Claire Carter/Carolina News and Reporter (Photos courtesy of B.A. Hohman, Jackie Jackson, Zach Pippin; screen grabs from Facebook comments)

Dominion Energy is under investigation after Midlands residents filed complaints over its use of herbicides used to control unwanted vegetation near the utility’s power lines.

Cayce residents are complaining on social media about herbicides spreading to their yards, killing plants and harming pets. Around early August, their complaints skyrocketed.

Clemson Regulatory Services Deputy Director Mike Weyman confirmed that his office is investigating a complaint regarding Dominion’s use of a herbicide. But policy dictates Clemson cannot discuss the details of an open investigation, he said.

Regulatory Services is looking into whether the herbicidapplication involved subcontract work, Weyman said.

The office works to protect the state by investigating the presence of invasive species as well as the use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, among other things, according to its website.

Most complaints about the use of herbicides and pesticides stem from the misapplication of products or from products “drifting” into other areas, Weyman said.

Brickyard Branch Watershed Association is a Facebook group spearheaded by B.A. Hohman that advocates for the Brickyard watershed in Cayce. The group has helped community members file herbicide complaints as the issue grew. 

“I noticed a lot of dead vegetation,” Hohman said, noting she first saw damage in early August. “I lost it and started this whole campaign, reaching out, and people have been so enraged.” 

Images posted in the Facebook group show dead bushes, trees and flowers at the edges of  residents’ properties and other properties nearby. Some showed dead grass in the center of a yard.  

Other members posted complaints about their pets getting sick. 

Group member Jackie Jackson said she saw workers approach and asked them not to spray her yard. 

Jackson said when she got home from work that day, her husband was “livid” because something that smelled of “diesel fuel” had been sprayed in their backyard.

“Our dogs went outside that afternoon, and of course they have to sniff around,” Jackson said. “Then I noticed that one of them started throwing up.” 

Residents say they were not notified that Dominion would be spraying around power lines.

Hohman said she asked Dominion about resolving the problem, but she hasn’t heard back. 

Cayce resident Zach Pippin said the damage includes debris left behind. 

“They subcontract out to what I assume is the cheapest bidders,” Pippin said. “They don’t do a good job of taking care of the plants that they’re cutting back.” 

Dominion said it uses licensed contractors to maintain vegetation. The herbicides used are EPA-approved and applied according to the manufacturer’s label, Matthew Long, Dominion’s communications specialist, said in an email. 

Weyman said investigations can take several weeks. 

Dead vegetation next to the water channel under State Street at the end of  C Avenue (Photo courtesy of B.A. Hohman)

Dead vegetation over the water channel near the culvert under State Street (Photo courtesy of B.A. Hohman)

Another view of the dead vegetation above the culvert exit on State Street (Photo courtesy of B.A. Hohman)