SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

September 30, 2012

DuPont dragging “Imprelis” pain out

More than a year after DuPont pledged to pay homeowners for trees damaged by herbicide Imprelis, many say they’re waiting for their checks

ERIC ALBRECHT DISPATCH PHOTOS Paul Spencer of Five Seasons Landscape Management cuts down a tree damaged by DuPont’s herbicide Imprelis on Alum Creek Drive.

When will DuPont pay up?

By Jim Weiker | THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

More than a year after DuPont announced that it would reimburse homeowners for damage caused by its herbicide Imprelis, Janet DaPrato is still waiting. • She and others have now spent two summers gazing at brown skeletons where healthy trees once stood.

“We have not heard anything yet,” said DaPrato, who said Imprelis damaged six trees at her Northwest Side home. “I really don’t care as much about the money. I just want to change my trees out.”

Homeowners and landscapers worry that time may be running out. If they don’t receive payment soon, they will miss the fall planting season.  “Our clients are getting fed up,” said Mark Wehinger, a partner in Environmental Management Inc., a Dublin landscaper. “Why is this taking so long?”

  • DuPont launched Imprelis in the spring of 2011, billing it as “the most advanced turf herbicide in over 40 years.”

But a month or two after landscapers sprayed Imprelis, nearby trees — especially Norway spruce and white pine –— started browning at the tips. Some withered altogether.

Trees that were near the spots where Imprelis was sprayed began turning brown at the tips within a month or two. DuPont says it received 33,000 requests for compensation.

Last September, the company acknowledged that the herbicide was to blame and agreed to pay for the damage, which the company said was concentrated in seven Midwestern and Eastern states, including Ohio. DuPont gave homeowners and landscapers until Feb. 1 to file claims.

Central Ohio landscapers spent weeks documenting damage to clients’ trees. Each tree was given a claim number, photographed and ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 according to its damage.

  • DuPont said it received about 33,000 claims for reimbursement.

The company said it has sent compensation offers to more than 75 percent of those and expects to send the remaining offers this fall. The offers detail the amount DuPont is willing to pay; if the homeowner accepts the offer, the company will follow with a check. The company said it has begun sending checks but would not say how many.

  • “Resolution of Imprelis damage is a top priority,” Rik Miller, president of DuPont Crop Protection, said in a prepared statement. “This is a complicated process and it takes time to prepare accurate and fair assessments of each property.”
  • DuPont has accrued $490 million in costs from Imprelis problems and expects total charges to reach $575 million, according to the company.

DuPont is not disclosing its compensation rates, but local landscapers say it is a formula based on the size of a tree. Because trees taller than 15 feet are rarely planted, damaged ones that were larger receive premium compensation.

  • Trees with extreme damage (a 4 or 5 on the 1-to-5 scale) would be replaced by a landscaper. Owners of trees with lesser damage would be compensated for fertilizing, pruning and watering in an effort to restore the trees’ health.

Central Ohio landscapers who sprayed Imprelis say their clients have begun receiving offers, though rarely checks.

“We’ve had 30 or so clients who have been contacted by DuPont, but none who have received any money yet,” said Bill Leidecker, president of Five Seasons Landscape Management in Reynolds-burg. “This is a freaking mess.”

Chris Ahlum, an arborist with Ahlum & Arbor Tree Preservation in Hilliard, said a handful of his clients are just now starting to receive offers.

Landscapers say DuPont’s offers appear fair, with one caveat: They are based on damage estimates from last fall before the full extent of the damage was known.

“Last year, we saw it mainly on evergreen trees, especially white pines and spruces,” Ahlum said. “This year, we’re seeing it a lot more on deciduous trees such as honey-locusts. But I’ve seen it on red maples, on pears, on pretty much any deciduous tree where it was applied.”

Some landscapers have started removing or replacing damaged trees for irate customers, hoping DuPont will eventually pay them.

Homeowners and landscapers frustrated with DuPont have turned to lawyers to seek reimbursement. Thousands have joined a Pennsylvania class-action case against DuPont while others are pursuing different legal avenues.

Richard Schulte, a partner in the Dayton-area firm of Schulte Wright, represents about 300 clients, about 50 of them in Ohio, who are not in the class-action suit. He believes landowners are entitled to more compensation than DuPont is offering.

  • “None of our clients are participating in the settlements because the offers are inadequate,” Schulte said.

Leidecker turned to his insurance company for help after running up a big tab trying to placate his clients.

“We got jerked around like everybody else by DuPont,” Leidecker said. “Our clients were very disturbed; they were really adamant that they might take their maintenance elsewhere. I called my insurance company and said, ‘I’ve got a problem.’”

