Carson, the superintendent of facilities at the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, welcomed the charges.

"I think it's good that it has come to fruition now," said Carson.  

Carson said Rentokil failed to inform the board it was using the pesticides — something it was required to do — and as a result the board terminated its contract with the company in June 2015.

He added the new pest control contractor "knows exactly what our expectations are."

When the incident happened many parents were angry the school and school board weren't forthcoming about why and how the pesticide was being used around children.  

Carson said there was a lot of information and investigating that needed to be completed.  

"I can understand parents' frustration and I wish that we had been able to respond more quickly but we wanted to make sure we had full input from Ottawa Public Health, and the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Labour to make sure we had the best possible answers and support for parents," said Carson.

Parents said they should have been warned of spraying

Several parents told the CBC they were concerned the school only notified them of the spraying after staff and children fell ill. Carson admits Charles H. Hulse school failed to tell parents of the spraying in advance, which it is required to do.  

"That didn't happen the way it should," said Carson. "Principals and custodial staff are well aware of our expectations and how to follow them." 

Carson said Ottawa 12 schools were sprayed for bug infestations last fall with no reported adverse affects on the health of staff or students. Charles H. Hulse was not one of the schools treated in the fall.

Rentokil is scheduled to be in court on April 27 to respond to the provincial charges.