Increased Pesticide Use Approved for School Construction Site

The Clarke County School Board approved a contract modification Monday night to increase the use of pesticide treatment that will be used to control termites at the new school site. The $7200 change order submitted by the construction project general contractor, Shockey & Sons, was approved unanimously.

At last night’s Special School Board Construction meeting the School Board approved the treatment of the new building’s underslab with a “termicide” agent known as “Baseline”. The active ingredient in Baseline is bifenthrin. The underslab treatment is a discretionary increase over the previously approved school construction plan which only required that pesticide be sprayed around the periphery of the build.

Last night’s meeting did not include discussion of health or environmental considerations associated with the increased level of pesticide use. However, School Board member Jennifer Welliver (Berryville) did question whether there was enough wood in the school design to warrant the increased pesticide application.

Welliver’s question was not addressed during the discussion.

In a December 23, 2009 letter presented at last night’s meeting, Bruce Ryser, Product Development Manager for FMC Corporation stated “I was asked to provide assurance Baseline and Talstar P contain the same active ingredient. Baseline contains 23.7% bifenthrin, the active ingredient that protects against termites and other insects. It is a more concentrated formulation of bifenthrin and is typically mixed at one quart in 100 gallons of water.”

FMC Corporation of Philadelphia is the developer of the bifenthrin molecule. “Talstar P” has received attention recently as a pesticide used for killing the  brown marmorated stink bug.

Bifenthrin Chemical Profile - provides information about pollution problems and toxic chemicals. The organization uses the State of California's official list of chemicals with known toxic properties as its source for the chemicals recognized to cause cancer, reproductive toxicity, and/or developmental toxicity.

While the pesticide label for bifenthrin lists the chemical as “extremely toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates”, not an issue at the new high school site, the label also contains cautions for “preventing siphonage of insecticide into water supplies” and cautions against contamination of cisterns and wells.

Clarke County’s karst topography makes groundwater particularly susceptible to surface contaminants.

Mz Bugz Termite Control, LLC of Kingsport, Tennessee, the contractor selected to treat the 134,000 square-foot underslab, said in a letter to Shockey & Sons that the treatment will be performed as specified in the label for bifenthrin by FMC. A separate $8600 proposal to Shockey & Sons from Winchester-based Barrett Pest & Termite Services to treat the site using “AggreZor 75 WSP” pesticide was rejected.

After the meeting Gannett Fleming’s construction manager for the project, Michael Castelli, said that the primary wooden structures being protected by the underslab pesticide are the gymnasium floor and the auditorium stage floor.

“The amount of wood in the building isn’t that much but the cost for the protection is relatively low” Castelli said.

Castelli said that the underslab treatment is usually based on the architect’s recommendation, in this case Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates.

“Some schools and facilities in the area use this approach, some don’t.” Castelli said. “Some architects recommend it and others don’t.”


  1. Dea Avila says:

    The parents of these kids should complain to the school. Why are they letting poisoning ther kids? bifenthrin is a toxic pesticide. There are more choices out there: organic options with bio-pesticides. Same price better results. [redacted] There ARE better options in the market than “Baseline”.

  2. Are termites already a problem? The building isn’t even there yet. I thought schools were built with cinder blocks, bricks and steel. Will there even be that much wood for the termites?

  3. Flip Side says:

    What is the underslab? Is it the base layer of concrete that is poured on top of the dirt?

    Will this underslab and Baseline ever be exposed to the elements to even be given a chance to leach into the groundwater? It could be that the chemical will be shielded from the environment by the very building it’s protecting.

    I think (but am not sure) that Baseline is a chemical that one would need to touch to be poisoned by. It doesn’t affect the air around it. I feel fairly certain that those who made the decision to use Baseline realized that this is a school they’re dealing with and that students would be utilizing the premises daily and thus the product would not be used in an area where it would be likely to poison the students.

    About the potentially better products – do you know that these products are as effective as Basline in the short AND long term? This is a very expensive project (the new school) and the building is to be used for many years to come. It would be a bummer to have to go through another 10+ years of debates and fundraising to build a second new highschool because a shortcut was taken and the building was condemned because of termite damage.

  4. Glad I don’t have a well nearby

    • Don Specht says:

      IIrc it would be impossible to drill a water well in that area, because you couldn’t get a permit. The Berryville area has a water system that new builds are required to tap into.

      Maybe somebody with a more intimate knowledge of the town water system could comment …

  5. “Increased Pesticide Use Approved for School Construction Site”

    Really? This is a headline written to tell about the SB approving additional termite protection recommended by the construction professionals? As Flip said, everyone knows we are building a school. No one is going to poison them with dangerous pesticides.

    Interesting and disappointing.

  6. You cannot “require” someone to tap into public water for a new build if not in a subdivision. If you have the $, you can install a well. And I’m not talking about a new well necessarily, but an existing one, as I’m sure there are many adjacent to that property from older dwellings. Ground water can travel very far. Okay, DON?

