NC – Recent bed bug infestation marks growing trend in Asheville’s housing developments

Asheville Citizen Times | by Brian Gordon and Joel Burgess | Aug. 29, 2019

An apartment complex for the city’s low-income and disabled seniors is struggling with a bedbug infestation.

About 50 of the 248 units at the Asheville Terrace public housing development have been infested with bedbugs in recent weeks, according to the Asheville Housing Authority. This infestation represents a growing prevalence of bedbugs infestations across public housing in Asheville.

“Bedbugs have become something we deal with on a regular basis, all around our properties,” said David Nash, executive director at the Asheville Housing Authority. “It’s a trend.”

Asheville Terrace, off Tunnel Road, is designed specifically for tenants age 55 and older. Pest control costs at Asheville Terrace, which includes bedbug exterminations, have risen from nearly $14,000 in 2016 to over $30,000 last year. So far in 2019, the housing authority has dedicated $27,815 to pest control at the development.

“We have a full-time staff member dedicated to it,” Nash said. The housing authority contracts with Orkin Pest and Termite Control to handle bedbug situations.

While bedbugs are gently inserted into night-time nursery rhymes, infestations are serious matters.

The tiny, round insects sustain themselves on the blood of humans and animals. They seek out crevices that provide easy access to their food source, and their bites leave red marks on exposed skin. According to WebMD, female bedbugs can lay hundreds of eggs over a lifespan.

Nash said bedbugs are often carried into units on used furniture. Tenants with impacted apartments must exit the room as spray is applied. Infested clothes must be washed, and any furniture exposed to bedbugs must be thrown away. Tenants are not financially compensated for any furniture lost to bedbugs, including any chairs or beds with special features for disabled tenants.

The housing authority provides tenants tips on how to avoid bringing bedbugs into apartments after each infestation, but not before.

Several tenants at Asheville Terrace expressed concern about voicing their complaints over bedbugs or other facility issues, saying they feared eviction. Asheville Terrace is categorized as a project-based property, meaning the public voucher that subsidizes rent stays with the apartment if a tenant were to leave. To relocate to another public housing development, tenants would have to reapply and be put on a waiting list. The main waiting list for the housing authority has 1,518 applicants.

Nash said tenants are not evicted for voicing concerns. “Speaking with the press is not a lease violation,” Nash stated in an email. “They just need to be sure they pay their rent and comply with the other terms of their lease.”

Bees are dying. Would a consumer ban on a pesticide help?

Bees pollinate almost three-quarters of the 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food supply, say advocates working on a campaign to protect bees from insecticides.

Last week, the grassroots group Environment North Carolina delivered a petition with 13,452 signatures to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, calling for a consumer ban on the sale and use of neonicotinoids (neonics) pesticides. Advocates gathered in downtown Raleigh, not far from regional headquarters for Syngenta and other businesses like Bayer and Dow Chemical that manufacture neonics and say their products are safe when applied according to label directions.

Every winter for the past 12 years, about 30 percent of commercial honeybee hives in the United States have collapsed because of diseases, parasites, poor nutrition, pesticides and other issues, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services has said.

While pesticides aren’t the only cause, they contribute to the problem, according to the department, which recommends gardeners use pesticides sparingly or not at all.

Drew Ball, state director of Environment North Carolina, believes banning sales to consumers in the state would be a step in the right direction toward bigger bans.

Maryland and Connecticut have banned the sale of neonics to consumers, said state Rep. Pricey Harrison. The European Union has banned neonics and Canada is phasing them out.

Harrison is one of the sponsors of House Bill 559, also known as the Pollinator Protection Act. The bill, whose primary sponsors also include Reps. Chuck McGrady, John Ager and Mitchell Setzer, stalled in committee this spring.

Concerns about agricultural pesticides are not new, said Hannah Burrack, professor of entomology at N.C. State University. People disagree because there are positive and negative effects, so it’s a trade-off, she said.

“The thing that gets glossed over in the discussions of banning neonics is that the pests themselves aren’t going to go away in these farming systems,” said Burrack, who is also an extension specialist. “Something needs to be done to manage them, and that something might become a more toxic pesticide if this one is removed. That needs to be a part of the conversation.”

A Google search can yield numerous alternatives to insecticides, like using fabric covers to keep pests off crops. The Natural Resource Conservation Service suggests people who do use insecticides should choose products with less harmful ingredients and spray them on dry evenings after dark when bees are not active.

Neonicotinoids are classified as a “general pesticide” by the EPA, which means no training or licensing is required to use them.

Consumers, who may not know as much as farmers about the chemicals they are using, often over-apply neonics, at a time when non-farming regions have become increasingly important habitats for bees, said Libba Rollins, Environment North Carolina’s campaign lead.

“Private citizens aren’t typically aware of the impact this has on pollinator population,” Ball explained. “A lot of people are buying these over the counter without recognizing the effect.”

