The Exterminators From Hell

The Methodists in Harper, Kansas, are thankful they finally have their church back. It had been closed for more than a year.

But Angela Thurston is not ready to forgive those she believes took her church and her health away. CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports for Eye On America.

"We didn't know better. We thought they knew what they were doing. We trusted them," says Thurston.

They trusted the exterminators that the church secretary called after termites invaded the church.

An exterminator needed to drill near the underground air conditioning and heating ducts, which is why three pest control companies refused the job, saying it was too dangerous.

Then the church called the Orkin man.

"They told us, 'we could do it, no problem. We're experts at this.' We believed them!" Thurston says.

But she couldn't believe who was drilling the holes for the pesticides.

"They were just drilling down in the thing, coming back up." They were teenagers hired from the local temp agency.

"It was negligence from the word go," says Minister Lee Lauderback . "Untrained people doing it as cheaply as possible, and therefore, mistakes were made, and people suffered for it tremendously."

The minister got sick and so did the secretary. There were allergy symptoms at first, then memory loss, depression, all signs of pesticide poisoning.

It was an ongoing battle and it just got a little worse and a little worse all the time. A state inspector confirmed their worst fears.

He wrote, "I have not seen in my career as many holes drilled in ducts."

The pesticide chlorpyrifos seeped into those heating ducts, and every day, the minister and staff were inhaling the poison.

"Every item in this church that possibly could absorb chemicals was removed, and the church was literally rebuilt inside and out," says the Minister.

Orkin paid to rebuild the church, but would not talk to CBS News about this case. Saying it performs 11 million treatments annually, Orkin claimed this is not representative of its work.

Just last month, Orkin was ordered to pay $2 million for contaminating a Florida home. In Boise Idaho, a couple, Bill and Lorrie Inger, say they were forced to abandon their home and everything in it after Orkin treated their house for carpenter ants.

They say they both got violent headaches. " It would split your skull in half," says Bill who also claims Lorrie's speech was affected. "What I was calling lag has now gotten into a full blown stutter." says Lorrie.

And the toxicologist who tested the home for pesticide levels states, "I don't recall in 30 years ever finding levels that high."

Orkin would not answer questions about this case either but told us an Idaho State inspector found no problems with the pesticide application.

We talked to that inspector and he admits he wrote his report without doin any testing of the Inger home.

Training is a serious problem throughout the industry, according to a spokesperson for the pest control association, who also told us federal requirements are woefully inadequate.

Orkin claims its training is the best in the business.

Rev. Lauderback doesn't put any faith in that claim. "If they'll treat a United Methodist Church this way and a United Methodist pastor, and don't really care, then what are they doing to everyone else across the countryside?"

Reported by Sandra Hughes
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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