    • Don Specht says:

      I’ll wait until someone with more intimate knowledge posts. In the meantime, I’ll stand behind my statement concerning Berryville’s system. Ok, jim? [slow moving wavey hand]

      So how many older wells are there in that area from which citizens draw potable water? How many new wells in the area of the school have been drilled recently?

      And if you want to actually add something other than snide comebacks, please educate us on karst topography.

      And please, try to keep the discussion about water, ’cause if you want to make it about me I’d be more than happy to oblige.

    • Don Specht says:

      Sec. 17-15. Mandatory water connections; private wells prohibited.
      (a) Every building intended for human habitation or occupancy on premises abutting on a street in which there is a public water line shall have a connection with such water line. If possible, such connection shall be separate for each building. The town manager may waive this requirement for parcels of ten (10) acres or larger in size where such connection is deemed to be a hardship.
      (b) The water supply, as provided by the town, shall be neither connected with unsafe water supplies nor cross-connected, through plumbing fixtures, to the drainage system.
      (c) Unless otherwise permitted by this section, it shall be unlawful for the owner of any house or other building intended for human habitation or occupancy to occupy or to rent or lease the same for occupancy by any person, or for any person to occupy the same, unless such house or other building is provided with a supply of water meeting the requirements of this section. If any landlord shall fail to supply any such house or other building with such a supply of water, his tenant shall supply the same in conformity with the orders of the health officer and may deduct the cost thereof from any sum due the landlord for rent.
      (d) It shall be unlawful for any person to drill, own, keep, use or maintain a private well within the town with the intent to circumvent the requirements of this section. In no instance may a well be drilled on any residentially zoned parcel that is less than ten (10) acres in size.
      (Code 1971, §§ 17-1, 17-5; Ord. of 9-11-84; Ord. of 1-9-01)

      • [redacted]

        Anyways, I would venture this could be challenged in court. More government taking away our freedoms. Precisely why I do not live in “town”. Who knows what’s in that stuff.

        • Flip Side says:

          I would assume that your well water is more similar to bottled water than city water, Jim. City/town water in the US is much more closely regulated by the FDA for quality and safety than bottled water. So that “stuff” is probably cleaner and safer than your well water.

          At least those who live in town and drink that “stuff” know their water is purified and clean. As for your well water, who knows how much pesticide and other chemicals have leached into your ground water from your neighbors who probably spray their houses for termites and other pests.

          I’m not trying to be rude, just ponting some things out.

          • Flip, your assumptions are incorrect. You know what they say about ASS U ME.
            The FDA? You mean the government? Hmmmmmmmm.

            If you know anything about wells and underground springs, you would know how deep they run, and yes the water is tested upon initial installation of the well for bacteria etc. There is no leaching of some household agents from the neighbors through hundreds of feet of soil and rock. Yes I still have my water tested occasionally, but not by the FDA. They may find a way to tax it if I let them touch it. And besides, I live far enough from any neighbors, and I don’t use any sprays myself. Yes, my water is purer and cleaner than the recycled sewage and bottled water you folks drink in town. And it also comes without the chlorine taste. Bring out a couple of jugs, I’d be happy to fill them for you.

          • Flip Side says:

            Living further away from your neighbors would just give chemicals MORE time to leach through the 100s of feet of dirt and rock!

          • trick or treat says:

            Yea Flip, come on, surely you know that Jim’s ground water only exists on his property and doesn’t run under any of his neighbors’ properties. And you must also know that it is hundreds of feet down and the source never comes from ground level or even close to it. His water is his water and can’t possibly be affected by his neighbors’ livestock or chemicals or faulty septic systems. Why must people always pick on the simple folks who just want to be left alone and not have to pay taxes for other peoples problems.

          • I wouldn’t drink the town water unless it’s been run through a filter. I’d drink the well water any day of the week.

  7. Don Specht says:

    Please amend my post prior to said Article to read, or just mod this into existence.

    Then click the hotlink that reads ‘Click here to access the online version of Berryville’s Town Code.’ (see below)

    Once that loads look in the directory tree to your left and click on Chapter 17, then choose Article 2 Water Generally

  8. In answer to the above quesgtions:

    It is indeed disappointing that from two entire school board meetings, where the board did quite a few good things, the only item apparently retained was one termite control item with a deliberate “spin” to apparently make it look like we were trying to either poison the students, or poison our water supply – or perhaps both. That’s total nonsense.

    The “underslab” is the concrete slab poured over the dirt foundation pad of the building footprint, (which is what you are all currently looking at when you drive by the construction site). The termite control product is a one-time application made on the dry dirt pad, just prior to the pouring of the concrete floor slab – a permanent slab over which the building is built. There will also be, on top of the concrete, very tough terrazzo flooring, also water-tight. There will be no water leaching into the soil, as there will be no water of any type, rain or otherwise that will ever penetrate to the dirt underneath the concrete slab, especially once the building is built, and there is a roof over the entire thing!

    Furthermore, the pesticide is very DILUTED, and not in any concentrated form. And unless the students are burrowing underneath the concrete slab, there is not much chance of them touching it.

