I-TEAM UPDATE: After exposing local contractor illegally spraying chemicals, the state got involved. We went to Atlanta to get you answers.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- It doesn't take all that long for weeds to get out of control. You've got to keep an eye on them so they don't do any damage or cause any problems.

Same goes for companies that get rid of them and the chemicals they use. It's why the Georgia Department of Agriculture requires not one -- but two -- state licenses for anyone who is paid to spray chemicals.

It goes beyond just another fee for the state to collect, according to Tommy Gray, the former state Department of Agriculture director of plant industry. Gray retired from his position just before the Masters a few weeks back.

"We're not just collecting a fee," Gray said. "We're making sure that they know what they're doing. We can't make them experts, but we can make them more aware."

Recently, we became aware a local contractor -- and Augusta's government -- hasn't been playing by the rules.

We uncovered the County paid more than $28,000 to Henry Bryant of HBJ Enterprises for "application of chemical spraying of right of ways."

"To me, that sounds like a significant contract," Gray said.

And since those are your taxpayer dollars, we wanted to know who to hold accountable. When we started asking questions, it was difficult to get any answers.

The state Department of Agriculture confirmed Bryant didn't have either license, but without someone filing a formal complaint, we didn't have much to operate with in this case.

We knew Augusta-Richmond County wasn't about to report its mistake, and Henry Bryant likely wasn't going to, either, so I did.

I disclosed I was a reporter and turned over the invoices I collected through an open records request. A state inspector went to check it out, so we made a trip to Atlanta to see what the state found.

"We weren't able to get a lot of information from him, we weren't able to find out what exactly he applied, which is over important to us," Gray said.

Bryant also refused to sign the inspector's "Pesticide Application Report" and the "Pesticide Use Review Report."

Gray said investigators attempted to reach out to Augusta-Richmond County.

"One of our staff members here in the Atlanta Office called them and told them what the requirements are and kind of assisted them in the future on how to determine if someone is licensed or not," Gray said.

Plus, our I-Team will keep checking to make sure Augusta-Richmond County is following the law and that those the county hires to spray chemicals around you know what they're doing.

"You could leave here today and go to Home Depot and get a sprayer and chemical, and be in business by tomorrow," Gray said.

Meaning, without proper oversight, other illegal sprayers could pop up just as quickly as the weeds they're hired to control.

Bryant refused to provide info about the chemicals he used, so we asked the city where he sprayed.

I received maps showing residential areas and even a section that appears to back up to Augusta National, but they weren't very clear.

MOBILE USERS: Click here to view those maps provided by Augusta-Richmond County.

I asked for more information, but Augusta's law department sent me a statement, saying there was “not a key to read the maps.”

“In accordance with the open records act, we only have to provide the responsive documents, which we did,” the statement said.

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