A whistleblower's report on Clackamas Community College's use of pesticides has led to a state review and changes in CCC's practices.
Michael Tulipat, a former groundskeeper at the college, wrote an opinion piece published by the Clackamas Review in May about CCC's alleged pesticide-use violations, discrimination and workplace bullying that he had reported to state officials. CCC put him on administrative leave with pay starting in March and emailed him to return to work Aug. 20.
Fearing retribution if he returned, Tulipat provided some additional details about his experience with the college improperly mixing pesticides and failing to notify the public before spraying Roundup. He said that he reported the violations "in good faith" after trying to prevent the practices internally.
State officials wrote in an April 16 letter that college officials have not followed Oregon Revised Statutes calling for "written notice of a proposed pesticide application at the campus to, at a minimum, parents and guardians of minor students, adult students, school administrators, faculty members and staff members."
Warning signs are now posted at least 24 hours before and 72 hours after pesticide applications, CCC Dean of Campus Services Bob Cochran wrote in a "proactive" Aug. 15 response to state officials that CCC officials say was not a requirement of the state review. The college also has developed a website clackamas.edu/ipm, where notifications are posted.
As a result of the college's previous failure to notify the public, Tulipat said he witnessed members of the public running, walking or lying on areas recently treated with concentrated Roundup.
"I had to run to them and advised them of what hazardous material they came in contact with," Tulipat said. "I have a hard time sleeping at night (given) how many people from the public may have been harmed."
Hired by CCC in May 2016, Tulipat resigned Aug. 28 of this year. Taking a job with the Las Vegas Police Department, he said his severence agreement with the college prevents him from saying anything further about CCC.
Lori Hall, a college spokesperson, said the college was not fined or found to be in "violation" of state regulations regarding the use of pesticides. State officials wrote to CCC with "feedback," finding areas to be "improved," and noted that potential enforcement action would be considered as the state reviews the case.
"The Oregon Department of Agriculture's review of the college's Integrated Pest Management plan and program came with 'advisements,' meaning requested enhancements to our current IPM plan and practices," Hall wrote. "The advisements included changes to the Board of Education IPM policy (designation of IPM coordinator), enhanced outreach and notification to staff and students, removal of some pesticides from our inventory (pesticides in our inventory but not used by grounds staff), and updated staff licensing. Findings such as these are common during review of relatively new program such as this."
Cochran reported the following changes resulting from the state review of the college's use of pesticides:
1. An "easy procedural change" will prevent future storage of unused product in violation of the product labeling.
2. Hazardous material has been moved away from office area where eating and drinking take place.
3. Hazardous material in backpack sprayers will be labeled.
4. Hazardous material will be properly stored.
5. Water, soap and towels will be provided to grounds employees for field decontamination.
6. Product labeling requirements for hazardous materials will be met.
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