    This article is also casting aspersions on the qualifications of our architects, engineers, and project managers (all of whom having reviewed the specs), by trying to allege that somehow this pest control is a bad thing. It is far less dangerous and contaminating than the pesticides/fertilizers routinely used inside and outside of the many residential homes that have mushroomed over the last few years, where fertilizers (and hormones) that have increasingly contaminated our water supply resulting in major Dept. of Environmental Quality restrictions in order to protect the Chesapeake Bay from a total system collapse.

    I consider this to be an irresponsible bit of reporting.


    • geezlouise says:

      Who believes what you have to say anyway?

      • Flip Side says:

        While you may not hold her in high regard, much of what Robina has said here is true.

        As for this writing being “irresponsible,” Robina, it is simply an alternate pont of view. It seems that some members of the community have acquired the understanding that very little of the school will be made of wood and thus the extra spraying is not necessary. Maybe you could set these community members straight?

        Also, before angering too much of the community, maybe think about how badly you’d like to be reelected to the school board come time to vote.

        • Don Specht says:

          How about we give credit where credit is due?

          The lady comes here, speaks her piece, and uses a screen name that leaves no doubt the she is the real deal. Helluva lot more than most do on this site. I wish all politicians were as candid.

          Now watch how quickly the ratings go negative. 🙂

    • Downstream in Bville says:

      Respected School Board, why haven’t you answered Flip’s question:

      “It seems that some members of the community have acquired the
      understanding that very little of the school will be made of wood and
      thus the extra spraying is not necessary. Maybe you could set these
      community members straight?”

      A regulation high school basketball floor is 84’x 50’ which is 4200 sq. ft. The area being sprayed for termites it 134,000 sq ft. The basketball floor only covers about 3% of the site surface. Why do you need to spray the whole thing? Did you even ask?

      Robina, your well is miles from town. Would you have thought about using less pesticide if the school property was near your well?

      If the architects who recommended this are so smart, why didn’t they include it as part of the original plan? Why is it so important now and wasn’t so important then?

      Please do the right thing here and at least consider reducing the amount of Talstar that is going to be used on the site. What can it hurt to investigate if there’s a compromise that puts less Talstar in the ground?

  9. [redacted]. the school have not been built so how can you say it will not leak? it is enough chemical in the ground, i guess when it come through the gym when the kids are playing ball and fall out then i guess we will know!! more money for the tax payers.

  10. Former CCHS XC Runner says:

    As many may know, the new school is being built on land that was formerly an orchard. Many pesticides are used on the fruit in orchards. When I ran for CCHS they said we couldn’t run in the orchards anymore because of the high amounts of residual arsenic in the dirt from the pesticides. I guess they didn’t want us to get sick or poisoned. I hope this isn’t a problem for the kids at the new school!

    • Don Specht says:

      Let’s not forget that the same people who didn’t want you to run in the orchards wouldn’t let you cross the road to get there without a traffic guard. 🙂

      Likely there was extensive testing of the soil for contaminants. I do remember reading that there was testing of the site for sinkholes and voids. This concern over pest protection is much ado about nothing, imho.

      • Former CCHS XC Runner says:

        So very true!
        As much as I’d like to comment on that, it’s a different argument for a different day.

    • Do you know for certain they tested the grounds, owned by others, to back up their statement. Or, where they simply bowing to pressure from others who assumed that the grounds were dangerous? This is what happens when one fanatic starts a story and it takes hold and burns like wildfire. For everyone so concerned, and thinking those apple fields must truly have dangerous ground….do you know where those apples are sold? Do you know what they become? Are you sure that you arent eating a product that began as an apple in that orchard?

      • Fly on the wall says:

        As a matter of fact…yes. The Byrd acres across the street were indeed soil tested, and amounts of arsenic and other chemicals were found in them from their years as apple orchards. That was one of the reasons why the Byrd property wasn’t really suitable for a school.

        The Battlefield Estates property, of which the new high school is a chunk, was also tested, and – while I don’t recollect the discussions from all those years ago – my hunch is that any chemicals, if they were present in that soil, were found in such trace amounts that earth-moving and residential construction posed no threat. So, again, my hunch is that the soil is fine.

        Given that the ground under the school has been built up with so much dirt laid on top fo the existing soil, and that a concrete slab will be poured over that, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Let the pros do their job, don’t bash the board chair, and move along. This tempest in a teacup is rather silly.

  11. It seems to me that there are many in this county who are looking for any reason possible to scream at the school board and to condemn any action they take. Do any of you really think that the board or the construction company is actually going to use something that is dangerous, especially considering the high-ho opportunistic tree huggers we have who lurk around every corner looking for a reason to complain. Hey people, lets wake up and be real. We have SOOOO many more issues here in Clarke County that can REALLY use your effort and time. Why not concentrate your spare idle time on those, instead of being arm-chair engineers and complaining about what you really dont know the full details about, dont have all the facts or details, and really just like to see your name in print and then bash anyone who should disagree with you. Grow up already!

  12. DramaComments says:

    I hope the football players don’t inhale the paint on the football field when they are tackled (well…tackling).

  13. Dmaxn Jackson says:

    Better save that money for the lawsuits lol.