By Michael Howell
Caught between a cockroach infestation and the insecticide spraying program that is being used to battle it, Patricia Earnest, who resides in Sapphire Lutheran Homes (SLH) in Hamilton, appealed to the county Board of Health for some relief last week, but got none.
SLH Director Cole Harden told the Board that the cockroach infestation had been on-going for over four years, but was still confined to one wing of the facility. He said that they had engaged more than one company over the years but could not get a guarantee from any company to get rid of the pests, primarily due to the fact that they were allowing residents to opt out of the spraying program if they chose. This created a haven for the cockroaches to survive. As a result, working with their current contractor, it was decided to make spraying mandatory for all residents this year.
That’s what has Earnest upset. She does not like having cockroaches at all, but the spray makes her sick. She claims to have taken another resident to the emergency room following an asthma attack related to the spraying. Earnest also told the Board that she had contacted a company that would guarantee eradication of the pests using alternative methods. She said the Director had told her that he would consider any options proposed but had not followed up on her recommendation.
Harden said that he had a lot of things on his plate and he also had an existing contract that involved a new mandatory spraying program and would finish that out before engaging any other company.
“It’s a problem and we are trying to deal with it as best we can,” said Harden. He said as of last Tuesday that live infestations were found in only six residences.
County Health Officer Dr. Carol Calderwood submitted information about the cockroaches involved from the nation’s Communicable Disease Center and said that no disease had been linked to the pests as carriers, although they could precipitate allergic reactions in some people. Calderwood noted that access to food or food scraps was a major factor and that the rooms currently experiencing live infestations included very clean ones and some not so clean.
Harden noted that Earnest was an immaculate housekeeper and that her place was kept very clean. He said that the Public Health Department was aware of the kind of spray being used and that it was at the low end of the spectrum as far as toxicity goes.
“It is an applicable treatment and we are using it,” he said.
Earnest was disheartened to learn that the spraying program would continue through next August at least. She said that she has taken cockroaches to church in her Bible and to work in her lunch bag.
“I think it’s a health problem and would like you to do something about it,” Earnest told the Board.
Board Chairman Jeff Burrows said that it was not an issue that the Board could get involved in at this time, since the management was taking reasonable actions to resolve the situation.