Environment North Carolina is seeking a consumer ban because “bees are dying at record rates,” Ball said. “Beekeepers report losing an average of 30 percent of all honeybee colonies each winter, roughly twice the loss considered sustainable. A recent study found that more than half of all (wild) bees are in decline, too.”

It is not clear if neonics are causing the decline in wild bees, Burrack said. “There is limited science available and it’s harder to research wild bees because they can’t be raised in captivity,” she said.

However, fewer wild bees could affect crop production. North Carolina is fourth in pumpkin production, seventh in cantaloupe, apple and tomato production, eighth in squash and watermelon production and ninth in cabbage production, and all of these crops require pollinators, including wild bees, Rollins said.

Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta are some of the biggest producers of neonics and say they should not be blocked or banned.

“Neonicotinoids are rigorously tested before going to market to ensure they can be used safely and effectively while allowing bees and other pollinators to thrive,” Syngenta said a statement to The News & Observer. “The weight of scientific evidence clearly shows that bees and other pollinators can coexist safely with neonicotinoid insecticides when product labels are followed.”

Bayer agreed, adding that the potential exposure to bees by consumer application is far below levels that would cause concern.

“Distinguishing toxicity from risk is a routine activity performed by most of us, even if we’re unaware we’re doing so,” Bayer said in its statement. “For example, caffeine is more toxic than many pesticides, yet we drink it in coffee without fear because the levels are so low.”

In 2014, Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement company, announced that it had stopped treating 80 percent of flowering plants with neonics and would completely stop using neonics in flowering plants by 2018.

Lowe’s Home Improvement announced in 2015 that it would phase out neonics after the EPA announced it would stop approving new uses of the pesticide.

While groups disagree about bans, insecticides like neonics are part of a larger discussion about how our food is grown, Burrack said.

“I believe the best solution is to use the whole suite of pest-management tools we have available to us,” she said. “We monitor insect populations and select the least disruptive treatment available to us which in some cases is chemical control or not chemical-based controls.”

 

Detox clinic closes for bed bugs, staff told to use ‘sick or vacation’ time

Getting_Results_after_bed_bugs_found.jpg

MONROE, N.C (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) June 19, 2019 by Matthew Grant – A detox center is turning away patients due to a bed bug infestation but employees tell FOX 46 they’re the ones who are suffering.

A note on the door at Daymark Recovery Services in Monroe says they are “temporarily closed.” The clinic offers detoxification services for people suffering from a mental health or substance illness.

An employee who works there, who asked to remain anonymous, says staff were told they had to use “sick or vacation time” during the forced time-off or else stay home without pay.

“Obviously, we have had a breakdown in communication somewhere,” said president and CEO Billy West Jr., who says that is not company policy. “We are going to make sure that all employees have the correct information today.”

West says it is “not our normal operating procedure” to ask employees to take vacation time or sick leave when they are not sick. He says employees who want to work during the clinic’s closure can do so at one of three other locations.

West hopes to have the bed bug problem resolved “soon.”

The Monroe clinic should reopen Friday night, West said.

Daymark Recovery Services Statement

“Please know that we have four facility based crisis units that provide crisis and detoxification services for approximately 4,000 people suffering from a mental health or substance illness annually. Bed bugs were a sporadic problem over 10 years ago but since our new protocols we have had no problems up until this most recent incident and anticipate resolution soon. We also anticipate this resolution to be long standing.

Regarding employee payment concerns, this comes as a surprise to me given our protocols haven’t changed in how we have handled similar issues related to closures due to acts of God or anything out of the employee control. I can only assume there has been a miscommunication somewhere. The following protocols should be taking place. I will bullet for easy reading. The short of this is, no employee should be forced to take leave without pay or vacation time if they prefer to work.

During any such closure all employees have the choice of:

They may go to one of our outpatient clinics and working. In this case, the Union Out Patient Office is less than 3 miles from the Union Facility Based Crisis and is open Monday though Friday, 8am to 8pm. Employees may choose to work there. They also have the choice of outpatient clinic options in Albemarle (30 min), Concord (20 min) and Salisbury (45 min). For those employees needing work after normal business hours, they may work in our Concord Facility Based Crisis Unit.

If any employee prefers not to work in one of our other inpatient or outpatient sites they may choose to take leave without pay or use their vacation time. If they choose either of these options, it is their choice. No one is to use sick leave unless they are truly sick.
I am not sure where the information you shared with me came from for it is not our normal operating procedure, nor can sick leave ever be used as use described. Obviously, we have had a breakdown in communication somewhere. To that end, we are going to make sure that all employees have the correct information today. For those employees that may have already been subject to time off and did not understand the process, we will address that individually with them so they will not have an adverse consequence.

Thank you for your interest in our services and for bringing this to my attention.