The insurer agreed to pay Leidecker to replace about 4,000 trees, which Leidecker estimates will cost more than $3million.

Complicating the process is a host of unanswered questions about Imprelis. How long will the soil remain poisoned? Will damaged trees recover? Will problems continue to surface on trees that appeared healthy last fall?

DuPont has asked homeowners to leave the trees alone until they reach a settlement.   If owners must replant, the company says Imprelis is now so diluted in the soil that it is safe.

  • However, Purdue University scientists who have studied Imprelis concluded that the only safe method of replacing trees this year is to remove all roots and soil around the dead tree.

Bernice and Jeffrey Marshall of Delaware left five dead pines along the back of their Delaware property as they waited for a settlement from DuPont.

After repeated calls to DuPont, the couple received a check in August to replace the trees.

The couple consider the settlement fair, although they worry about whether new pines will thrive in the soil.

“Will these trees be damaged? I don’t know what the half-life of this chemical is,” said Bernice Marshall. “But after a year of looking at dead trees, I just want to move on.” jweiker@dispatch.com

(Wouldn’t one think that DuPont would have moved on this miserable problem in a more timely manner?    Had Public Relations been just a tad more important to them,  somehow the paperwork could have been shuffled just a little swifter.   After all, public companies are required to carry liability insurance – – right?      Agreed it’s not like losing a loved one, but this is people’s  homes which they  generally do love very much.  Sad for everyone including the company – – it is a given that a grave error occurred someplace.   Jan)

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11 Comments »

  1. We have over 40 trees damaged and at least 24 to be removed . It is almost November and have looked at these trees for two summers and still have not received any compensation yet. Am satisfied with Duponts compensation rate but very unhappy with the time it has taken to have this taken care of. Have called the hotline # several times and they have no information. Would sure like to speed this process up!

    Comment by Darlene Creque — October 30, 2012 @ 6:35 pm | Reply

    • Darlene, I surely do sympathize with your situation. It is evident how miserable this must be to you and your family. From what you say, at least you have an agreement with them with which you are satisfied. On the surface, you are a bit better off than some, other than the dreadful length of time. More than likely, it is the size of the cost factors which have caused this delay. I understand that the ‘payout’ is horrendous for the company.

      I have no power over this at all, nor do I have solution other than to protect your interests by having legal council if you in fact are suspicious of the outcome. You must always follow your own best instincts. Wishing you well, Jan

      Comment by Jan Turner — October 30, 2012 @ 8:16 pm | Reply

      • No I will not have legal counsel. I will wait and in the whats happening in our country today my issue is not that important but thank you for responding.

        Comment by Darlene Creque — October 31, 2012 @ 9:19 am

  2. Filled a claim in August of 2011, received site inspection November of 2011. I received my offer last August (2012)with a 30 day reponse limit imposed. I responded it was not acceptable as a number of trees were now dead, not dying. Asked they respond in 30 days. 60+ days later I get a call, they will send someone out. Another 30 days later Davey Tree Service comes out (Nov,2012), says I should hear something in a month or two. It is now May 2013, still waiting, calls for assitance are answered we will look into it. Third year of looking at roughly 40 dead trees we planted and nurtured 20 to 25 years.

    Comment by Dave G — May 18, 2013 @ 8:07 am | Reply

    • Dave, no question – – this is a tragedy for you. This has been dragged out far too long. It doesn’t seem to show good faith does it? That or the fact that they are just out of money. . .anyway, definitely a legal problem and dilemma Just and fair have nothing to do with what you are going thru. Certainly hope you wind up with a resolve you can live with more peacefully, tho I don’t quite get how that will be.

      While seeking what is rightfully yours, my hope is you do not have to lose your inner balance, and can come to terms with this in order to “release” from the negative impact. Find your joy again. My best to you. Jan

      Comment by Jan Turner — May 18, 2013 @ 8:44 am | Reply

  3. DuPont wasnt the only bad-ass in this tragedy which is going to reach epic proportions. I am a homeowner who had 7 yrds of the KILLER MULCH sold to be me by a sleazy co. Within 3 days my entire yard and all my trees and plants went into a death spiral. I lost half my yard and had to have the mulch pulled 3 weeks later at my own expense when the co that sold it refused to help. I called a TON of pp and could find no help. I figured out it had to be imprelis in the mulch after reading stories on-line. we are in Northern Illinois where there was a ton of this sold to golf courses etc. Scorched earth indeed. Year two, and I am sick to see that the plants etc. that somehow survived are coming in cupped, burned and turning funny colors. EVERY PLANT AND TREE IN MY YARD IS AFFECTED SO FOR THOSE WHO SAY ITS ONLY EVERGREENS, COME ON OVER TO MY YARD AND TAKE LOOK. This is the biggest environmental disaster we’ve ever had and its not going away, SORRY DUPONT. And if you go bust trying to pay us back, well I guess I dont give a rats ass. You should all be in prison. Vicky Swift.

