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Rutland Couple Sues State Over Bedbug Woes

photo provided
Neil and Patricia Whitney's home and camper in Rutland.

A Rutland couple is suing Vermont’s Agency of Human Services, alleging the state hired an exterminator who used a banned pesticide that made their home uninhabitable.

The suit says the couple’s house needed treatment for a bug infestation, which the couple alleges was caused after they took in a state-sponsored foster child. 

The lawsuit, which filed this week in U.S. District Court in Rutland, is the latest twist in a months-long saga over improper pesticide use that’s involved hundreds of households in Rutland County.  

In their lawsuit, Neil and Patricia Whitney allege that back in April, 2012 they agreed to take a foster child into their home who’d been living in an apartment infested with bed bugs. The Whitneys allege that the Department for Children and Families assured them that if their home became infested the state would pay to get rid of the problem.

According to court documents, the Whitneys did get bedbugs and the first exterminator hired by the state was unsuccessful. So in April of 2013, the state hired Cary Buck, owner of AAA Accredited Pest Control of Rutland Town.

Karl Anderson, the couple’s lawyer, says his clients became concerned after Buck treated their home. “All the surfaces were dripping,” says Anderson. “The walls were dripping the appliances were dripping and it was very clear that the house had been very heavily sprayed.  He says his clients told him “it smelled strongly of kerosene so they knew when they got there that they would not be able to go back into the house.”

When high levels of Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide banned for indoor use since 2001, were found in the Whitney’s home, the State Agency of Agriculture, which regulates pesticide use, began to test other homes treated by Buck.

Cary Buck has denied using Chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to nervous system and developmental disorders.

To date, more than 400 households treated by Buck have been identified as being at risk for contamination. Sixteen have been found to have high levels of the banned pesticide.

The Whitney’s who have been out of their home since May, say the state failed to exercise due care in their response to the problem.

The Agency for Human Services referred all comments regarding the lawsuit to the state attorney general’s office.

Megan Shafritz, Chief of the AG’s Civil Litigation Division says they are reviewing the lawsuit but that it’s too early to respond.  But Shafritz added, “The state is aware of the situation the Whitneys are in and have been working with the Whitneys to try and find a resolution to the situation and those efforts are ongoing.”

The state has been working closely with a team from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a safe way to clean up the hardest hit homes - including the Whitneys.  The EPA’s Jim Murphy says they plan to begin the clean up process next week.  He admits it may take until January to complete.