About 11 p.m. Friday, June 21, Manhattan’s restaurant manager Caroline Gauger sat on the patio at Jackson, Adams, and 16th St. to enjoy a drink.
But sometime before midnight, the off-duty manager and the 12 to 15 patio customers’ evenings were disrupted when a Toledo Area Sanitary District truck did not stop dispensing a mosquito insecticide spray as it drove by.
“I’ve been here 11 years and this was the first time that the driver has not deliberately turned off the sprayer as he drove by. He drove up and down Adams in different directions and I was like, ‘There are at least a dozen people out here,’ ” restaurant owner Zach Lahey said.
He said the crowd was flabbergasted, but proceeded to enjoy the evening until the truck returned from a different direction a second time, then a third, within 10 minutes.
The sanitary district has been spraying Lucas County for nearly 60 years.
In the summer months, trucks drive along paved areas and apply slightly more than half an ounce of insecticide per acre.
City sanitary district leaders said they were not aware of the alleged incident until officials saw a blog post Thursday morning. General manager John Heiniger said he was investigating, but as of late Thursday, was unable to reach the driver.
He said he would reveal the driver’s name and elaborate on the issue today, after speaking to the driver.
“Drivers are supposed to turn off the spray when people are around and never spray an area more than once…I do not want to comment before I know what the driver says ... but if he admitted to it, the penalty could be up to termination,” he said.
Mr. Lahey said the truck driver came up 16th Street, which intersects Adams Street and the end of the restaurant patio, and “methodically” sprayed.
He said customers were disgruntled the first time the truck passed, tried calling to the driver to stop spraying the second time, and left the patio the third time.
Mr. Lahey said one couple threatened to complain, but no complaints were filed with the sanitary district, Lucas County Health Department, or Ohio Department of Agriculture.
If the driver did spray the area more than once and did spray an area with pedestrians within the vehicle’s vicinity, Richard A. Cohen, director of the sanitary district, said it would be a rare occurrence in his nearly 40-year history with the program.
The county’s health department and the state agriculture department also became aware of the alleged incident Thursday.
If the sanitary department confirms the allegations, Deputy Health Commissioner Larry Vasko said the health department will investigate the incident and may take action.
Mr. Heineiger said even if the allegations are not true, “everyone [at the sanitary district] will be made aware of the incident."
He also said that he will reiterate that drivers, who are trained by an ODA-licensed night supervisor, should not spray when people are within the truck’s vicinity, adding that if drivers have “any questions,” they should not spray.
The department’s evening “fogging” operation uses trucks and ultra low volume spraying equipment to drive on paved streets to spray the Clarke insecticide MosquitoMist 1.5 across Lucas County.
The chemical is approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Manhattan’s management said patrons covered their food and drinks when the driver drove by.
Mr. Lahey said he got a new drink, but was not too concerned about chemical exposure.
“It’s not like he blanketed us with a whole bunch of pesticide; but it was in the air. I didn’t get bitten by any mosquitoes that night. ... It was just an annoyance and clearly a bad thing for business.”