    And Jan, my yard WAS my inner peace. Now its destroyed. And i never even bought Imprelis! My own joy will come when we get enough pp to band together to MAKE this a problem for the EPA and the Govt. Nothing is going to grow back. trust me.

    Comment by vicky swift — May 25, 2013 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

    • Vicky, that’s a new one on me. One wouldn’t think that combining mulch with Imprelis would be legal. It was a new and costly product – – how logical would that be be. Did you have tests done to determine that?

      It’s quite a length of time now, you’d think that something would be resolved by now. Your frustration level must be off the charts. Hang in there, . . and good luck to you. Jan

      Comment by Jan Turner — May 26, 2013 @ 2:29 am | Reply

      • It cant be legal, but it happened anyway and my guess it will continue to happen until any co trying to make mulch from this stuff gets into trouble.
        I tried to get a lab to help with some tests around here and could find no-one. The U of I div that does soil testing like this seems to be gone. I tried to find independent labs but they all work on farm issues with soil. So no, it was a 2 month chase. Tried Botanic Gardens here in the area, no go. Tried to see if I could find a class with students studying environmental issues, no go. If you read the Imprelis stories, no-one is sure at all about length of time the residue remains, I’ve heard beyond 3 years. Meanwhile, my new spring growth is going into decline. My hostas are coming in and flopping over and either curling up or turning bright green, then white, then dead. Its so sad. If anyone knows any horticultural experts in the chicago area, please let me know. If there is something i can do to help stop this…(charcoal??) we will try.

        Comment by vicky swift — May 26, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

      • Sorry Vicky, I’m practically an absent blogger recently – – working on a personal issue which is time consuming.

        A thought crosses my mind and don’t know if it could have any value to you at all or not. But, I value my intuition, so here goes:

        Not suggesting all animal forms are the same. Not saying that plant kingdom and animals forms equate equally at all. But often, what works for one can work for another. If a principle is valid, it remains valid. Sorta.

        One of the best things one can offer to our plants is healthy “designed by nature” minerals [food]. I had ordered Kelp from Mountain Rose Herbs, because everything they sell is entirely organic. Ordered for myself, but had a truly hard time ingesting it – the flavor is so off-putting. And even the odor. Another isolated and seemingly unrelated factoid is that one can get sea kelp free from beaches, just drag it up, throw it in back end of car; tote home and dig it into your soil. In due course, I conceived the putting of my unloved kelp onto my houseplants and even my rose bushes in the yard. All are doing really well. House plants have never looked healthier nor more beautiful.

        Of course, food is not the major problem here – the problem is the TOXINS,. . . correct? So one could do a bit of research to determine what chemically counteracts another chemical. I can’t even suggest anything. If it you or me, I might think well, Milk Thistle to cleanse out those inner organs and get rid of toxins; MSM is really helpful, high doses of Vitamin C. But the plants, Vicky I am so limited here. Maybe some of those friends could help. Open up the doors of imagination and be prepared to let in some surprises, they are lurking nearby. Keep me posted. Jan

        Comment by Jan Turner — May 26, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

      • I will welcome any ideas anyone has. But i think the situation is far more serious than i realized last year. I dont think nutrients will fix what is essentially been a toxic and long term chemical dump in my yard. Has anyone else seen this happen? I do not think we are alone. I have happily dug in my gardens for years, a little mushroom compost, plant food, water and love. It wont save what is happening this time. Very sad.
        hoping for help. thanks folks.

        Comment by vicky swift — May 26, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

      • I agree Vicky, even with people – – it is hard to try to cure a sick body without removing the problem that caused it first.

        A toxic-laden body is the same way, that is why one must try to solve the poison problem first, attempt to discern what it is – then can adjust. If we were loading up on sugar and HFCS and soda pops etc, and then we begin to manifest diabetes. . .sure we can take diabetes medicine, but how much better to stop the poison – get rid of the sugar and junk, give the body healthful food and then it can heal. But first stop the poison.

        If anyone has any good or helpful thoughts on this problem, please either contact Vicky with her email shown in the comment, or leave it here. Would be much appreciated – may help others too. Jan

        Comment by Jan Turner — May 27, 2013 @ 12:25 am


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