Prepare for Pesticide Spray Season – Part VI: Requesting Your Pesticide Complaint Investigation File

Reader Contribution by Jane Heim
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After you receive a letter notifying you of the State regulatory agency’s findings regarding your pesticide

complaint, it is important to request a copy of your complete investigation file. This can be done by sending a written request addressed to: (in Illinois)

Freedom of Information Office, Illinois Department of Agriculture, State Fairgrounds, P. O. Box 19281, Springfield, IL 62794-9281. 

The IDOA destroys case files after an undisclosed amount of time. Request a copy of the completed investigation within a month after receiving your notification letter.

Your letter can be simple, and include the following:

To Whom It May Concern:

Please send, through the Freedom of Information Act, the completed complaint investigation file #(xxxxx) to:  (include your name and complete address. You can also include the date of the incident and the investigator.)

What you may find in the complete report can be eye-opening. Spray Drift Education Network has received comments from complainants who feel their words were taken out of context by the inspector. When they read their completed report and read what the inspector wrote, it was a shock how they came across. Other complainants have found inaccuracies in the applicator’s version of the story or important facts completely left out of the report. Unfortunately, at this time, there is little you can do to change that report.

You will find out exactly what was sprayed on your property (or you). And there might be other shocks as our intrepid reporter for The Lee-Ogle County EcoVig. (See my previous blogs.) Here is his continued story…

“And what I was waitin’ on was the Dept. of Ag’s. complete investigating report, which I’d requested through ‘Freedom of Information.’

And in a reasonable amount of time this big fat packet does land in my hands. I’m happy to say that the investigator did a rather complete and accurate job. He used Google Earth effectively and had also included hand-held photos, all of this showing what had gone wrong.

During his visit to the aerial spraying Co. he’d discovered that Tombstone was only one of three deadly poisons mixed in this cocktail sprayed from the air. Headline and Sniper were mixed inta the soup, also. All three of these chemicals are highly toxic to aquatic life. All three of ‘em tell of what they do ta bees. …So we’re got a highly toxic cocktail being applied with high speed crop dustin’ plane.

The investigator talked ta (the) pilot of offending aircraft. ‘The applicator,’ stated, ‘he did not realize a stream was next to the field,’ and a buffer zone was not left next to the stream.


A stream running over a beaver dam and a succession of riffles, with the sun at the angle it was at that time of the morning…and the guy flyin’ the plane is unaware of its existence? Com’on, Stan, yer not tryin’ to pull our collective leg, are ya?

The pilot was also off on the wind speed.. Stan had “guessed” the wind at eight miles per hour and outta the east. In fact, … it was a steady ten mph wind from E.N.E.


I have a copy of Stan’s work sheet here in front of me, for that day. … Stan completed 20 missions. He musta been a tired man. I’m wonderin’ if his eye sight had deteriorated through the course of the day… He sprayed 1, 631 acres with this, er similar deadly cocktails. If Stan kept up this incredible pace fer at least a seven day week, which I’m pretty sure he or other pilots did…well…one can imagine the huge scope of eco contamination.

Also in the fat envelope I received a copy of a “pesticide misuse complaint enforcement evaluation form.” This is the form which Dept. of Ag. Chief of bureau of environmental programs and pesticide misuse, Warren D.Goetsch, used to determine what kinda action ta take against poor-sighted and overworked Stan.

…This form, by the way, makes very little sense. Nowhere does it give demerits for eco damage. It’s concerned with property losses but not environmental ones. It makes one wonder why it’s in the hands of the bureau chief for ‘Environmental programs.’

In this comment section for this (last) category, here is where Stan stated he did not realize that stream was next to field.

With his own investigators report which pictorially shows that that would be all but impossible, except fer someone who was near legally blind, how could this bureau chief not rap him harder fer that whooper!

Using some logic that escapes me completely, Stan comes up with a negative score of only ten. And that throws him in line fer that toothless warning letter.

Absurb, this evaluation form. Judge fer yer self. A joke is how I’d rate this paper shuffling, paper eatin’ work.”


Dear Mother Earth News readers. I have great compassion for our EcoVig friend as he tries to get to the bottom of the Great Grove Creek Crayfish Kill.  I, too, found a strange item in the IDOA’s investigative report on my pesticide complaint from May 11, 2012. The pilot, who flew his spray helicopter low over my property and 3-acre pond as he prepared to spray a wheat field 2 fields away, told the inspector he flew over my property because he was “looking for bees.” This is so ludicrous to me because on the day this happened I called the pilot’s office as the pilot finished flying over me to complain, and heard the shocked voice of the owner say, “I didn’t know you had bees! Are you registered with the State?” (Yes, of course I am.)

If the owner sent out this pilot not knowing I had bees, why was that pilot flying over me in the first place? He was quite far from the field receiving the pesticide application. And how could he not see 3 white beehives sitting out in a meadow flying at that altitude? Like Eco-Vig I have to think we have a lot of blind pilots flying where they shouldn’t be flying.  And like Eco-Vig, I have to say: “Com’on, dear Helicopter Pilot, you aren’t trying to pull our collective leg, are ya?”

Whatever state you hail from, please follow up your pesticide incident by obtaining the complete file through the Freedom of Information Act, once your case is closed. Your state, like Illinois, may destroy case files after an undisclosed amount of time.

We at Spray Drift Education Network would like to hear of your experience and what you learned after obtaining your completed file. Call us at 815-988-2628.

Jane Heim, in 2011, co-founded Spray Drift Education Network (SDEN), a grassroots organization dedicated to helping Illinois citizens report and prevent pesticide drift. She presently lives near Paw Paw, Illinois, on 19 organic acres which she is transitioning to a Permaculture Restoration Farm. See her website a